Winter Meetings interview with Kevin Cash and Matt Silverman

Q. Run through what the first days have been like, has it all sunk in yet, has it been a whirlwind?

KEVIN CASH: It's starting to sink in. The text messages and phone calls are still coming, but returning them, my family has been incredible. And now trying to get on to the baseball side of it. It's exciting, but time to get to work little bit.

Q. How soon are you looking to get a bench coach?

KEVIN CASH: You know what, I think that's an ongoing process. We're kind of talking through, we talked about some of the characteristics and qualities that maybe we're looking for and hopefully that process keeps working itself out throughout these meetings in the upcoming weeks and days.

Q. Based on the fact you don't have managing experience, are you looking for someone that has had managing experience, to help you with that, maybe organizing and stuff like that?

MATT SILVERMAN: It's not a prerequisite for us. But that's mostly because of the staff that we have in place. We have a really good group that work really well together. Whoever we have as the bench coach or as the open coach will be someone who is a complement to the staff, and gives Kevin the backing that he needs.

Q. Are you up to the point or have you started looking at the roster?

KEVIN CASH: I think you do that through the interview process.

But this is probably the most exciting time of this next couple of days, I get to hear Matt and the group talk about the players and I'll have a much better understanding of it. I wouldn't want to come in with any preconceived thoughts about them. It's a lot of just in the room listening, learning about the players.

Q. Who might lead off, or anything like that?

KEVIN CASH: I'm trying to get everyone's names right now (laughter).

Q. How far have you gotten to trying to reach out to players and reach out to staff, and what is that comfort level right now?

KEVIN CASH: Every conversation has been excellent. The players that I have contacted, a lot of energy, optimism, that's probably been the most exciting of all. And as far as the coaches that I've talked to, they've been great. I think I've connected with just about all of them in the clubhouse and stuff. It's an exciting group. And they have accepted of this whole process and been extremely generous to my family and I.

Q. You mentioned what has been going on in your life. Have you had family call you, old friends, people you haven't heard from?

KEVIN CASH: I get a text message and a picture about every 30 minutes from my mom where there's something on the billboard at the high school, congratulations. December well, Saturday, the 6th, my birthday, I think my mom cried from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., good tears.

So it's been an exciting time. It's probably more beneficial that she was there and got to be a part of it kind of by herself, a lot of attention. So good for her and the rest of the family that's been down there.

Q. Was there a point or could you talk about the point where you just knew, and what were the things that most stood out?

MATT SILVERMAN: We had many interviews. Eric Heim and I spent a lot of time with the candidates and spent a lot of time face to face with both Don and Kevin. There was a connection and energy that Kevin brought to the conversation. And it was a really good back and forth, where we realized this is a guy who can connect not only with the front office but much more importantly connect with the players and the coaches and be the kind of guy who can help our guys through the 162 game grind.

And that was what we were most impressed with Kevin is his ability to keep that energy level up. To have that communication, to level with anyone, but have that sincerity and the energy that you see today, that's going to serve him really well with the guys we already have in our clubhouse.

Q. What were the things (INAUDIBLE)?

KEVIN CASH: I've been extremely fortunate, I've played for incredible coaches, managers, obviously Tito, we could sit here and spend hours talking about him and the entire group in Cleveland, the front office there, Chris, and the group that he's assembled. I think it's just relating with people. And the way that some of the good managers I've come across have done it and the way they really care about everybody that they get to work with and just watching that firsthand from Tito, I learned a lot and something I value a lot moving forward.

Q. It's about people more your job is about translating numbers. Is it a people job?

KEVIN CASH: I think I definitely think it's always about the people that you work with, and the relationships and the trust that you can build with the group that you have.

Q. How many similarities have you seen so far? Have there been surprises between what they're doing in Cleveland and doing here, and how much of that would you like to bring from Cleveland and vice versa?

KEVIN CASH: There's definitely similarities, I think. But what has gone on here in Tampa the last ten years is pretty special. I'm honored to be a part of it. It's going to be much more learning on my end. And they're not missing anything over here. It's an exciting time to be a part of this.

Q. Are you feeling much pressure? You're following a guy who has a pretty big legacy, Joe. They did nothing before Joe was here.

KEVIN CASH: I was fortunate with Joe, his first year as a manager in Spring Training. And you could the transition from Lou to Joe, you could tell a different personality that Joe was bringing in. You kind of got the sense of some immediate success coming. And just the way he presented himself. The way he communicated with the players. I look at it more as kind of an honor to be following him and what he's done over the course of his career here.

