Even if the team misses the playoffs in 2017 – the skipper’s job is safe.
It wasn’t an easy decision on how to replace Joe Maddon three years ago. After rigorous interviews from a long list of candidates, the Tampa Bay Rays front office decided to give then 36-year old Kevin Cash a shot. A man with zero managing experience at any level of the game. This man was going to replace a man who turned an entire franchise around seemingly overnight. He was replacing a man who took a franchise to not just their first playoff run but an AL Pennant. Needless to say – the shoes being filled were enormous.
Let’s fast-forward three years. It’s 2017 and the Rays are playing meaningful baseball as the calendar turns to September. Something they didn’t do in 2016 in Cash’s second year in the position. Year one, however, he finished 80-82 and finished in striking distance of the post-season. That all being said, it’s been since 2013 that the Tampa Bay area has seen playoff baseball and in 2017 – they just might get it back. Cash has to be a big reason why despite the questionable choices he makes in many games throughout the 162 game slate. No doubt he had plenty of influence bringing in a new hitting coach in Chad Mottola to replace Derek Shelton. In his first season as hitting coach with the big league club – Mottola has taken the offense from boring and sluggish to one of the elite in all of baseball for much of this season.
Cash, now 39 years young, admits to this day he still has much to learn about his position. General Manager, Erik Neander, seems to have plenty of faith in Cash.
“Kevin is incredibly consistent with his energy, authenticity and the way that he guides this team,” Neander said in an article in the Tampa Bay Times to Marc Topkin. “We’ve had good stretches and some tough stretches, but through it all our players and staff have followed his lead and have showed up every day well prepared to compete and to make the most of their abilities.”
Is it fair to compare?
Cash would be entering the fourth year of the five-year contract that has him earning roughly $1M/year. The deal also included two option years. His record through Tuesday’s loss to Kansas City stands at 214-244 which might not be a sexy stat to most fans.
Let’s go back to Joe Maddon’s first three seasons with the team.
2008: 97-65 (AL East Champs, AL Pennant)
Cash’s first two seasons, combined, were better than Maddon. It’s yet to be seen how this third season finishes. You can’t ignore what the young skipper has done with arguably less talent than Maddon’s teams of the mid-2000s. The division might be out of reach, but this Rays team is still competing and very much alive in the wild card race. Consider all the injuries in his first three seasons. A man with no managing experience. Two out of his first three seasons at the MLB level and he’s got his team playing playoff-caliber baseball.
No, it’s not entirely fair to compare Cash to a future Hall of Fame manager. There are fair reasons to believe he’s earned at least one more season. Especially if the Rays are back in the post season this year. Currently they sit just 3.5 games out in the AL.
There are 28 games left to make up that ground. Now that his future is secure – let’s see how this young man finishes this race, shall we?