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Kevin Cash Pivots

In recent comments, the Rays manager discussed his role in supporting good fundamental baseball, while absorbing criticism of players onto himself.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In politics, particularly in presidential campaigns, there is the anticipation of something called the pivot.

The candidate has put his or her aims out to the masses (such as building a wall), but as the process comes to a close (the general election is approaching he or she needs to win over voters), candidate’s language subtly changes in a nuanced way (such as claiming the wall will be... metaphorical?).

As the disappointing Rays 2016 season comes to a close, the team’s manager Kevin Cash has begun his own sort of pivot.

Through most of the season, Cash has used his time with the media to emphasize the positives from each night’s performance (much to the frustration of some fans). Lately, however, he has begun expressing frustration with avoidable defensive and base-running mistakes, but doing so by absorbing responsibility for the errors that have manifested in the field of play as the Rays trot out “replacement” players to take stock and see what’s worth keeping around next season.

Yesterday was no exception, where three separate base running errors brought unnecessary frustration to a 10-4 win over the Astros, and accordingly, Marc Topkin published a story today where Kevin Cash pivoted from allowing the focus to be put on the players to absorbing the responsibility himself:

"As a staff, we're losing sleep over it," Cash, looking like it, said Sunday morning.

"Look, we've got a group of some young players here. We're always going to have young players. But at some point those young players, even though they are young, we've got find a way to impact them to where they're making positive decisions and adjustments in their game.

"We've spent a lot of time talking about it, what can we do better this last month, what we can address more of. It's going to take all of us, myself, getting a little more hands-on and coaching these guys, trying to play it out how it's going to happen before it actually does. I think there'd be some benefit to that."

[Tampa Bay Times]

By contrast, later in the piece, second baseman Logan Forsythe — a team leader, and not one of the players struggling with fundamentals — put the onus on players to identify their weaknesses through the rest of this season, and be prepared to fix them in spring training, and bench coach Tom Foley talked about how players need to take pride in the work they are doing.

These are important outcomes of this season, but Forsythe and Foley would not have room to say such things if Kevin Cash were not on the front line accepting blame and promising to lead the way forward.

It’s a subtle but important indicator of Kevin Cash’s emerging leadership style, one that his players seem to appreciate.