Q. Do you plan on talking to him or have you talked to him?

KEVIN CASH: No, I have not. I'd love to talk to him. I'm sure I'll get an opportunity in the meetings here at some point and shake his hand and connect. We had a good relationship when I left Tampa and communicated and waved to each other. I hope I get to see him.

Q. Have you talked to some of the other managers about what to expect the first time as a manager?

KEVIN CASH: Yes, I'd be open to hearing anything, any opinions. I think it's more of a somewhat being around Tito, some of the guys that I've been around, I think I have somewhat of a perspective, but you're always willing to take more and learn more.

Q. You played for four of the teams in the division. It would seem that the AL East would be a change, maybe since ten years ago, maybe a little more balanced, more unpredictable. How do you view the AL East landscape now as the one dominated by the Yankees and the Red Sox?

KEVIN CASH: When I got done playing I felt I had a pretty strong sense for the AL East. There's been so much turnover the last two or three years, and being a part of the AL Central, you listen to Matt and Eric and all the organization talking about the group and the players.

So, again, just learning you know the names, you know the names on the back of the jerseys, but the more detail, I'd probably rather just listen and hear about.

Q. Does it seem a little bit more wide open and competitive than it was maybe when you were playing, winning the division, getting in the playoffs two of the last three years? It seems like it isn't as top heavy as it once was.

KEVIN CASH: Right, but I was playing when the Rays were starting to make their impact. Probably the most devastating loss of my career was in 2008 when the Rays beat us beat Boston. So you started to sense that coming in, and like Baltimore has come on, and the seasons they've put together. It's an exciting time.

Q. Even before Joe left, we're talking before the --

KEVIN CASH: Offense is a problem for me, also (laughter).

Q. But talking about approaching, looking to find new ways to get more offense. Do you feel you're getting there?

MATT SILVERMAN: We test on game strategy in the interview. But we haven't gotten into any of the details in terms of our own personnel. And we don't yet know what our club is going to look like.

We're confident we're going to score more runs next year, and be a better offensive club, just returning the guys that we have. There were some injuries, there were some lack of performance that we think will revert back to normal. But if you take the same guys we had last year, put them back on the field, they're going to score a lot more runs. The pitching is there, we're pretty close. 77 wins doesn't cut it. But 77 very easily could have been in the mid upper 80s and that's why we have so much optimism heading into next year.

Q. How much did the Indians help you in terms of the interview process and everything?

KEVIN CASH: It was remarkable. The way they reached out and helped me along just giving advice, I mean, Chris, Mike, giving their opinions and feedback. It was incredible for them to stop what they were doing and assist me, in both processes, with Texas and Tampa. I cannot say enough about the group in place in there, and I'm so excited to be coming into a group that seems, like you said, a lot of similarities. But those friendships that I created will consistently be maintained.

Q. What was the path of Texas, similar to the path of the Rays, the interview process. Did you have the same path, the same process?

KEVIN CASH: There were a lot of similarities in the process. It's an interview. And everybody calls it I kind of personally felt it was a 12 hour conversation about baseball. So sitting down with that group and getting to meet the people, even though some of them were brief conversations, but for the bulk of it with Matt and Eric and Heim, it was pretty relaxed and we were just talking. There were some laughs. And I did not feel like it was a drilling with questions. It was more just a good, quality conversation about baseball in general.

Q. You get caught up, or whatever that means, but what's your agenda, what do you want to start thinking on and working on first?

KEVIN CASH: Well, hopefully we've kind of started doing that with some communication with the players. I think it's important to try to get face to face with them. There's a lot of guys that are in the area, locally. So maybe makes it a little easier, getting in contact and face to face with the coaches.

And then I think I personally would like to just be accessible in Tampa and get in the front office, build those relationships. Some of the understanding of what goes on. It's a lot more learning reaching out, building relationships, but me learning what's gone on and the reason why they've had so much success here lately.

Q. How quickly like maybe the first of the year do you hope to move down there, or when are you going to start hanging out down there?

KEVIN CASH: I'll be down there next week. That was the plan. I'm going to fly back after these meetings. My daughter's birthday, and then get on a plane Saturday. I'll be down there for probably about a week, see how the holiday season shakes out and then right back.

Q. How many of the players would you say you've spoken with so far?

KEVIN CASH: I think I've gotten about eight or ten of them. And that's part of these upcoming days, reaching out.

