Friday, January 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays players, not pride, always come first for Kevin Cash

ST. PETERSBURG

Kevin Cash knew, just like anyone else watching the Rays' season-opening loss to the Blue Jays who had any clue about baseball, how badly Kevin Kiermaier messed up in trying to steal third base with two outs in the fourth inning. Kiermaier would say as much later in a mea culpa at his locker, talking about how "embarrassing" and "terrible" of a blunder it was on his part: "I know the game better than that."

But when Cash was asked about the play during his postgame media session, he insisted on taking the blame.

"Just an aggressive move on my part," Cash said. "That's on me."

That really was his story, as if he told Kiermaier to run. And, with a straight face, he was sticking to it.

As Cash works into the second season of his first job managing at any level, he has made it abundantly clear that the primary foundation for success is his relationship and rapport with his players.

He wants them to get all the credit, and he'll take any blame. He wants them to be in the spotlight, and he'll stay in the background. He wants them to have whatever they need to succeed, and he'll arrange, facilitate and implement.

"That goes back to his selfless character," outfielder Steven Souza Jr. said. "Some managers want to be the face of the team. Some managers want to be front and center and be the joke teller. And there's nothing wrong with that. Everybody has their own personality.

"But to know he is here for us above everything else, I don't think you could put an amount on what that is worth."

Lou Piniella had his own style. So did Joe Maddon, and with great success. But when Cash took over the Rays going into 2015, he made it abundantly clear his philosophy was different.

"It's not so obvious to the point where it's almost annoying, but he's always been that way from the time of his first meeting," veteran third baseman Evan Longoria said.

"It was, 'We're here for you. The coaching staff is here for you. Whatever you guys need. Whatever we can do to make things better for you, to make you better, we will do it.'

"That just kind of permeates his whole way of thinking, whether it's something actually on the field or off. He's always ready to come forward and take the blame or give credit to the players and not take that credit for himself. And that's cool. You know that he always has your back."

At 38, and still the youngest manager in the majors, Cash said the relationships with the players, like many other aspects of his job, will continue to evolve. Just the progress from last year to now has been significant.

"There's a lot more comfort," Cash said. "I think we all took pride as a team last year in our relationships and quickly learning a lot about each other and quickly trying to find some comfort with each other.

"But a full year definitely helps the conversations now. It's easier to joke, and it's easier to have a serious conversation. It works both ways. I think my natural personality is to kind of joke around a little bit. The serious messages or conversations probably took some time to get there. Whereas this year it feels much more comfortable on both ends. It's much easier to have more direct conversations when you need to."

In taking heat for the players, Cash can build currency and trust. In a way, it's really just an extension of his role as a catcher, where his priority was always to make his pitcher look good and do well. Plus, it can allow players to be freer on the field, unafraid to make mistakes.

And if doing so leaves Cash looking compromised to fans, media, people around baseball who just read his quotes or see a video clip, so be it. He cares much more that it plays well with his players.

"It goes a long way when you do little things like that," starter Jake Odorizzi said. "It may look 'little' to the outside world, but it really gives you some credibility in the clubhouse."

Kiermaier insisted he didn't need Cash to cover for him, that he knew he had done wrong and was prepared to take whatever criticism was coming.

But he appreciated the looking out as another sign of how good of a boss Cash is.

"I can sit here, and I think for a lot of players, it's easy for me to talk him up because it's all genuine," Kiermaier said. "I truly love playing for Kevin, and only after a year, but I think as players we all know what he's about. … We have his back and he has ours."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

   
Comments
What do Rays look like now? What will they look like March 29?

What do Rays look like now? What will they look like March 29?

ST. PETERSBURG — Since entering an off-season planning major change and pledging to be open to "anything and everything,'' the Rays have made a few minor moves and one massive one in trading franchise cornerstone Evan Longoria to San Francisco....
Updated: 2 hours ago
Reminder: Rays spring tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m.

Reminder: Rays spring tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m.

The Rays will put single game tickets for spring training home games on sale today at 10 a.m. via raysbaseball.com.The Rays are playing 14 home games in Port Charlotte, starting with the Feb. 23 opener vs. Pittsburgh. Tickets will be available at the...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Tampa Bay Rays 2018 spring training schedule

Tampa Bay Rays 2018 spring training schedule

Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Rd., Port Charlotte, 33948Get tickets here: (941) 206-4487Pitchers report: Feb. 13. Squad reports: Feb. 19TEAM SCHEDULE(games at 1:05 unless noted)(ss - split squad)Feb 23 at Orioles (ss) (Sarasota)Feb 23 PIRATE...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Ex-Phillies, Indians manager Charlie Manuel to get Ted Williams Museum award

Ex-Phillies, Indians manager Charlie Manuel to get Ted Williams Museum award

Former Phillies and Indians manager Charlie Manuel will receive the Ted Williams Lifetime Achievement Award on Feb. 10 in Clearwater.The honor is bestowed by the Ted Williams Museum at its annual Hitters Hall of Fame induction, moving this year from ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Former Rays OF Matt Joyce to hold annual charity baseball camp at North Brandon complex

Former Rays OF Matt Joyce to hold annual charity baseball camp at North Brandon complex

Armwood High product Matt Joyce, the current A's and former Rays outfielder, hosts his ninth annual Sweet Swingin' charity baseball camp for kids 6-12 on Sunday at the North Brandon youth baseball complex (2929 S Kingsway Rd, Seffner).Registration st...
Published: 01/18/18
Rays spring tickets go on sale Friday

Rays spring tickets go on sale Friday

The Rays will put single game tickets for spring training home games on sale Friday at 10 a.m. via raysbaseball.com.The Rays are playing 14 home games in Port Charlotte, starting with the Feb. 23 opener vs. Pittsburgh. Tickets will be available at th...
Published: 01/17/18
A look at Rays 40-man roster with spring training starting in less than a month

A look at Rays 40-man roster with spring training starting in less than a month

With the start of spring training now less than a month away, here is what the Rays roster looks like, with the most glaring hole at first base, which at this point seems likely to be manned by Brad Miller, and some questions about the pitching staff...
Published: 01/17/18
Rays opener will be late-afternoon affair

Rays opener will be late-afternoon affair

The Rays' March 29 season-opener against the Red Sox has been set for a 4 p.m. first pitch at Tropicana Field.This will be the ninth straight year the Rays have opened at home, and the third time they have opened against the rival Red Sox.  The ...
Published: 01/17/18
Tony Perez, Dick Allen to highlight    Ted Williams museum inductions

Tony Perez, Dick Allen to highlight Ted Williams museum inductions

Hall of Famer Tony Perez and longtime Phillies/White Sox star Dick Allen will be inducted into the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame next month in Clearwater.Former Yankees Cy Young Award winner Ron Guidry and longtime Astros ace J.R. Richard also wi...
Published: 01/16/18
Jones: Besties, Ball and bloopers -- itís TV tidbits time

Jones: Besties, Ball and bloopers -- itís TV tidbits time

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.Best comebackExcuse Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp for getting so carried away that he dropped the queen bee of curse words on live television Sun...
Published: 01/14/18