ST. PETERSBURG – Rays manager Kevin Cash is always all about winning, rarely taking solace in a good showing or a narrow loss.
But finishing third in the American League Manager of the Year voting Tuesday, behind winner Bob Melvin of the A's and runner-up Alex Cora of the Red Sox, proved to still be rewarding.
"There's no doubt,'' Cash said. "I was up there with the World Series champion manager in Alex Cora and Bob Melvin was winning it for his third time. Very special, honored and humbled to be considered with those two.
And also the representatives from the National League teams.''
Cash, the only one of the six to not make the playoffs, had a good case after leading the Rays to 90 wins, a 10-game improvement from 2017.
Especially in a season where he navigated a winter/spring purge of veterans, a tough 3-12 start coupled with the mid-April loss of centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier to injury, then ongoing roster moves that led to a significant transition to a young core, using a club-record 54 players, 23 of them rookies.
Plus, Cash was charged with introducing and implementing the innovative pitching plan of using relievers as openers, a strategy that required him to manage intently in those games from the first inning on.
"I think people around baseball recognized that the Rays did do some good things, some unique, and dealt with adversity,'' Cash said. "And ultimately felt like we had a successful season.''
Cash received five first-place votes, six for second and 14 for third, totaling 57 points in voting by 30 members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, two from each AL city, before the postseason. He was second and third on ballots fromTampa Bay writers. Melvin had 18 first-place votes and 121 points, Cora seven and 79.
Cash figured Melvin would win, having voted for him in a different poll for the same honor.
Like Cash, Melvin did more than expected with what he had to work with. He took a team that won 75 games last year in a third straight last-place showing, went into 2018 with the majors' lowest payroll, had to remake its entire rotation on the fly after a string of injuries forced the use of 15 different starters, and won 97 games and the second AL wild-card.
"I've always admired him from afar,'' said Cash, who has managed four seasons. "I think there's a fair correlation between the Rays and the A's, whether people want to talk about payroll, about being innovative in the game. ''
Melvin, who won previously in 2007 in Arizona and 2012 in Oakland, said there was mutual admiration this season, as the A's "took a hard look" at how the Rays were using the opener before trying it themselves.
"I've got a lot of respect for him and what he's done over the years,'' Melvin said. "Has had to do some things without some of the resources that certainly the teams in his division have. The success that they had, just watching their dugout and the way they do things, it's great to watch. And you can certainly see that he has the attention of the team and has full support from those guys. That's a testament to how good he is at what he does.''
Braves manager Brian Snitker won the NL award, finishing ahead of Milwaukee's Craig Counsell and Colorado's Bud Black.
Cash immediately started looking ahead to Wednesday's announcement of the AL Cy Young Award, reiterating his belief that Rays lefty Blake Snell is the clear choice ahead of Cleveland's Corey Kluber and Houston's Justin Verlander.
"They're all team awards,'' Cash said. "That's our goal – we want to win as many games as possible, and the awards will come.''
Of course he looks at it that way.
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.