Don Mattingly and Kevin Cash were honored as Major League Baseball’s 2020 Managers of the Year on Tuesday after seasons that tested and ultimately brought out the best in both men.
Both won easily. Cash received 22 of 30 first-place AL votes by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America while Mattingly received 20 of 30 first-place votes in the NL race. Voting is based on regular-season performance.
Mattingly, the 1985 AL Most Valuable Player, is the fifth man to win both an MVP and a Manager of the Year Award.
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“When I think about this award, it feels like a team award,” he said. “I feel like it's an organizational award, because it's really your staff and your players have to buy in. We’ve taken our lumps for a couple years, and it looks like we're starting to turn the corner a little bit.”
Mattingly’s season was the most bizarre of all, as he led the Marlins to their first postseason appearance in 17 years despite a COVID-19 outbreak that more than once seemed about to derail the entire season. Miami's season was only three days old when 18 members of their original 30-man roster were sidelined by the virus (a 19th player opted out). After eight days off and a roster overhaul, the Marlins played 49 games in 47 days to snap a streak of 10 straight losing seasons.
They found players here, there and everywhere to piece together a roster that changed so quickly that Mattingly sometimes met relievers for the first time when he handed them the baseball on the mound in the middle of an inning.
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He appealed to his players to stick together, play hard and see if they could shock the world. They did just that.
“As I look back to the season, I think about all the people that paid the price for this,” Mattingly said. “It starts at home with my wife and my little 5-year-old. I didn’t see ‘em for 110 days.”
Mattingly said that after losing 105 games in 2019 -- “Nothing is tougher than that.” -- he walked into Spring Training convinced the Marlins were capable of a turnaround. He preached that message day in and day out and never stopped believing, even as his team was tested in ways few teams ever have been.
While Mattingly was deferential to ownership and everyone else in the organization first, he also admitted that there was more than a little personal satisfaction: “Well, I think as a manager you want people to think you know what you're doing.”
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As for Cash, who was an AL Manager of the Year finalist in 2018 and ’19, he led the Rays to their first AL East division title since 2010 despite an injured list that at one point included 10 members of the projected Opening Day pitching staff.
But the Rays finished with a 3.56 team ERA, third lowest in MLB, and they ended up getting all the way to Game 6 of the World Series. Cash accepted the award on MLB Network from Indians manager Terry Francona, who has been a friend and mentor for nearly Cash’s entire career.
“So proud of him,” Francona said. “He’s made such an impact in such a short amount of time. I’m happy for him. I’m happy for the Rays and thrilled for his family.”
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Cash said there were moments when he wondered if the Rays would be able to overcome the avalanche of injuries, especially to their pitching staff. But they won the AL East by seven games and then survived a tough road that included going the distance against the Yankees and Astros before losing Game 6 of the World Series to the Dodgers.
“I do think it's an organizational award,” Cash said, “but it certainly means a lot to me personally. When you look at these awards, there's only two that are given out every year, and to be recognized as one of the better ones on that given season means that a lot of things went your way.”
Now about that move in Game 6 of the World Series. The Rays had a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning when Cash removed his ace, Blake Snell, after 5 1/3 innings of two-hit baseball.
Tampa Bay’s bullpen, arguably the game’s best, let it get away in a 3-1 defeat. Cash said he has thought about the move every day since the season ended and would do it all over again.
“We owe it to ourselves and, more importantly, our players to continue to reflect on those decisions,” Cash said. “I'll answer any question about the decision, but I just want our team to be recognized for being as special as they were. We were the second-best team in all of baseball, and I don't want a decision in Game 6 to take away from what our players accomplished this year.
“I would do it the same way all over again. I would plead for a different outcome, that's for sure.”
With Mattingly and Cash winning, both awards stayed in the state of the Florida for the first time. The only other time it's happened with managers in the same state was 1988 when Tommy Lasorda (Dodgers) and Tony La Russa (A's) produced a California sweep.
Below are the vote totals for the Manager of the Year Awards:
Don Mattingly, Marlins (20 first-place votes): 124 points
Jayce Tingler, Padres (6): 71
David Ross, Cubs (1): 25
Brian Snitker, Braves (1): 16
Dave Roberts, Dodgers (1): 13
Mike Shildt, Cardinals (0): 10
Craig Counsell, Brewers (1): 6
Gabe Kapler, Giants (0): 3
David Bell, Reds (0): 2
Kevin Cash, Rays (22 first-place votes): 126 points
Rick Renteria, White Sox (5): 61
Charlie Montoyo, Blue Jays (2): 47
Bob Melvin, A's (1): 22
Rocco Baldelli, Twins (0): 13
Dusty Baker, Astros (0): 1
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.