Yesterday, Kevin Cash removed Ryan Yarbrough with one out remaining in the ninth inning.
Yarbrough had pitched a fabulous game — no runs, no walks, three hits. Kyle Snyder thought the pitcher had been even better than he had been when he flirted with bulk-pitcher-perfection a few weeks back in Baltimore.
So when Kevin Cash went to Emilio Pagan to save the 1-0 game, Rays fans and media exploded. Even Yarbrough’s buddy and former Ray Jacob Faria was not happy:
Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano suggests that, in failing to let Yarbrough finish, Cash may have won the game but he lost “something of value.” ($)
Even the Times’ Executive Editor took time to tweet his complaints:
When @romano_tbtimes writes a column like this -- strong, authoritative, dominant, nearly perfect -- we don't consider letting another @TB_Times journalist write the last sentence for him. #Rays #RaysUp #Management101https://t.co/jI0g2JCyNo— Mark Katches (@markkatches) August 12, 2019
I consider myself to be a pretty emotion-driven fan — I loved Sam Fuld! I cry when longshot players make their major league debuts! I won’t say no-hitter during a no-hitter! — but in this case, I had no problem with Cash’s decision.
There are two strands of criticism I’ve seen since yesterday’s game wrapped up. One, on which I am not taking a position, is that that Yarbrough was, objectively, the better choice to get that last out, and that Cash’s analysis to the contrary was faulty. I’m not weighing in on this question. I assume Cash evaluated the data he had on all possible match-ups; he considered likely pinch-hit scenarios; he factored in fourth time through the order penalties. I don’t have the analytical smarts to run through scenarios and figure out whether his decision was the right decision in that manner.
The other criticism I’ve read, however, is: to hell with the data, Yarbrough deserved to finish the game.
I take issue with that line of argument.
Cash’s job is to win games and get his team to the postseason. Full stop.
There are many scenarios in which he could have left Yarbrough in without much concern. If the score was 3-0? Maybe even 2-0? Sure, the worst case would have been a solo home run, let him try for his complete game shut out.
If the Rays were 10 games out of the second wild card? Absolutely. We Rays fans have been through those seasons where all that is left to play for is a bit of dignity and some individual laurels. When you are out of contention, of course you shift your thinking to letting the guy go for the cycle or notch his 200th strike out.
But up 1-0 in the thick of a pennant/wild card chase? If Cash did indeed believe that Yarbrough was the second-best option for recording the last out, it would have been irresponsible for him to handle this any other way.
I’ve heard some people (such as John Romano above) worry that he will “lose the clubhouse” by making moves that upset individual players. I have never, personally, been part of a professional sports team, so I can’t say for sure. But my hunch is that Cash, every day, makes decisions that please some and irritate others.
If, however, he is good at communicating his thought process and is consistent in making choices that further teamwide goals, I would imagine that most players can live with the individual disappointments.
When (kinahora!*) the Rays are playing in the postseason, I doubt Yarbrough is going to be dragging himself to the mound, consumed with resentment that he didn’t finish this game.
Ironically, had Cash pulled Yarbrough after eight innings, we might have had some rumblings from those who never like Cash’s bullpen management, but we would not have had this level of consternation. Cash determined, however, that Yarbrough was the best choice to get out the two left-handed batters leading off the ninth and kept him in to do just that.
We should be thrilled to be following a contending team for which every out matters. Ryan Yarbrough should be extremely proud to have gotten 26 outs and led his team to an important late season victory.
*Kinahora — a Yiddish term to keep away the evil eye (you are supposed to spit three times — poo, poo, poo — after saying it; I’ll leave that part up to the reader’s discretion).