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Kevin Cash deserved to win Manager of the Year

The competition was all worthy, but Cash changed baseball this year

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Cash deserved to win the Manager of the Year award, but on Tuesday night, the trophy went to Bob Melvin of the Athletics instead. The top three candidates all represented something unique this season, making it a difficult race to call, and there’s no doubt the winner was worthy.

But Kevin Cash was uniquely deserving of a win, and to see him passed over feels like a missed opportunity.

It’s one thing to manage one of the most expensive rosters in baseball, built around a large contingent of All-Stars. That’s where Alex Cora found himself this year, fresh off a win with the Astros as a bench coach, and into the dugout of the Red Sox with a team tailor made for a championship. Cash didn’t have that. He still managed his way to 90 wins.

Then there’s the other underdog, Bob Melvin, whose incredible season with the A’s in many ways mirrored the unexpected success of Cash’s Rays. Melvin took a team that no one had any hope for and brought them all the way to the AL Wild Card. He, too, did an incredible job.

But Cash seemed to do the impossible this year. He took a team that lost half of its starting pitching to injury, and was able to craft an entirely new bullpen usage to keep the Rays chugging along seamlessly. The Opener — love it or hate it — completely changed how we talked about baseball this season, and Cash was the man who made it work.

However you feel about the Opener and how it changes the value of pitchers, and potentially diminishes the value of the “ace,” even casual baseball fans heard about it, and that’s an incredible accomplishment.

Cash took a team that had people wondering, “How foolish are the Rays to not get another starting pitcher?” and completely rewrote the rules of how modern pitchers are used.

Kevin Cash may not have taken his team to the postseason, but he did prove that you don’t need a World Series ring to show the world how to lead a powerhouse team.

After taking the Rays to a 90-win season, something that would have put them in reach of a Wild Card spot in any other division, the team locked down his contract until 2024, showing that they have faith he is the right man to build a championship team around.

Kevin Cash caused a fundamental shift in baseball, one that could echo into the game’s future from conversation to practice. On Tuesday night, voters missed an opportunity to reward him for those efforts, and it’s a damned shame.