Kevin Cash is in his eighth season managing the Rays. Only Bob Melvin and Terry Francona have been on the job longer without a break.
Under Cash, the low-budget Rays have finished first, second or third five times and won the American League pennant in 2020. The Rays are 71-63 against the Red Sox on his watch.
“He understands the dynamic of that group, how they do things,” said Alex Cora, Cash’s teammate with the 2008 Red Sox. “He’s been good for them as far as their structure. It’s an organization a lot of people criticize and he does a good job of canceling the noise.”
Here’s a conversation with Cash before a recent game at Tropicana Field:
Question: Does it feel strange that at 44 you’re one of the most experienced managers in the game?
Cash: “That is crazy. It’s bizarre. I don’t have the words to describe it. I know all managers in some capacity look up to Tito — I know I do — and Bob Melvin. Being in one place for a long time, you feel fortunate because you get to work with some really good people.”
Q: Is the division as good as you’ve seen it given the improvement the Orioles have made this season?
Cash: “It’s deep. It’s a little unique because the Yankees are so far ahead. Generally there’s more clumping. But the Orioles could be right in the thick of it. I said before the season that four teams could make the playoffs from our division and I still believe it.”
Q: What are your thoughts on all the rules changes in baseball? You have a three-batter minimum for pitchers, universal DH, ghost runners in extra innings, and more coming.
Cash: “The three-batter minimum, not a fan. I like the DH rule. I didn’t think it was fair for American League teams to have pitchers hit, which they weren’t accustomed to doing. It’s better for us now.
“If baseball and our fan base wants more offense, it makes a lot of sense to do that. I understand why they want the extra-inning rule. Not sure how I feel about it. I think it’s really unfair to stick a pitcher out there and say, ‘By the way, there’s a guy at second.’
“I would be 1,000 percent in support of a pitch clock. It would be so refreshing. I haven’t been a part of it, but all the reports I have heard are positive and I think baseball needs it.”
Q: Teams have copied what the Rays do, using openers and other tactics. Is that frustrating or flattering?
Cash: “I guess in a sense I’m flattered. But we don’t look at it that way. The reason we’ve been able to pull off a lot of the things we do with our pitching staff is because we have a staff full of good pitchers.
“I have seen other teams use the opener and it doesn’t work. You need to have good pitchers to be able to do it.”
Q: Managers have so many duties beyond the game. How have you learned to handle everything on your plate?
Cash: “I had no idea as a player what managers did. I was fortunate as a coach in Cleveland under Tito to really understand how taxing the role could be at times. I knew what it was but I didn’t appreciate how much it was until I did it.
“You have to be able to separate things and come in every day with as much of an even-keel mind-set as possible. You have to know there will be a lot of conversations and a lot thrown at you. You may really not want to have those conversations at that moment but you have to.
“Other coaches, players, front office, research and development, analytics, all those things. We owe it to all those departments to hear them out. I don’t know if there’s always time for it.”
Q: Should Shane McClanahan start the All-Star Game?
Cash: “Certainly I’m biased and I hope he gets a chance to do that. But regardless of how that shakes out, I know Shane is very honored and honored to represent the Rays. I said to him in front of the group, ‘I have not witnessed a pitcher have a stronger first half.’ ”
Q: The Rays have an unsettled future as far as where the team will play. Is that something you think about in your job?
Cash: “I don’t care, I really don’t. We’ve heard so much about what will happen and what won’t happen. You kind of become numb to it. Our job is preparing players to play in the American League East, wherever that may be.”
Q: Is there another job in baseball, maybe different from managing, you’d be interested in?
Cash: “No. I’m not smart enough to be in the front office. I love what I’m doing. I like my job.”
Q: One last one. Can anybody catch the Yankees?
Cash: “Probably not. I don’t want to discredit our team or any other team. They were a great team and they’ve performed better than that and they’ve stayed healthy for the most part. Their defense is the key. [Anthony] Rizzo, [Jose] Trevino, and Isiah [Kiner-Falefa] have been great.
