New Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash recently told a reporter that he planned to create a more stable lineup for the team. That’s another way Cash is making a break from the Maddon years. Joe Maddon, like Casey Stengel, liked to rewrite his lineup every day. Perhaps Cash plans to follow in the footsteps of Bobby Cox, who platooned regularly, but in very predictable ways.
The Rays may not be done bringing in talent for Cash to evaluate. President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman told the Tampa Bay Times that the Rays still might “tweak” the roster before pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Feb 21. Don’t be surprised if they bring in another shortstop candidate or two. Even if they don’t make any big changes, though, the Rays’ 2015 roster looks prepared to beat the 2014 edition’s 77 wins by a solid margin on paper.
However, the games are not played on paper. Real players have to get hits, throw strikes, and make plays. The manager’s main challenge is not to make up the lineup, but to keep the players focused and motivated to play hard all the time. Joe Maddon was a master at this. Very soon, we will see how Kevin Cash compares.
Fans and sportswriters like to focus on a manager’s in-game strategic moves. Does he know when to pull a double-switch? Did he send up the right pinch-hitter, or bring in the appropriate reliever? Those moves can make a difference, particularly if the player comes through at the right time. But more important than game strategy is the overall attitude of the team.
We know how critical statistical analysis is to the Tampa Bay Rays and every other team in baseball. Cash will be provided with plenty of information regarding both his players and those of the opposition and be as informed as possible whenever he makes his decisions. The same would have been true of any manager that the Rays would have hired.
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The reason the Rays hired Cash, though, was not because they thought he could be slightly better than the other managerial candidates at strategy within games. Even more important to them was going to be his ability to create a strong clubhouse culture. The Rays’ front office can worry about maximizing their team’s performance by finding the best possible players, and they will leave it to Cash to help those players maintain the positive attitudes that can help them exceed expectations.
A good manager inspires his players to give 100% on the field. His teams come to beat you. They don’t give up. They look for every edge on the opposition. Can Kevin Cash keep the Rays motivated and get the most from the talent he has been given? If he can, the Rays should expect a rebound from their team in 2015.