By the time Kevin Cash pulled Tampa Bay ace Blake Snell from the last game of the World Series, he had already been voted Manager of the Year in the American League.
Even if he ended up losing the biggest prize.
It was a Sunshine State sweep for skippers Tuesday night, with Miami’s Don Mattingly winning NL Manager of the Year and Cash receiving the AL award.
Long regarded as one of baseball’s brightest young minds, Cash guided the thrifty Rays to an AL-best 40-20 record during the pandemic-shortened season. But he was roundly criticized for pulling a dominant Snell in the sixth inning of the decisive Game 6 of the Fall Classic against the champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Have I reflected on it? There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t reflect on it,” Cash said. “Being in this position we owe it to ourselves and more importantly our players to continue to reflect on those decisions.”
After Snell exited, the Dodgers rallied against Nick Anderson and went on to a 3-1 victory. Cash said he has had multiple conversations with many people within the game since the loss and has received a lot of positive support.
“Yes, I would do it the same way all over again. I would plead for a different outcome, that’s for sure,” Cash said with a chuckle.
“That decision was not reflective of my confidence in Blake. It was very reflective of my confidence in Nick, and that’s (what) I felt was, at the moment, the best chance for us to win the game.”
Voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America concluded before the beginning of the playoffs. Rick Renteria, let go by the Chicago White Sox after the team made the post-season for the first time since 2008, finished second in the AL, followed by Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo.
Mattingly led the Marlins to their first playoff appearance since 2003 despite dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak that paused their season and ravaged the roster.
The Marlins’ 31-29 record was Mattingly’s first winning season in his fifth year with the club. The former New York Yankees first baseman and captain had a winning record in each of his five seasons as manager of the Dodgers.
Mattingly, the first Manager of the Year for the Marlins since Joe Girardi in 2006, was the AL MVP in 1985. He became the fifth person to win both MVP and Manager of the Year.
“They’re just different. The first one feels personal and this one feels more like a team thing,” Mattingly said, “and that’s why I’m proud of it because we’ve struggled for a couple years and for us to move forward is important, and I think this is a sign that we’re heading in that direction.”
San Diego’s Jayce Tingler finished second behind Mattingly in balloting by the BBWAA, followed by David Ross of the Chicago Cubs.
The Cy Young Awards will be announced by the BBWAA on Wednesday night, followed by the MVPs on Thursday.
After losing 105 games a year ago, Miami had its 2020 season nearly derailed by a coronavirus outbreak during the first weekend of play. The team had to make 174 roster moves but still managed the franchise’s first winning record since 2009.
The steady hand of the 59-year-old Mattingly played a big role in the turnaround, which continued in the playoffs. Miami eliminated the NL Central champion Cubs in the first round before getting swept by the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series.
“Over 100 losses, that’s the tough part,” Mattingly said. “It just feels good that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Cash, who turns 43 on Dec. 6, hit .183 with 12 homers and 58 RBIs in 246 major league games as a catcher for five teams, including Tampa Bay. After his playing career ended, he worked as an advance scout for Texas and Toronto before joining manager Terry Francona’s staff in Cleveland as the bullpen coach.
The Tampa, Florida, native and Florida State alum was hired as Tampa Bay manager the day before his 37th birthday. He finished third in balloting for AL Manager of the Year in each of the past two seasons. He is the franchise’s first winner of the award since Joe Maddon in 2011.
“There is a sense of pride being a Tampa guy,” said Cash, who is 454-416 in six years as manager of the Rays.
Tampa Bay had a $29 million prorated payroll as of Aug. 1, which ranked 28th out of 30 teams. Still, the Rays won the AL East for the first time since 2010.
The Rays leaned heavily on their bullpen throughout the truncated season, with 12 pitchers recording at least one save — matching the major league record. So the move to get Snell was in line with what made the Rays so successful all year.
“Yes, we did that multiple times throughout the year. Does that mean that it has to be done in Game 6? No, it doesn’t,” Cash said. “I think there’s many things that go into those decisions.”
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Jay Cohen, The Associated Press