1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Rays

Rays postseason superlatives: Energized Trop, confident Cash, team unity

Rays Tales: Underdogs really do almost “shock the world,” and Kevin Cash deserves serious American League manager of the year consideration.
Tampa Bay Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier (39), right, and shortstop Willy Adames (1) celebrate the Rays 10-3 win over the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
Published Oct. 12

ST. PETERSBURG — Much of what we write from now on will be looking forward, to what decisions the Rays make to change their roster for 2020, how their chances to return to the playoffs are impacted by other teams’ moves, which players will be most key to their success and, yes, where they may be playing in the future.

But today seems like a good time to look back at the thrilling season that just ended with some random thoughts:

• Radio man Andy Freed asked where I’d rank this season. It’s second best to the 2008 breakthrough none of us saw coming. Even though the Rays got no further than 2010, or 2011, or 2013 in losing in the division series, this year seemed more successful, and much more like the start of something.

• After the discouraging Game 1 loss in Houston, manager Kevin Cash was heading back into the clubhouse after a quick hello to wife Emily and the kids, and said he remained confident because “this team is amazing.” Taking the Astros to a fifth game, and staying close until the eighth, validated that once again.

RELATED: End is really just the beginning of good things to come for Rays

• It can sound trite, but there was a closeness and bond to this team that was extraordinary and served it well in overcoming injuries to key players as well as sparking late-game rallies. “Anyway you want to define the word ‘team,’ this was it,” GM Erik Neander said. “These guys played like a team and behind the scenes they behaved like a team.” Or, as pitcher Blake Snell said simply, “We just really do love each other.”

• Similarly, the Rays seized on the oft-overused “shock the world” mantra. But after being dissed about their playoff chances, tabbed underdogs in the AL wild-card game and given little chance against the Astros (and virtually none after losing the first two), they had a point, which Kevin Kiermaier made often, and rode it for a while.

• Cash likely won’t win the American League manager of the year award, which is voted on at the end of the regular season, but his work was key to the success all season. Even in some of the moves that backfired or made headlines (such as pulling Ryan Yarbrough after 8 2/3 shutout innings), he showed a consistency to his decision-making process. Less obvious, getting players to buy-in and go along with the platoon roles and unorthodox strategies they employ. The job he and pitching coach Kyle Snyder did in the ALDS Game 4 “bullpen day” was exceptional.

RELATED: Rays’ offseason priorities: Lock up Travis d’Arnaud, Willy Adames

• Beloved former Astro Charlie Morton closing out a Rays Game 5 win in Houston would have been some scene.

• Whatever it took — since the Trop was still in St. Pete, bridges were still jammed, games were played on weekdays, tickets weren’t cheap — Rays fans deserve credit for showing up, bringing the noise and life back to the ballpark. “What they did the two games here was unbelievable,” Cash said. “It helped us win.”

• Cash finally admitted Friday that what seemed obvious but was smart strategy to keep the players’ confidence up: “As an organization we did a good job of kind of tempering our real feelings about some of these injuries that came up throughout the season — they were daggers.”

Rays rumblings

Based on last year’s numbers, Rays players and select staff will get about $40,000 each as a share of MLB’s playoff proceeds. … The dancing Trop “security guard” in the viral video last week, including a Today show mention, sure looked familiar, just like the dancing “grounds crew member” who performs at some games. … Mike Zunino (with a projected $4.9 million salary) and Matt Duffy ($2.9 million) present two of the more interesting arbitration-related decisions. … Overheard in the Minute Maid Park press box before traded Pirates pitchers Tyler Glasnow and Gerrit Cole matched up in ALDS Game 5: The first should be thrown on by Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington. … Avisail Garcia earned $1 million in plate appearance incentives on top of his $3.5 million salary, and Ji-Man Choi $400,000 in addition to his $850,000 base. Choi plans to spend a few weeks in Arizona, where he has a house, then a couple months in his native South Korea before returning for spring training. … Early take: Catcher (assuming free agent Travis d’Arnaud isn’t re-signed) and closer are the biggest offseason needs. … Not sure too many people would have pegged Davey Martinez, and his Nationals, to go the farthest of the seven managers with Rays ties who started the season. Also, Rocco Baldelli, Twins; Mickey Callaway, Mets; Cash; Gabe Kapler, Phillies; Joe Maddon, Cubs; Charlie Montoyo, Blue Jays). … Ticket sales for the potential ALCS matchup with the Yankees were extremely strong over the few hours they were available, which says something. … Pitching prospect Brent Honeywell is slated to start throwing in January and expected to return to game action by midseason. Out since February 2018 Tommy John elbow surgery, he was set back further in June when he fractured a bone in his elbow while throwing a pitch. … Senior VP Chaim Bloom said the Rays will talk about how best to use Brendan McKay, who was primarily a pitcher in the majors but wants to continue as a two-way player. … Sure sounds like Maddon is headed to the Angels. … Yes, the Daniel Hudson closing for the Nats is the same guy the Rays got from the Pirates in the spring 2018 Corey Dickerson trade (with prospect Tristan Gray) then released and ate his $4.5 million salary.

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.


  1. Tampa Bay Rays' Carlos Pena hits a sixth-inning solo home run off New York Yankees pitcher Sidney Ponson in their baseball game at Yankee Stadium on July 9, 2008. KATHY WILLENS  |  AP
    Just the other day, Pena’s son asked him about being considered for the Hall.
  2. FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2019, file photo, Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter smiles as he speaks during a news conference in Miami. Derek Jeter is among 18 newcomers on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot, announced Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, and is likely to be an overwhelming choice to join former New York Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera in Cooperstown after the reliever last year became the first unanimous pick by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File) WILFREDO LEE  |  AP
    Former Rays Carlos Pena and Heath Bell are also among the 18 up for election for the first time.
  3. Long faces dominate some of the remaining Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans during the fourth quarter of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, November 17, 2019, in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: What remaining game will Tampa Bay be favored to win?
  4. The cover of the book Grassroots Baseball: Where Legends Begin Courtesy Jean Fruth
    The 224-page book features a chapter on Tampa, and an essay by Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.
  5. Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) delivers a pitch in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the American League Division Series on Oct. 10 in Houston. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Rays Tales: Team execs on Houston’s big problem, a base for winter acquisitions, trophy time and an upcoming owners meeting.
  6. Jameis Winston (3) points to fans after the Bucs' 2017 victory over the New Orleans Saints. Tampa Bay Times
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Previewing Bucs-Saints, justice for the Astros, answers for the Lightning.
  7. FILE - In this July 24, 2019, file photo, Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander throws to an Oakland Athletics batter during a baseball game in Houston. Verlander has been awarded his second AL Cy Young Award. MICHAEL WYKE  |  AP
    The Mets’ Jacob deGrom wins the NL award for the second straight year.
  8. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash talks with reporters in the dugout the day after clinching a playoff spot. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Former Ray Rocco Baldelli wins top honors after his first season with the Twins, Aaron Boone was second.
  9. Erik Neander, Tampa Bay Rays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, addresses the media during a press conference at Tropicana Field Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Award came from a vote of team executives; Yankees Cashman was second.
  10. Flanked by his mother, Michelle Alonso, left, father Peter Alonso (blue shirt, standing), girlfriend Haley Walsh, right, and friends, New York Mets rookie first baseman Pete Alonso, 24, reacts as he finds out he has won the National League Rookie of the Year award on Monday at his home in Tampa.  Alonso, a Plant High graduate, made a grand entrance to the big leagues, hitting a major-league rookie and team-record 53 home runs for the Mets. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The easiest part of the day for the travel-weary first baseman may have been receiving the prestigious award.