NEW YORK — With Saturday's 8-4 defeat to the Yankees continuing the Rays' slog through a miserable season that will push 100 losses, grumbling from fans about manager Kevin Cash's job status, especially during the 3-24 summer-starting stretch that doomed their plans, made it all the way to principal owner Stuart Sternberg.
"I understand the chatter," Sternberg said. "I respect the chatter. And the more chatter the better, because people care about it.
"But those who know, that's the beauty of what we've done here. We take a long-term view of things."
And that long-term view clearly includes Cash, who nears the end of the second season of his five-year contract for his first managing job with a 126-151 record.
Sternberg's assessment of Cash's work so far?
And the chances of Cash's job being imperiled?
Sternberg compared these complaints to what they heard after Joe Maddon lost 101 and 96 games, respectively, in his first two seasons on the job — then went on to average 92 wins for six seasons and lead the Rays to four playoff appearances.
"Better to have (Cash) go through it — it was worse than we have seen under my ownership maybe since the first couple years, and you don't want to have it be that bad — but to go through these sort of times will only make him a better manager," Sternberg said.
"We knew coming in, he was here as a long-, long-term guy. And he'd react differently than some other managers might. Maybe it was better to have him than Lou Piniella here. Maybe it was better to have him than Joe Maddon here. Maybe it was better to have him than (Yankees manager) Joe Girardi. I don't really know.
"But he handled things extraordinarily. As I would expect he would. And it makes him even more valuable going forward."
In a wide-ranging interview with the Tampa Bay Times before the Rays-Yankees series, Sternberg talked about how "shocking" it was to see this season crumble; what he thought went most wrong; and how important the final seven weeks will be in determining their plans for 2017, confident they have a strong core of infielders, centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier and starting pitchers.
Also, that after another year of finishing last in attendance, the payroll, which was a majors-low $58.6 million to start the season, "ain't going up."
Here are excerpts:
On seeing the season turn out this way after thinking they would be contenders:
It's nothing short of shocking. It's incredibly disappointing. And very frustrating. We thought we had, and even now individually, we're really pleased with the guys we have, the roster we have in place. But collectively, it really fell on its face.
On the biggest reason why:
It's always easy to point to an injury here (specifically Kiermaier), a few injuries there, and there's no doubt that played a part in it. But to me, and to us, it all begins and ends with our run prevention. And it was awful, for Rays baseball.
On whether they feel they can compete in 2017, or this could be an ongoing rebuilding:
That's what we're going to have to evaluate, as to what the next seven weeks brings us. We think we're a much better team than we are now. But can you ever think you're a 60-something win team to go to a 90-plus win team? Except that it happened to us in '07. … If we take a look at this at the end of the year and we think we could be a high 80-win team, then we're going to go with it again. … We're in "go" mode unless something says stop. But we don't and we can't and we won't, as people say, go all in. We're never going "all in" — that means you're trading your future.
On how they would act on that decision:
People are going to look at us in October and say, "What are you going to do with all that starting pitching?" And we're going to have to figure that out. If we did make a trade, is it going to be for future or for present? What we like to do is present and future.
On whether getting a high draft pick provides solace for the bad season:
It's a solace, but it's not a goal by any stretch because a) the top four, five, six guys that we've seen, even in our own past, things happen, and b) they're not going to help you immediately.
It's more important to us as an organization, a clubhouse, manager, coaches, to play really good baseball, competitive baseball, win baseball games and give us a true indication of what the team looks like for next season.
On the moves made by baseball operations president Matt Silverman, since taking over for Andrew Friedman in October 2014:
None of these trades are done in a vacuum. It's how it affects other things, and clearly there are things we've done that we wish we hadn't, and clearly there are things we've done that we're ecstatic about.
On whether he is pleased with Silverman's overall body of work:
Oh yeah, ecstatic. I look at it as a department. When Andrew was here, it was more about him, and he was the lead guy in all this, and that worked for him. It depends on who the person is. With Matt, we've worked on things as a team, and I think the process has been outstanding.
On whether any of the potential bay area stadium sites could work:
I have some in my mind that could, it doesn't mean that others won't. … We're still parsing through about two dozen. So we'll see.
On whether he deserves any of the fault for the disappointing season:
Of course. I have to take the blame over everybody else, so they can go and do their jobs.
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.