Cash third in AL Manager of the Year voting
ST. PETERSBURG -- For the second consecutive season, Rays manager Kevin Cash finished third for American League Manager of the Year, which is decided by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Cash received three first-place votes but finished behind former Rays coach and current Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who won the award after a stellar first year. Yankees skipper Aaron Boone finished second in the voting, announced Tuesday.
The Rays came into the season with the lowest payroll in baseball but were still able to build on a 90-win season in 2018, finishing with 96 wins and their first postseason berth since 2013.
“I don’t think there’s any individual member of our staff that has more to do with our success than Kevin,” said Rays general manager Erik Neander. “It’s just the example he sets, the authenticity in his approach, the energy he brings and the consistency.”
The path to the postseason wasn’t an easy one, either. Cash and the Rays dealt with a plethora of injuries, especially to their starting pitching rotation. Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Yonny Chirinos all missed extended time, Yandy Díaz and Brandon Lowe -- two of the top hitters in the lineup -- were sidelined for most of the second half of the season, and the Rays ultimately dealt with 30 total stints on the injured list.
But those obstacles didn’t stop Cash from keeping his team fully engaged and believing that the team was still capable of reaching the postseason. The injuries piled up so much that even Cash, who is usually reserved, admitted that he -- and the organization -- had to put on a poker face in order to deal with the string of injuries to the pitching staff.
• All-time Manager of the Year winners: American League | National League
“We were a 63-million-dollar team, and we came a game from knocking off the Astros,” said Rays outfielder Tommy Pham. “Cash truly deserves the award. A lot of people can’t name five guys on our team, which I think is unbelievable, but Cash did it for us. He led us. He believed in us as a unit, and we got the job done.”
Cash also had to deal with all the unorthodox approaches the Rays implement. In a road game against the Giants, Cash moved pitcher Adam Kolarek to first base before sending him back to the mound to face another left-handed hitter. Cash also put together one of the best managerial jobs in Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the Astros.
With the Rays needing a win, Tampa Bay went with a bullpen day against Justin Verlander, and they prevailed. They used six pitchers en route to a 4-1 win to extend their season. While the Rays have a lot of talented pitchers on their roster, it takes a special level of communication in order to pull that off, and Cash delivered.
“Day in and day out, he’s the same guy,” Neander said. “The start we got off to in 2018 was about as tough as it gets, and he was the exact same guy then as he was the final weekend in Toronto when we clinched a postseason spot. That model of consistency is something that’s really important for the Rays to have, and we feed off that.”