“That [ticks] me off because that’s how we’ve always been and they went out and did it. That’s the first thing that stands out, their defense.”
Red Sox need stability at first
The Red Sox went into the weekend with the second-lowest OPS in the majors at first base (.615) and with the second-fewest home runs with seven.
Defensively they’ve been the worst team in the majors at first base with minus-9 defensive runs saved.
Bobby Dalbec has been overmatched at the plate. Franchy Cordero is a bit better but is a big detriment in the field.
The Red Sox were clearly expecting Triston Casas to be ready by now, something Chaim Bloom has acknowledged. But his development came to a two-month halt because of a high ankle sprain on May 16.
Casas remains the first baseman of the future. But it seems incumbent on Bloom to trade for a major league first baseman — Josh Bell or C.J. Cron? — to stabilize the infield defense and make the lineup tougher to face. It’s a cavernous hole that has to be filled.
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
▪ Team chairman Tom Werner is a member of the 11-person committee tasked with deciding which new rules will be implemented in the coming seasons.
There are four players, one umpire, and six team executives in the group. That tilts the balance in favor of what MLB and commissioner Rob Manfred want to do in terms of a pitch clock, controlling shifts, the automated strike zone, and other proposals.
Werner deferred comment to committee chairman John Stanton, the majority owner of the Mariners.
Werner unsuccessfully ran for commissioner against Manfred in 2014. Part of his platform at the time was making baseball more appealing for younger fans, something the new rules are aimed at.
▪ The draft starts Sunday. In the best of times, it’s an inexact science. Now teams are judging players who in some cases missed parts of two seasons because of the pandemic.
“It’s really, really challenging,” Sox amateur scouting director Paul Toboni said. “Just because, for as long as everyone in the room has been doing it, we haven’t been faced with something like this.
“It doesn’t just affect you in the pandemic year. Kids were going into their freshman year [of college] without playing baseball or their sophomore year of high school. There’s no telling how that impacts their stat lines this year or how their physical tools developed. In a way, it makes it more fun because the narrative can go in different directions.”
The Sox pick 24th. They lost a second-round pick as compensation to the Rockies for Trevor Story. But they gained No. 41 for failing to sign their second-round pick last season and No. 79 from the Tigers as compensation for Eduardo Rodriguez.
▪ A scout who follows the Florida Complex League said 18-year-old center fielder Miguel Bleis is the best prospect he has seen this season.
“Incredible athlete. He blew me away,” the scout said. “All he needs is some time. [The Red Sox] are doing a better job with instruction than they used to. Their players have improved across the board.”
▪ Alex Cora on the three managers (Joe Maddon, Joe Girardi, and Charlie Montoyo) who were fired before the All-Star break: “The game is in a different space right now. There are front offices that are very aggressive. They want to be hands-on with everything … It’s one of those, it’s hard to understand.”
▪ Red Sox radio voice Joe Castiglione has the fifth-longest current tenure with one team.
Castiglione has been with the Sox since 1983. The only broadcasters with longer runs are Jaime Jarrín (Dodgers Spanish radio), Denny Matthews (Royals radio), Bob Uecker (Brewers radio), and Eric Nadel (Rangers radio).
Castiglione is tied for fifth with Dick Bremmer, who calls Twins games on television.
Jarrín, Nadel, Matthews, and Uecker are all past winners of the Ford Frick Award given by the Hall of Fame for broadcasting excellence. It’s time for Castiglione to be honored.
A daughter also rises
David Ortiz won’t be the only member of his family in the spotlight at the Hall of Fame induction next Sunday.
His daughter, 21-year-old Alex Veda, was selected to perform the national anthem before the ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“I’m so happy to have this opportunity,” she said. “That’s the way our family works. If we have the ability to help each other, we do. There’s no shyness. To be there for my father means a lot to me.”
