If you want to identify the reason why Kevin Cash won AL Manager of the Year on Tuesday night, first take a look at the number of games the Tampa Bay Rays won in the regular season. It was an even 100, a franchise record, and best in the AL East.
Now, look at the number of pitchers the Rays used in 2021. There were 41 different pitchers, one off the MLB record set by the Seattle Mariners two years ago. And we're not talking about a bunch of guys who went an inning here or there. The Rays used 20 different pitchers alone who went at least 22 1/3 innings each. A total of 12 different pitchers made at least three starts. A lot to manage for any manager.
In the viewpoint of BBWAA voters, the job Cash did deserve the award for a second straight season, a first in history on the AL side. Bobby Cox of the Atlanta Braves also was NL Manager of the Year in back-to-back seasons in 2004 and 2005.
Cash won by getting 19 of 30 first-place votes. Scott Servais of the Seattle Mariners was second and Dusty Baker of the Astros finished third. Here's how all of the managers who got votes compared:
It’s possible, seeing how Servais did with a team that threatened to make the AL Wild Card but came up just short, that Cash won the hardware thanks to the Mariners missing the playoffs. If that’s true, it’s the right outcome anyway. Cash managing all those pitchers was the toughest job on the field that any manager had.
Cash extended credit for the award to everyone in the organization.
“We make it work,” Cash said. “It’s just a tremendous staff that I have the opportunity to work with on a daily basis. A tremendous front office too, and tremendous players. It speaks volumes that two of our players were on the show last night for AL Rookie of the Year — Randy Arozarena and Wander Franco.
“There’s more coming. There’s a lot to be excited about.”
Cash is the second manager in Rays history to win the award, and the second to do it for a second time — Joe Maddon also won in 2008 and 2011.
There's no denying the Rays had a lot of talent — especially on offense, where they had perhaps the best collection of hitters in their history. Only the Houston Astros scored more runs this season.
But the Rays also had the fourth-lowest ERA in the majors, despite needing to make constant manipulations and transfusions to keep the staff from burning out. It was a fine line that Cash and the coaching staff had to walk to get the most out of their rotation and bullpen without overextending them. General manager Erik Neander didn't win AL Executive of the Year, but if there were a special prize for having enough pitching depth, it goes to the Rays. Still, it was Cash and pitching coach Kyle Snyder who had to manage, massage and make do without heavy-duty starting pitching like other teams had. Especially once right-hander Tyler Glasnow went down midway through the season, the Rays were relying on some iffy propositions to start games.
Left-handers Ryan Yarbrough and Josh Fleming, along with right-hander Michael Wacha had ERAs over 5.00 while making a combined 55 starts. Rookie Luís Patiño made 15 more starts posting a 4.74 ERA. Lefty Rich Hill was traded after making 19 starts, and while righty Drew Rasmussen successfully got stretched out to become one of the team's best starters in the second half, it all seemed like a neat, continuous trick the Rays were pulling.
“We’re appreciative of all of them,” Cash said. “It was pretty remarkable what these guys accomplished this season.”
Credit the skipper — even if Cash gives the credit to the front office, the coaching staff, the Rays roster and anyone else who comes to mind.