ST. PETERSBURG — Monday was the 13th day since the Rays lost the World Series and, like all the others in between, Kevin Cash found himself thinking about The Decision.
You know, the one to take out starter Blake Snell in the sixth inning of what had been a Game 6 gem and bring in Nick Anderson — and the immediate aftermath — as the Dodgers flipped the Rays' 1-0 lead into a 2-1 advantage that led to their celebrating the championship.
Tuesday won’t be any different, even if Cash, as expected, wins the American League Manager of the Year award as chosen — before the start of the playoffs — by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (6 p.m., MLB Network).
“I don’t know if I’ll ever not think about that decision,” Cash said Monday afternoon. “And I probably owe it to myself and the organization to continue to think about it and make sure all the information we get helps us make the best decisions going forward.”
No — if you were wondering — he hasn’t changed his mind, and still doesn’t consider the move a mistake.
Cash essentially said Monday what he told the Tampa Bay Times the day after a sleepless Oct. 27 night — that he felt good and committed to the decision for a number of reasons but horrible about the outcome.
“That’s about as fair and honest of an answer that I can give,” Cash said. “Nobody hated the result more than me. It was sickening.”
And to review his points: The move wasn’t scripted in advance by the front office execs or their computers. Though Snell was rolling, the concern was him facing the Dodgers' hitters a third time, a decision point in many of their pitching changes. Cash had confidence in Anderson despite his recent struggles. The tight score was a factor.
Winning the BBWAA award over finalists Charlie Montoyo of the Blue Jays, a close Cash friend and longtime Rays minor-league manager and big-league coach, and Rick Renteria, who was let go by the White Sox after the season, will mean something to Cash, who finished third the last two years, and be another positive reflection on the organization.
But Cash said it won’t offset the disappointment of how the season ended.
“I don’t want to discredit the award, because it does means something,” Cash said. "I think it’s an honor, and I think it’s a great representation of the Rays and how our players are. You don’t win manager of the year managing crappy teams.
“You’ve got to have good teams to even be in consideration and have good players. Our team was the second-best team in all of baseball. But all that being said, it doesn’t take away from us not being the best team in baseball.”
Cash understands why the Snell decision has been such a hot topic, why it lit up social media that night — with current and former players, media and even interested observers such as Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (”Crazy he gave up only his second hit of the game and got pulled!") weighing in — filled talk show air and newspaper columns for days.
Cash has heard and read some of the reaction and is fine with people having their opinion. Most of his personal interaction has been good, from people he has run into at his kids' school or grabbing dinner Friday night in downtown St. Petersburg with his wife, Emily, though he knows it may not all be.
"Any person that has come up has been extremely complimentary of the team and the season and (said) a lot of “thank you’s,' which are fun to get,” Cash said.
He has also heard from “tons of” people in and around the game, including some of the same media people who ripped him for the move. “They’d crush me, then they’d text me and say, Hey, hell of a job, understand what you were thinking, stay positive, this and that,” he said.
Cash also has heard from a number of other managers, including some he didn’t have much of a previous relationship with, such as St. Louis' Mike Shildt.
“They’ve been very supportive,” Cash said. “Anytime the people that are doing the exact same thing that you’re doing recognize you, it feels good.”
At some point, although it may not be soon, Cash hopes the focus comes off the decision and the outcome and evolves into a broader appreciation of what the Rays accomplished to get there. (Similar to how the attention on third baseman Justin Turner’s return to the field during the celebration despite a positive coronavirus test has taken away from the Dodgers' championship.)
After rolling up the best record in the American League during the severely challenging pandemic-impacted regular season, the Rays ousted the Yankees and Astros in dramatic, full-length series finales and took the best-in-baseball Dodgers to six games.
Along the way, they created some forever moments in baseball history:
Mike Brosseau’s revenge homer off Aroldis Chapman to win Game 5 of the division series against the Yankees. Randy Arozarena’s rewriting the postseason record books. Brett Phillips' hit that led to the wild walkoff ending to Game 4 of the World Series.
But Cash’s decision to pull Snell remains the primary topic.
“I understand all the conversation and stuff written about it," Cash said. "It makes me sick that that has been the focal point of our season.
“I wish the focal point was that we were the best team in the American League and we went through, in theory, the two other best teams to get to the World Series. ... Brosseau’s home run and Game 4 (of the World Series). Nobody’s even talking about Game 4. I just wish the team was getting a little bit more recognition. And, hopefully they will, soon. Over time, they will.”
Someday. Just not today.