A while back I was asked on the spot, in another setting to come up with an idea for an article. Looking for something outside the box I had an interesting take on the Manager of the year race in the American League. Kevin Cash who had won the award in 2o2o had a magnificent 2021 campaign and in my opinion, should be the winner in a landslide.
As it turns out the voters more or less shared that sentiment, after all the Rays skipper won the award with 19 out of 30 first-place votes. The Rays won 100 games, they took the division title in an AL East in which four out of the five teams were legit contenders. It may very well be a case where it’s winner by default.
Cora was looking good for much of the season and although the Red Sox made the playoffs the team kind of fell off late. Servais led the Mariners to a winning record and Wild Card contention until the very end but also fell short.
The point to be made is that there are 100 win seasons and 100 win seasons, it is about context and you can’t simply reach a conclusion based on a single fact. The Rays were not the usual team that won 100 games in a season it was expected to contend in - Before answering that question there is a topic to be addressed.
Any given team can only achieve so much while receiving the standard praise before it suffers an adjustment level in its expectations from the entire league - What do I mean by that?
The Rays are smarter than your average organization. That over the last several years has been established by results. This is a team that competes consistently despite operating with one of the smaller budgets in the game. Any team can find success over a short period striking lightning in a bottle, but over time you are for the most part the accurate representation of your process.
That’s why when a random trade pops up and the Rays are involved we all get that same feeling. That’s not to say this organization doesn’t make mistakes and such, it’s basically a percentage game and they have one of the better success rates.
Because of this adjustment in expectation, Kevin Cash probably didn’t get the credit he deserved for leading this team into a 100 win season despite many unfavorable circumstances.
A week or so ago I wrote an article for Pinstripe Alley talking about an All-AL East team and although it didn’t surprise me it was still noticeable the lack of candidates from Tampa. Only Brandon Lowe and Andrew Kittredge really had a solid shot. This team is all about depth.
The Rays made the World Series in 2020 on the backs of Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, Willy Adames, and Ryan Yarbrough among others. Morton left via free agency, the team added pitching depth by flipping Snell and Adames, the latter of which didn’t have space with Wander Franco ready for the bigs. Glasnow was injured early in 2021 and Yarbrough was flat out ineffective.
This team is really good because of its 40 man roster, you can point to the stars like Randy Arozarena and Wander Franco and be excited, but they were still good before then and this team wouldn’t by any means be in a hole with Adames playing full time, it just wouldn’t be as exciting. Tyler Glasnow is the young evolving ace and the team sustained his loss.
If a team without the track record of the Rays had a similar season with similar players in a similar budget, the manager of the year would be a unanimous winner and that’s the sort of reaction and appreciation that Cash and the whole organization deserved following the 2021 season.