Tampa Bay Rays’ Kevin Cash repeats as AL Manager of the Year

Kevin Cash, who led the cash-strapped Tampa Bay Rays to a second consecutive division title, captured his second consecutive American League Manager of the Year Award on Tuesday.

Cash captured 19 of 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Scott Servais of the Seattle Mariners (five), Charlie Montoyo of the Toronto Blue Jays (three), Dusty Baker of the Houston Astros (two) and Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox (one) also received first-place votes.

Cash is the first to win AL Manager of the Year in consecutive seasons. Bobby Cox of the Atlanta Braves took NL honors in 2004 and 2005.

Cash, in his seventh season as manager, once again led the Rays to the AL East title despite losing former Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell over the offseason and, later, ace Tyler Glasnow to Tommy John surgery. The Rays opened the season with the fifth-lowest payroll in the sport, but they held off the veteran-laden Red Sox, the young and dynamic Blue Jays and the big-spending New York Yankees, winning the AL East by eight games.

The Rays finished with the third-most wins (100) and the third-highest run-differential (plus-206) in the majors. Only one of their pitchers topped 150 innings, and yet their staff led the AL in ERA. Only one of their position players, catcher Mike Zunino, was an All-Star when the initial rosters were unveiled, and yet the Rays averaged more runs per game than every team except the Astros.

The Rays were bolstered largely by their defense, which ranked third in outs above average, but more broadly by an efficient use of their roster that routinely placed matchups in their favor. It’s a concept that manifests itself from the front office and trickles down to Cash, who, despite being roundly criticized for pulling Snell in Game 6 of the 2020 World Series, has developed into one of the game’s sound tacticians.

Cash, 43, was a major league catcher from 2002 to 2010, then served as an advanced scout for the Blue Jays in 2012 and as Cleveland’s bullpen coach from 2013 to 2014.

The Rays hired Cash to succeed Joe Maddon as their manager in December 2014, at that point making him the youngest in the sport. The Rays finished below .500 in their first three seasons under Cash, but they won 90 games in 2018, claimed a Wild Card spot in 2019, fell two games shy of a championship in 2020 and set a franchise record for regular-season victories in 2021, ultimately losing to the Red Sox in the AL Championship Series.

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