No denying Cash had an award-worthy season

November 14th, 2018

NEW YORK -- Bob Melvin of the A's won this year's American League Manager of the Year Award, but I was one of five members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America whose first-place vote went to the Rays' Kevin Cash.

To me, it was a no-brainer to have Cash as my first choice, followed by Melvin and the Red Sox's Alex Cora. I'm aware Melvin dealt with the lowest payroll in baseball and that Cora guided the Sox to a franchise-record 108 victories.

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But Cash was my selection because he had a tougher situation going into the season yet guided the Rays to 90 victories. How he did it, in my opinion, was a miracle. Remember, the Rays were rebuilding, allowing players like Alex Cobb to walk away via free agency and trading away , Steven Souza Jr., Jake Odorizzi and Corey Dickerson.

Outside of , the Rays didn't have a consistent starter throughout the season. So Cash and the Rays' front office had to think outside the box. He had baseball experts scratching their heads when he decided to have relievers start games.

"I'm intrigued to see how it's going to continue to work, because I'm confident we're going to do it," Cash told back in May. "It gives us the flexibility to be able to match up with the opposing lineup a little better when we can insert a guy in there to get three to six outs."

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Nobody thought it could last a whole season. It did. Others took note. Brewers manager Craig Counsell followed Cash's lead and had relievers start games in the postseason against the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. In Game 5, he had left-hander face just one batter to start the game, then come back and start Game 6.

"We're using our full roster," Counsell said. "And I think that's what all teams are doing in the playoffs, trying to put together a 25-man roster and understanding that you're going to have to use all or most of your players during a game."

Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Cash is deserving of the plaudits. He also had to use his full roster, especially after the Rays traded , Chris Archer, Alex Colome, and before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. How did the Rays respond to those moves? They had the Majors' best record (36-19) over the final two months of the regular season.