ST. PETERSBURG – The Rays have already shown their appreciation for the job Kevin Cash did in managing them through roster renovation, injuries and strategic innovation to win 90 games by rewarding him with a contract extension through 2024.
Tuesday, we will see what members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who vote for the American League Manager of the Year award thought.
Cash is not likely to win the award.
Voters typically favor the manager who does the most with the least, which this year, by a slim margin, would be Oakland's Bob Melvin, or the manager who wins the most, which would be Boston's Alex Cora (with voting based on the regular season).
But Cash did pretty well, too.
His ability to remain positive and consistent in his approach while steering the team through a winter/spring purge of veterans, 3-12 start and the mid-April loss of centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier to injury, then subsequent roster transition and implementation of the revolutionary opener pitching strategy was impressive to those in and outside the organization.
Cash, 40, as usual, spread the credit elsewhere.
To his bosses above. To the coaches and staff at his side. And repeatedly to his players, whoever they were at the time as the Rays used a club-record 54 players, including 23 rookies, and had only three on the active roster all season.
"Especially the effort level and the buy in,'' Cash said. "I think I said "buy-in" 500 times throughout the course of the year and it kind of resonates. Those guys really understood what we were trying to accomplish. We threw a lot of different thoughts at them and they really responded and made the Rays, made me, look a lot smarter than I am.''
That humility is one of the traits top Rays executives cite in their praise of Cash, along with his energy, consistency, toughness and leadership ability.
Worth noting, he was the only manager of the year finalist in either league whose team didn't make the playoffs. (Also worth noting, MLB Network analysts Dan O'Dowd and John Smoltz both said Monday night Cora deserved to be the runaway winner, that there was a "bias" against managers on teams with big payrolls.)
Since coming to the Rays in 2015 with no previous managing experience to replace Joe Maddon, Cash says he has learned much.
That includes basics such a better management of the bullpen and control of the running game to philosophical issues such as striking the balance between being close with the players but understanding they don't like some of your decisions.
Also, especially in 2018, consistency.
"It means a lot to the players,'' Cash said. "I've learned that over the years. Showing up being the same person means a lot after tough wins, tough losses. They understand that, they can appreciate that a little bit more.''
And a lot of people now appreciate the job Cash did.