Tampa Bay Rays and Kevin Cash continue to feel heat over Snell decision

It’s a decision that may have cost the Tampa Bay Rays a chance of leveling the World Series and it still won’t go away.

As the dust settles on the 2020 season, the baseball world is not ready to stop talking about Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell being pulled in Game 6 of the World Series. CC Sabathia is the latest high-profile personality to put the boot into Cash’s decision to replace Snell for Nick Anderson.

On The Ringer’s “R2C2” podcast, Sabathia was scathing of Cash taking Snell out of the game. Calling it “one of the worst calls” and “the worst managerial decision in World Series history”, Sabathia urged Snell to leave Tampa for a team more appreciative of his talents.

Much has been made of Snell’s reaction to Cash replacing him. Critics have cited Snell’s profanity-littered response as a pre-cursor to Snell’s management looking for a trade. However, is there anyone who wouldn’t have responded that way in the situation? I’m sure Cash wants to see his players showing passion. There would be more of a problem if Snell has been reticent and accepted the situation.

Having said that, it does not mean that Snell won’t want to look to move away.

Snell was on fire on Tuesday and looked like the 2018 AL Cy Young winner again. That may be an attractive proposition to other teams and that could start an uncomfortable few weeks for the Rays as off-season speculation hots up. Snell said that “I believe in me, I believe in my stuff” after the game and that is clearly at odds with the analytical decision-making that the Rays employ.

Snell has been very diplomatic since Game 6 but this could change if he decides that the Rays’ pitching methodology is at odds with his own.

Cash will be explaining his decision for a very long time to come. After the game, Cash was asked whether he regretted the decision. He said, “Yes, I regret it because it didn’t work out. I thought the thought process was right.”

That answer is going to placate no one. Cash is not going to deviate from the advice that the Rays’ analytics department provides. After all, it has assisted in getting the Rays to the World Series.

There have to be questions asked about how nuanced the analytics are. Pitchers have good games and bad games. Is the advice tailored to the situation? Does the data tell you still to replace a guy who has pitched 5.1 IP against the baseball’s most potent hitters and held them to two hits? Does third time around for Snell, in that form, mean that Anderson is still a better bet?

Those are questions for the Rays as they pick through an incredibly successful season that could have been just that bit better still.