Rays manager Kevin Cash placed third for the AL Manager of the Year Award, announced Tuesday night, behind winner Bob Melvin of the Oakland Athletics, and second-place finisher Alex Cora of the World Series champion Boston Red Sox. The Athletics, who utilized many of the same tactics as Tampa Bay, were perhaps the only team that shocked more people this season than the Rays.
Cash, the only one of the six contenders to not make the playoffs, made a good case for himself after leading the Rays to 90 wins, a 10-game improvement over 2017. He received five first-place votes, six second-place votes and 14 third-place votes for a total of 57 points in the balloting.
Tampa Bay’s skipper was humbled by those he found himself in the company of, despite where he placed.
There’s no doubt, Cash said. I was up there with the World Series champion manager in Alex Cora and Bob Melvin was winning it for his third time. Very special, honored and humbled to be considered with those two. And also the representatives from the National League teams.
Like Cash, Melvin did more than expected with what he was given, taking a team that won 75 games in 2017 and entering the 2018 campaign with the majors’ lowest payroll. And when he faced a spate of injuries that decimated his starting rotation, Melvin was forced to use of 15 different starters, winning 97 games overall and earning the second AL Wildcard spot.
I’ve always admired him from afar, said Cash. I think there’s a fair correlation between the Rays and the A’s, whether people want to talk about payroll, about being innovative in the game.
Melvin said there was mutual admiration this season, as Oakland “took a hard look” at how the Rays utilized the opener before trying it themselves.
I’ve got a lot of respect for him and what he’s done over the years, Melvin said. Has had to do some things without some of the resources that certainly the teams in his division have. The success that they had, just watching their dugout and the way they do things, it’s great to watch. And you can certainly see that he has the attention of the team and has full support from those guys. That’s a testament to how good he is at what he does.
Cash advocated for the use of the opener strategy and indicated, on the MLB Network, that the Rays will again utilize it in 2019.
The opener’ is going to stay for us. We witnessed the benefit of allowing for these young pitchers to come up, potentially late-inning guys, to get their feet wet in the first inning, and also for the more durable guys, it allows us to manage the game a little bit so we affect how many times they get through the order. It’s something we bought into. Our guys, I can’t give them enough credit for buying into it. We have a lot of information to suggest that it works for us, and we’re going to continue with it.
Now we await the results of the 2018 Cy Young Award, which will be revealed Wednesday at 6:00 PM. In the interim, however, Blake Snell was named the 2018 Warren Spahn Award winner as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball.
Named after the Hall of Famer Spahn, the award has been given annually to the best southpaw in baseball since 1998.
Blake posted some impressive stats in 2018, said Greg Spahn, son of the late Warren Spahn. This award is special to our family as it not only honors the sport’s best left-handed pitcher but my dad as well. It’s also a wonderful way to celebrate his career and the game of baseball.
With 48 days left until the clock runs out on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) which allowed the Rays to search for a new regional stadium site, you would imagine that an announcement of progress would be imminent. Yet according to investigative journalist Noah Pransky (WTSP), Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill is telling commissioners not to expect any news on a deal until at least January.
Go ahead and cancel all the sports facility briefings for the remainder of the year, Michelle Sekouri, executive assistant to county administrator Mike Merrill, wrote to all commissioner’s offices last Friday. Mike is not anticipating having anything to share until January or after.
Meanwhile, St. Petersburg officials told Pransky that the team has not approached them about extending the deadline.
The St. Petersburg city council granted the team the opportunity to explore stadium sites in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, despite a lease at Tropicana Field which runs through 2027. In February, Stu Sternberg announced that a 14-acre parcel of land in Ybor City is the team’s preferred site, yet the door was never fully closed on Pinellas County, which has much more money to contribute the construction of a new stadium.
According to Pransky, financing for the proposed $892-million facility has not been easy to come by, with Hillsborough County taxpayers already paying off three other stadiums. Hillsborough voters also recently voted in favor of a pair of tax referendums that will help support the critically underfunded Hillsborough County School System, as well as mass transportation improvements. Stadium proponents (in Ybor City) have been hopeful that a public/private partnership would bridge the gap between the estimated cost of the project, and the limited portion of the bill the team indicated it would fund itself ($150-million).
As Pransky writes, it’s highly improbable that a deal of this magnitude will be completed by New Year’s Eve, if at all.
It’s possible the Rays could work out a stadium deal almost exclusively with private developers and still meet their obligation to give St. Petersburg a definitive answer about their future by Dec. 31. But privately-funded major league stadiums are almost non-existent in modern-day America, and unheard of in a market like Tampa, that lacks both significant corporate activity and disposable income.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who offered the team a new stadium at the Tropicana Field site, remains willing to work with the team.
While they still have time to get some questions answered in Hillsborough, I stand ready to work with the Rays on securing their future in St. Petersburg, said Kriseman.
The team most recently shocked the local sports business world with the announcement of the October purchase of the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The Rowdies play at and control the rights to, Al Lang Stadium on St. Petersburg’s waterfront, the former future site of the Rays. However, the team maintains the purchase had “nothing to do with short-term or immediate plans they have for baseball,” rather it was simply investing in the community.
…And so the soap opera continues.