A rising senior at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Veda is preparing for a career in music production but also has performed for years in different capacities.
She chose Alex Veda as her professional name in part to distinguish herself from her famous father.
Veda sang the anthem at Fenway Park when she was 16 and has since performed at other venues, including a packed house at Amalie Arena before a Tampa Bay Lightning game.
“This is a huge opportunity for me as a performer and musician,” she said. “Anything you can do to get your name out there helps. I love collaborating with other people and producing. I’d rather be Dr. Dre than Beyoncé. But performing is something I still love.”
The key to the anthem, Veda said, is to start strong and maintain a good pace.
“I’m not shooting for a particular time but I never want to drag it out,” she said. “People don’t like that.”
Veda’s favorite memory of her father’s career is not any particular game. It’s more the fun she had at the Family Day events the team threw for the children of the players and coaches at Fenway Park every year.
She also was with her father in January when he got the call saying he was elected to the Hall on the first ballot.
“His family in the Dominican Republic, they were all there with us and everybody was crying,” she said. “But he earned it. My brother [D’Angelo] and I were talking about how he was always the first one at the park and the last one to leave.
“He always gave his utmost to baseball and his prime was longer than most. He’s reaped the benefits, especially the Hall of Fame.”
Martín Pérez was 10-13 with a 4.53 ERA with the Red Sox from 2020-21. His distinguishing characteristic as a player was that he was a heck of a nice guy. Don’t take that as a dig. Pérez has the ability to maintain a positive outlook through tough times, treating everyone around him with equanimity. Now, at 31, Pérez is a first-time All-Star. He’s 7-2 with a 2.68 ERA for the Rangers. Sox players and coaches were happy to see Pérez make the All-Star team. His one-year, $4 million deal with Texas is one of baseball’s best bargains, and the team is open to an extension … This seems impossible but Rob Thomson became the first Canadian-born manager to manage in Canada when the Phillies played in Toronto this past week … When the Giants beat the Diamondbacks, 13-0, on Tuesday the game was so out of hand that both teams used position players to pitch. Outfielder Luis González worked an inning for San Francisco, his fourth appearance this season. Carson Kelly, a catcher, allowed three runs for Arizona … New Blue Jays manager John Schneider was a catcher with the Chatham A’s in the Cape Cod League. He caught Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush and inducted him into the CCBL Hall of Fame in 2011 … Whit Merrifield has played seven years for the Royals and made $23 million. He refused to get vaccinated to play in Toronto this weekend but said if he got traded to a contender that could face the Blue Jays in the postseason, he would reconsider his stance. That’s quite a message to the rest of the Royals and the team’s fan base … A few weeks ago in this space, we detailed the Brockton Rox having the sons of five former major leaguers on the roster. Now they have a sixth. Righthander José Martinez, the son of Ramon Martinez (and Pedro’s nephew) has joined the roster … Two lefthanders from New England — Alex Clemmey of Bishop Hendricken in Warwick and Thomas White of Phillips Andover — were invited to the USA Baseball 18U national team training camp in Fort Myers, Fla., starting Aug. 29. They’ll be competing for spots on the team that will play in the World Cup in September. Both juniors have committed to Vanderbilt … Condolences to the family and many friends of Charlie Eshbach, who died Tuesday after a long illness. Eshbach was the first employee of the Portland Sea Dogs, hired by founding owner Dan Burke to bring the team to life in 1992. His hard work and personality gave Portland what remains a model Double A franchise. Eshbach was team president until 2018 and a senior adviser until his passing. Eshbach started in minor league baseball in 1974 and spent 11 years as president of the Eastern League … Happy birthday to Mike Greenwell, who turns 59 on Monday. “Gator” played for the Red Sox from 1985-96 and had an .831 OPS. He finished second in the 1988 AL Most Valuable Player voting to Jose Canseco. He’s now a businessman in North Fort Myers, Fla., and running for county commissioner.