Silverman cites ex-Tampa Bay catcher's communication skills, intelligence
By Adam Berry
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays began their search for the fifth manager in franchise history by casting as wide a net as possible. They internally discussed dozens of candidates, baseball operations president Matt Silverman said, then winnowed that list down to eight, expanded it to 10 and narrowed it down to three finalists.
Some criticized Tampa Bay for its extensive, seemingly random list of candidates to succeed Joe Maddon, but the Rays say they simply entered this process with an open mind. This was their first chance since hiring Maddon in 2005 to get a sense of what's out there, to reevaluate the type of person they want in the manager's office at Tropicana Field.
They knew they wanted a new voice in the clubhouse, but the ideal candidate would possess certain qualities and share similar philosophies. Kevin Cash checked off all those boxes, which is why he was hired Friday as the Rays' new manager.
"There were a few key attributes that were clear to us: an ability to communicate, a strong presence, loyalty and trustworthiness and an intelligence and dedication or preparation that would affect the entire club," Silverman said on a conference call. "Those were things that Kevin lined up with perfectly, and why we're excited about adding him."
Tampa Bay's final decision came down to Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu or Cash, the Tampa native and former Indians bullpen coach. Wakamatsu was widely regarded as the safer pick, an older coach with some Major League managing experience. Cash was viewed as a rising star, though there were questions about his age and his lack of time in the dugout.
Cash has never managed a game in his life, he said. And he'll turn 37 on Saturday, making him older than everyone on the Rays' 40-man roster -- but only by a few weeks.
But Cash brings an interesting blend of experience to the table. He spent eight seasons in the Majors, worked as an advance scout for a year then joined the Indians as their bullpen coach, where he earned praise for his work with catcher Yan Gomes and pitcher Carlos Carrasco.
"You look at Kevin, his baseball age is much older than his 36, almost 37 years on this planet," Silverman said. "He's been a student of the game, and the transition to manager is one we think will be a relatively easy one made even easier by the environment we have here."
That environment includes the rest of the Rays' coaching staff, which is expected to remain intact as they hire a new bench coach. Cash can also lean on the front office, largely the same group -- with the obvious exception of Andrew Friedman -- that provided players and information for Maddon the last several years.
"The voice is obviously probably going to change a little bit, but the players and the personnel and the culture, what they've created, that is something I'm extremely fortunate to be a part of and join in with," Cash said.
Cash seemed eager to learn more about the Rays' inner workings. He comes from an organization in Cleveland that is forward-thinking in much the same way as Tampa Bay, so he views the Rays' analytically inclined front office as a bonus, not a detriment.
"I think it's awesome. I think part of the discussion that we had is it's been impressive to watch how innovative the Rays have been at the forefront of a lot of that, and to get to join and be a part of that and learn, I think it's great," Cash said. "I got to experience quite a bit of that in Cleveland and [see] the value of it to help our team move forward."
In describing why Cash was their right choice for the Rays, Silverman spoke more Friday about Cash's personality and his attitude than his lineup philosophies or bullpen inclinations. Cash met at length Wednesday with Silverman and baseball operations vice presidents Chaim Bloom and Erik Neander, and he clearly left a favorable impression.
"After 12 hours, we were pretty drained, but we felt like Kevin was just getting started. He has great energy," Silverman said. "He's got an ability to connect with people, and he forms relationships and builds on those relationships. He has incredible relationships throughout the game, and you can see the bond that he has and that's going to benefit him in our clubhouse as we go forward.
"It came down to the energy, the poise that he has, the confidence, but the open-mindedness that goes along with it, that's a rare combination to have in an individual."
Cash immediately reached out to a few players and others within the organization, and Silverman said he wouldn't be surprised to hear Cash had done so with 50 or more people within a week.
That's the kind of energy, enthusiasm and personality the Rays wanted out of their next manager, their new clubhouse voice, and they think they've found it in Cash.
"You can sense his excitement. What you'll see soon is his dedication to this organization," Silverman said. "He is going to work tirelessly to make sure he is not only connecting with every player and staff member, but finding ways to make them all better with the goal of us winning more games this year, getting to the postseason and winning that first championship.
"That dedication is something that distinguishes him and it's why we're even more excited to have him here as our manager."
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.