The Tampa Bay Rays (and Devil Rays) have only called five men their manager in their 20-year existence. This is a stat-friendly, opinion-heavy ranking of these managers from worst to first. Today, it’s time to have a look at #2 on the Tampa Bay Managerial ‘High Five’…
#2: Kevin Cash, (2015-present)
Games Managed: 648
Win-Loss Percentage: .491
Best Finish: 3rd
Worst Finish: 5th
Look no further than the current Rays dugout to find the #2 man on the ‘High Five’ list.
Kevin Forrest Cash took on the unenviable task of replacing Joe Maddon in the late fall of 2014. The shock of Maddon’s sudden departure (tune in tomorrow for that story) still laid heavy over Tampa Bay when the Rays once again turned to an inexperienced manager to lead the team (See: The ‘High Five’s #5 Hal McRae and #4 Larry Rothschild for those failed experiments). Many fans simply assumed the job would go to Dave Martinez, the right-hand man of Maddon for what seemed like decades. When the Rays went with the first-year bullpen coach of the Cleveland Indians many in Rays fandom sighed.
Sure, Cash was a Tampa Bay native who graduated from Gaither High School and played college ball up the road in Tallahassee. Sure, Cash had once played for the Devil Rays, but come on. It felt like a step backward, a return to the expansion team days before Lou Piniella led the club out of fifth place for the first time in 2004. It felt like a rebuilding stage had just been guaranteed for the next four years. For many, it felt like a letdown.
The many were wrong. Dead wrong.
I am ashamed to say I was one of that “many.” In fact, I clung to that “many” band-wagon until the summer of 2018. So, what happened to make this diehard Maddon-girl open her eyes?
The experiment of using openers instead of starters, of turning the game over to the relievers from the first pitch had the baseball world talking in 2018. To the surprise of many naysayers, the “gimmick” proved tactic… a gutsy tactic that worked. For the first time since 2013, and despite hovering at the .500 mark into August, the Rays finished the season with 90 wins, 18 games over .500.
The quirky, brilliant move earned Kevin Cash a top-three finish in the AL Manager of the Year award and a contract extension through 2024. It also earned him the respect of silly fans like me. Kevin Cash’s insight into his young ballclub is simply amazing and I, for one, look forward to watching his success, and his place on the Managerial High Five, climb for many years to come.
Tomorrow: No. 1 arrives wearing black-rimmed glasses.