Q. You felt comfortable with the coaches that you talked to? Some you knew and some you didn't know.

KEVIN CASH: They were great. A lot of energy. Tom Foley was there, Jamie Nelson was a coordinator when I was playing and stuff. It was exciting.

Talking to the guys I didn't know, Hick and Stan were incredible, what they've done with the pitching staff, a lot of admiration, from being in the opposing dugout. And Sheltie, he's from Cleveland, so the connection there. That was I could not be more optimistic about the group and keep building those relationships moving forward.

Q. The way the team has played the last few years, since they've turned the corner, if they continue to play the same way or tweak some things. Just the way they've been successful over the years, you going to keep things kind of that way?

KEVIN CASH: Sure, to an extent, but also how your roster shapes out over the offseason and what players are coming in. Again, that's all something that we'll probably learn and talk about more in depth as this next couple of weeks unfold.

Q. You grew up in Tampa, Al Lopez, Tony LaRussa, Lou Piniella, pretty good legacy to Tampa managers. How does it feel to follow those guys?

KEVIN CASH: It's kind of incredible. Those names, I would definitely set them apart. But just to be in the same conversation, realizing I've done nothing, those guys have impacted baseball quite a bit.

And Tampa is an incredible place. Growing up, the hot bed, everything you could probably argue that is as strong an area for the growing of baseball, the competition. So it's exciting to get back there and into that community again.

Q. You knew all those names when you were growing up?

KEVIN CASH: Sure. Every one of them.

Q. The past six weeks, what have they been like in terms of the transition, both as an organization and for you personally? What sort of challenges have you come up against and how do you feel about that now?

MATT SILVERMAN: It's been wall to wall action for us. And we've had a lot on our plate to get through in just under two months time. The offseason is a busy time. Working through the roster crunch is difficult. And working through that while we're going out and searching for a manager made it all the more difficult.

The good side is it brought a lot of us together in the front office side, in a way we're forced to work together, really intimately, coordinate as well as possible. And I'm really proud of the execution of the entire group, not just in hiring Kevin, but the way we've worked through the roster, the conversations, the relationships we're forming internally, with other teams, it's been as smooth as possible, given all the turbulence that we encountered.

Q. Is this a job that you always thought you might kind of like or do you take this as on the best guy to keep pushing the organizational flow? What was the decision when Andrew left for you to step in? What was that about for you personally?

MATT SILVERMAN: Stu and I had spoken about it in the past, and got through the what if scenarios. We did that with sort of everything in our business. And agreed that if Andrew left, for whatever reason, that it was the right time for me to step in and oversee baseball operations with the benefit of everyone in the organization.

And that was the comfort for all of us, is that minus Andrew, the rest of us were intact. And the processes that we have in place, the relationships that we have, the trust, and it's a pretty intimate group. That's all there. And it's a matter of having me step in, take over the helm and take over the reins and just steer the ship in the right direction.

It was made a lot easier by the fact that we've been doing it together for almost a decade. It was more of a shift than a real jump in responsibilities.

Q. What's different about it personally for you?

MATT SILVERMAN: I think the hardest part, the most difficult part is there's no calendar and there's no clock. On the other side of the business, you can dictate more of your schedule in the calendar, and you can dictate when things get done.

This is a reactive position, not just to the other 29 teams, but to everything going on internally. What's key is communication. Making sure that we have good communication up and down the organization and we have that. Very fortunate that Eric and Heim are there as our lieutenants and helping execute our vision. That's given me a lot of comfort in making sure we get off to the right foot this offseason.

Q. With the turnover, how much is a balance of doing your own thing and forging your own identity?

MATT SILVERMAN: I don't think of it as Andrew or me, I think it's an organizational direction. And we had developed that together for the last eight to ten years. And my job is to keep us executing in that direction.

I don't want to say that Andrew, making the same decisions that we're making today, but a lot of the conversations that we have, a lot of the information that we use is the same. And it's a matter of having the right process to make the decisions and react to all the different things around us that the other 29 teams are doing.

Take my name out of it, talk about the Rays, talk about our Rays baseball operations department. We're executing on our vision and we're building off of the one that's been there the last eight years or so.

Q. (INAUDIBLE)?

MATT SILVERMAN: There certainly is risk. We talked about it. It was one of the questions that came up over and over again in the interview process. The risk of the first time manager, the games speeding up, doing things for the first time, while we expect to compete. It's different if we were rebuilding. It's different if this were the 2005 Devil Rays. It's not, we have a club that can compete for a playoff spot. We recognize that risk and felt good about taking on an unexperienced manager, because of Kevin's personality, because of his experience, and because of the coaching staff and clubhouse that we have in place.

