ST. PETERSBURG — Attended the Rays' 94-loss autopsy on Tuesday. Kept looking at manager Kevin Cash as he shared the podium with president of baseball operations Matt Silverman. Baseball's postseason began Tuesday night, but for the third time in as many seasons, and for the second season under Cash, this team's meter ran out.
Cash stared at the microphone. He sometimes looked and sounded slightly beaten.
When he came off the podium, he smiled and said he wasn't beaten at all.
"I'm (ticked)," Cash said. "I think Matt and I are going to take three or four days here, be (ticked) then start getting positive again. I'm (ticked). That's fine. Write that. It's not bad breaks. You make your own breaks."
Spoken like a man, a very good man, who knows the deal heading into next season. Third year. It's the money season. It either gets better or worse, and Cash will have a hard time not paying for it if it's worse. The clock is beginning to tick. Not loudly, but it's ticking.
"Without a doubt, it's time to win," Cash said.
"He needs better players," Silverman said. "That's on us. That's on me. That's on the front office."
Clock is ticking on Silverman, too.
No one gets a pass.
Cash said, "I shoulder a lot of it. There's 30 of these (jobs) in baseball. It's our responsibility — my responsibility — to do whatever you can to create a winning atmosphere, a positive atmosphere. I think we've created the positive atmosphere. We haven't got to the winning that we're capable of.''
Cash is a wonderful guy, a smart guy. But the Rays haven't broken through. Injuries didn't help. Bad starting pitching didn't help. That roster doesn't help. But neither do excuses. Cash knows it.
"I'm tired of losing."
He is following the toughest act going: Joe Maddon, the new Mahatma. Then again, there were doomsayers who thought Maddon was in over his head after he lost 96 games in 2007, his second season as Rays manager. The Rays made the World Series in Maddon's third year. Money season.
Cash doesn't need to match that, but this club has to be better next season. Cash said he has to be better, too.
"I can be more decisive. Some of those one-run losses, those are on me. Pulling the pitcher earlier instead of letting him stay out there, or pulling the pitcher early and leaning on the bullpen too much. I overworked Erasmo Ramirez the first six weeks of the season. We would have been a better team if we'd balanced that out. But he was so good and we were thin, so that's what we did."
More decisive. It's a good idea. Rise up, or go down, swinging.
I'd look for a more assertive Cash next season. I think he won his share of discussions with the front office this season. I bet he was convinced Brad Miller wasn't an everyday shortstop long before the Rays, as a collective, decided to move Miller to first base. When Cash wanted Tim Beckham demoted to Durham, Beckham was gone. These might have been small victories for a manager who needs to stake a claim going into next season.
Silverman insists that Cash is his own man. But maybe Cash was so busy forging relationships with players that he went along with them too much. He needs to let it rip and be himself.
Something like: You play. I'll manage.
Expect a change. Same strong communication, but a stronger voice on Cash's end.
Maybe Tuesday was a start.
"There's a difference between a season wearing you out and you being (ticked)." Cash said.
And tick tock.