The Rays have had four managers in their short history, and Kevin Cash will make five when he pilots them to start this season. And really, he can't do much worse than the four before him did in their inaugural campaigns.
Let's face it. Before Joe Maddon took over and led the Rays to their first World Series in 2008, the franchise was a disaster. Sure, there were prospects coming up through the system. But before 2008, the best Tampa Bay could do in its first 10 years of existence was 70 wins. That's really, really bad, and it's worth remembering how far the team has come.
Lou Pinella couldn't make it work in Tampa. Sweet Lou lost 90 games in each of his three seasons, including 99 in his first year. Before him, Hal McRae lost 104 in his first and only full season at the Devil Rays' helm. And the Devil Rays' first manager, Larry Rothschild, also lost 99 games in his first season.
It's safe to say that Cash will be expected to do a bit better in 2015 than those guys did. But Cash has to prove that the Rays weren't just a work of Maddon's engineering, now that the bespectacled former Rays skipper has taken his talents to Chicago, like Sweet Lou before him.
At first glance, there's plenty separating Maddon and Cash. The former looks like he would fit in at the front of a college lecture hall, while Cash looks like he still could play. Maddon carries the experience that's making Cubs fans think they have a chance at breaking the longest curse in baseball, while Cash is the youngest manager in the game.
The inexperience doesn't bother the Rays' top brass, as Matt Silverman told the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin:
"His name was known in the organization as someone who had a great baseball mind, had a really good future in the game," Rays baseball operations president Matt Silverman said. "And it was a question of when, not if, he was going to manage."
There's plenty of talent for Cash to work with, but it won't be easy to pull the Rays up out of fourth place after their worst season since 2007 as a first-year manager. Fun fact: The last manager to win a title in his first season was Bob Brenly with the Diamondbacks in 2001, three years after both the D-Backs and Rays began playing.
In my mind, no expectations for Cash would be unreasonable. If a time traveler from October told me that the Rays finished fourth again, I wouldn't be surprised, nor would I be if he told me they won the division. Tampa Bay as a whole is an enigma, starting with their brand-new manager.
- David DeJesus knows how to negotiate a leasing contract, as Marc Topkin reported in his story yesterday. DeJesus is in the mix for the Rays outfield after putting up a .248/.344/.403 slash line in 83 games last year, in a year full of injury and platooning and clubhouse smiles. He's 35 and is in the final year of a $10.5 million two-year contract. How long he'll be with the team is anybody's guess, but if you're looking for a place in Port Charlotte or Tampa, keep an eye out.
- The Yankees will retire three more numbers this season -- Jorge Posada's No. 20, Andy Pettitte's No. 46 and Bernie Williams' No. 51. Williams hit .330 with a .933 OPS and 20 home runs against the Rays, while Pettitte was 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA in 34 games against them. Posada had a more pedestrian .783 OPS in 190 games.
- Jason Giambi retired Monday (yes, he was still playing). It seems like a long time ago, but the Giambino was one of the scariest hitters in the game for about four years. Him hitting a game-winning grand slam in extra innings against the Twins in his first season with the Yankees is still one of the most memorable events from my early baseball-watching days. Here's the video. Even if you're not a Yankees fan, it's still pretty cool.