Kevin CashOn May 20, the Rays were 20-19, in third place in the East and just 4.5 games back. Since then, they have Major League Baseball’s worst record at 27-50 — the equivalent of losing 105 games in a full season — and have lost 20.5 games to the Blue Jays in that stretch alone.

Offensively, the Rays are 12th out of 14 American League teams in runs scored, 13th in OBP, and dead-last in batting overage. They are tied for fifth in home runs, so there is that, but we have already talked plenty about how that just made a streakier team even more streaky and a whole lot of solo home runs will only go so far.

Defensively, the Rays have been hit by the sudden surge in home runs worse than most teams. A few years ago the Rays decided to make all their current pitchers fly-ball pitchers and made a concerted effort to target fly-ball pitchers in trades. Then, all of a sudden the ball got juiced in MLB around the All-Star break last year and instead of a lot of easy fly-ball outs, more of those fly balls were leaving the ballpark. The result is a league-average 4.22 ERA. The Rays also have a pitching staff that has given up the 6th most home runs in the AL, despite playing in a traditionally pitcher-friendly park.

In other words, the Rays actually got worse offensively in a year they were supposed to be better and their pitchers suddenly became mediocre when they were supposed to dominate.

So, who’s fault is it? Not Kevin Cash’s, according to Stuart Sternberg.

With the Rays in New York, Stermberg was on hand and was asked about Cash’s performance, which Sternberg called “tremendous” (via Marc Topkin).

“I understand the chatter,” Sternberg said. “I respect the chatter. And the more chatter the better, because people care about it … But those who know, that’s the beauty of what we’ve done here. We take a long-term view of things.”

Stermberg went on to say that there was a “zero” percent chance Cash would be fired and then compared his performance to what Joe Maddon did in his first two years (61 wins and 66 wins).

Of course, the difference is that Maddon took over a team that was a dumpster fire. Cash took over a team that many thought was a playoff contender.

Then again, how much blame can you put on the manager when so many decisions, even on the field, are being made by the number crunchers in the front office? Maybe not much.

OK, so who deserves the blame for the most disappointing seasons in Rays history?

Is it the front office? You could make an argument that sometimes they go too far in trying to exploit certain market inefficiencies and when the market corrects itself they are left out in the cold.

The best evidence of this is the home runs and the (maybe, possibly) juiced baseballs (read this story for a compelling argument for the balls being juiced). The front office went all in on having pitchers pitch up in the strike zone and now it is biting good pitchers in the arse.

We can also point to a roster that is too dependent on platoons and situational, part-time players. During the glory days of the Rays under Maddon, the Rays became famous for utility players and platoons to maximize splits. But even then, you could still count on 5-6 spots in the batting order to be the same most nights. Now the Rays have gotten to the point where the only sure things are Logan Forsythe and Evan Longoria.

But I am sure if you asked Sternberg how the front office is doing, he would say they are doing “tremendous” also.

So I guess we can blame the players for our own inflated expectations when in reality most of them are probably exactly what they should be doing. Just don’t blame Kevin Cash or the front office.

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16 Comments

  1. Geoff Peterson says:

    While not all of the problem, Cash is a large part of the problem. He's not learning on the job or getting better. Since you can't fire all the players, he's the one that needs to go. Also better decisions need to be made regarding the bullpen, catching, and general makeup of the roster. Guys can't get into a grove if they don't know where or if they'll be playing on a given night.

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  2. Chris Wise says:

    Seems to be more of a systemic problem. We have not seen a position player with great potential in Durham for a while. And last year's starting pitcher crop in Durham was awful (better this year, but relievers aren't much). Is the entire top management crew too young?
    BTW-thanks for the juiced ball link. Alex Cobb was just here for a rehab start. Rehabbers get major league balls to pitch. And he gave up two home runs in three innings. Coincidence?

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  3. Gus says:

    Cash isn't helping. To me the biggest strike in his record is the losing streak in June where the team was in a free fall and you need a manager to figure out a way to get the guys out of it; animals in the clubhouse, picking the batting order of a hat, relievers starting games, anything to break the mojo. We got nothing out of Cash there, and the season was lost, plain and simple.

    That said, the front office nuked his bullpen, screwed up 1B beyond belief and has a budget so small, Connie Mack himself would struggle to get to .500. So fire Sternberg first. But if he won't make the changes up top, then Cash should probably go. Bring back the player-manager, the ultimate market efficiency and give Longo the job. He'd be better than what we have.

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  4. Brent says:

    Welp, when 2K is the only opening day player drafted by the Rays (31st rd), bad trades like Souza for All-Star Wil Myers, letting go of solid veterans w/ a good bats to save some money, prospects recently traded aren't up yet, Alex Cobb down, a never ending carousel of .150 batting 9-hole catchers, you'll have this happen...
    On the positive, hopefully we'll get a great top 5 pick, and finally info on a new ballpark in Channelside...

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    • J 2.0 says:

      Forget Myers for Souza. That wasn't the trade. Imagine if we just would have stopped with Myers for Trea Turner and Joe Ross. That would have been a great trade. I still to this day cannot fathom why we felt like Souza was better than Myers, Turner, and Ross.

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    • ljk says:

      Gave up Loney and didn't save any money.

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  5. Jim says:

    There's about as much effort going into this team as is going into this website.

    What has happened to this site? Is it now reduced to Mark Topkin 2.0. Cork has bailed, gone are the hangovers, gone are the GBT, gone is the daily reports/updated. Cork is now on about the same pace as the Rays, he might show up 1 out of 3 games, if that.

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    • Gus says:

      Maybe he'll sell the site?

      I'd like to offer Pat Burell's unused supplements, the remnants of Joe Maddon's wine collection and Wil Myers' left behind boggie board for the rights to Rays Index.

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      • Drew says:

        I'll throw in Stephen Vogt's .000 Rays batting average, Elliot Johnson's Tim Kurkjian impression, and Jose Molina's extra 100 lbs for the rights to co-acquire (if Gus will have me).

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        • Gus says:

          You are in; I'll need a syndicate; like Stu, I want to own the whole thing but I sill have to pay for the kids' college and don't really have the resources.

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      • J 2.0 says:

        I'll throw in Navi's blue hatchback reading "Trust No One" across the winshield.

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    • Trevin says:

      ... a couple cow bells, and a Friday T-shirt!

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      • Trevin says:

        Oh, and a FREE bus pass on the "NO Excuses Tour"! The savings in gas alone gotta be worth more then what a "Dolman Law ad" pays(?).

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  6. monte says:

    Seriously, it has been a very interesting site in the past with some insightful observations. Cork should attempt to return it to its better days by next season. Otherwise, I'm afraid all those baseball analysis experts will jump ship for good. That doesn't include me, I'm no expert.

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  7. Gus says:

    Notice how nicely things go when you surround your franchise player with another power hitter in the order. I know Bill James claims he proved that there was no "protection in the order" with his Bob Horner/Dale Murphy study 30 years ago, but it is hard to watch Longo's at bats with Brad Miller behind him and not think there is synergy in that order.

    This team may be dead last in the standings, but they are far more fun to watch than non-playoff Rays teams of seasons past. Even discounting it for the opposition, those last 3 games maybe the best 3 regular season games the franchise has put together ever.

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