Warning: If you’re a Boston Red Sox fan, then this post will likely aggravate you. In fact, I’m 100% sure the headline did that already. Let’s be real though, your favorite team is four wins away from another World Series title, so do you really care that much?
Alex Cora has done a terrific job in his first season as the Sox’s skipper and has likely exceeded every expectation Boston fans had for him. A 108 win season is certainly nothing to scoff at and deserves endless praise. For his efforts, Cora will likely be a finalist for the AL Manager of the Year Award; however, he should lose the award to another skipper in his own division, and no, it’s not Aaron Boone.
Since taking over for Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash has quietly become one of the finest skippers in baseball. Each year, Cash is tasked with leading a Rays team that is always lacking in talent and is usually asked to make chicken salad from chicken shit. Guys like that don’t usually last long, but Cash is still going strong four years in.
During his first three seasons, the Rays were mediocre but still played respectable baseball, which is good considering the powerhouse division that they play in. This season, Cash’s team elevated to another level and was one of the biggest surprises in baseball.
Despite not making the playoffs, due largely in part to how good the Red Sox and Yankees were, the Rays managed to win 90 games this season. After playing respectable ball in the first half, Tampa Bay surged in the second half, going 45-21 and finished the season strong. What’s more impressive was who they got those 90 wins with.
After trading away established big-leaguers such as Chris Archer, Evan Longoria, Alex Colome, and others, the Rays were trotting out a team of mostly unknown minor-leaguers and journeymen. By the end of the season, their only true star was pitcher Blake Snell, who will likely win the AL Cy Young Award. With that ragtag bunch, they still managed to win 90 games in arguably the toughest division in baseball, and that is due mostly in part to Kevin Cash’s leadership.
Some of you are probably saying, “How can Cash win it over Cora or even Bob Melvin? His team didn’t make the playoffs.” This is a fair point; however, to counter that point, let me take you back to a similar situation in 2006.
In 2006, the New York Mets won 97 games and cruised to an NL East victory, leading many to believe that second-year manager Willie Randolph was a shoo-in to win the NL Manager of the Year Award. However, despite this tremendous success, Randolph lost the award to the Florida Marlins’ rookie skipper Joe Girardi, whose team only won 78 games.
While Randolph was credited for bringing the Mets back to the playoffs, Girardi was praised for his work with a young, inexperienced team that had a measly payroll of $15 million. He had this team in contention for a Wild Card birth for most of the season. At the time, I thought the decision was ridiculous, but as I got older, I realized how impressive Girardi’s work was. The moral of the story here is that wins aren’t everything.
As stated above, Alex Cora has done a fantastic job with the Red Sox and will be a great manager in this league for years to come. However, he inherited a team loaded to the brim with talent and coming off of an AL East winning season. To say he was set up to succeed would be the understatement of the year.
Kevin Cash wasn’t set up for success. On the contrary, his chances at success were severely handicapped the moment his owner decided to slash the payroll. Despite that, Cash found a way to motivate his guys to win, and that deserves the highest praise and honor a big league manager can get.
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