But he does get to forge his own path here. He's not bound by constraints. He has to come in and put his mark on things, knowing that we have a really good situation already.

Q. Did you study Wainwright, what went wrong?

MATT SILVERMAN: We studied a lot of teams, talked to a lot of teams about bringing on managers that have managed before. But I think when we say that, it discounts Kevin. Yes, he hasn't managed a game, but he's been managing in his mind for a long time. And he brings that mentality.

If he hadn't worked under Tito for the last couple of years and played under him, it would be a different conversation. He has his own path that's gotten him here. Each manager has their own path. His might be a little more accelerated, a little bit more unconventional, but certainly qualified and ready to lead this team.

Q. (INAUDIBLE)?

KEVIN CASH: No, it's hit. It's definitely hit, the excitement.

MATT SILVERMAN: What number are you going to be?

KEVIN CASH: Just found out, 16. He was looking for a single digit, but I've put on some weight since my playing day exactly. But, no, the moment, there's been several of them that have hit and keep hitting. It's been great connecting with a lot of people over the last couple of days and looking forward to more of that.

Q. You mentioned the Tampa angle, a former Devil Rays player, but also be a contending team. Can you rank them?

KEVIN CASH: I don't think you can rank them. But you listed some that bring huge excitement to the job. You bring in the group that they have in place and getting to join that, players, coaches, front office, everything. It presents itself as an incredible opportunity. I'm extremely excited to be a part of it.

Q. You talked about the '08 Championship Series. As tough as that was, is it still unbelievable that you had been there three short years earlier?

KEVIN CASH: No, there wasn't any unbelievable feeling that night (laughter).

No, it was amazing how loud that place got. I mean it was not fun for an opposing I knew I wasn't playing, but I just had to sit in the bullpen and hear the bells ringing and everything. It was quite the atmosphere for Tampa Ray baseball.

Q. How much will you have to say in the personnel moves that will happen leading up to Spring Training now?

MATT SILVERMAN: It's a collaboration. Not just with Kevin and the coaching staff, but our entire baseball operations department. We're working on that right now. In terms of constructing the roster, primarily our department. And when it gets down into putting together lineups and figuring out playing time and figuring out how we're going to attack each game, that's when we hand it over to Kevin and the coaches to execute, knowing that we have a common vision together.

Q. Also on that, you had talked some about going into the offseason and one of your toughest things was going to be evaluating which players would rebound and which wouldn't. Do you feel you've got a pretty good handle on guys?

MATT SILVERMAN: They're all going to rebound, that's the easy answer (laughter).

Q. Was there a moment during this offseason and maybe the Texas interview where you thought I could be named the manager real soon?

KEVIN CASH: Of the Rays?

Q. Of any team.

KEVIN CASH: Well, going into the offseason, I don't think I know I wasn't thinking about that at all. And the Texas position presented itself. And obviously your mind starts to wander a little bit and you think about the what if hypotheticals. And the second process with the Rays came up. It had much more had that much more experience. You try not to get too excited and too many thoughts in your mind going too quick. So it was an incredible experience to kind of play itself out in the way it ended up working out is obviously pretty exciting.

Q. Why do you want to manage? What is it about this job, any job, but you're in this one now? What's so attractive, what draws you to it?

KEVIN CASH: I think that you look at being a coach, a bullpen coach, it was kind of you're really connected with the players in the bullpen and the pitchers, and the thought that you're always with those guys down in the bullpen, it's a different perspective. Not that I moved beyond that or anything. To take on the challenges of getting to work with this group and connect with more players on maybe a deeper level, and work with the coaches. I think obviously it takes a lot of time, you have a lot of passion and energy for it.

That would probably be the biggest thing, the connection with the players and the clubhouse. I love being in the clubhouse. I love going and hanging out with the guys, talking about the game the night before, the next game, playing cards, whatever it is. I love that constant interaction with those guys. I don't know if you can get in a better position than to have that as a manager.

Q. Who was the better cribbage player, you or Tito?

KEVIN CASH: Tito, definitely. I've still got a hole in my wallet, I think. Why even lie about that with a straight face.

 

Q. How did Kevin burst on to your radar screen?

MATT SILVERMAN: When we went out and collected names, his name came up, not just internally, but when we had conversations with the teams as a guy we needed to get to know. The Texas process helped. But even without that his name was known in the organization as someone who had a great baseball mind, had a really good future in the game. And it was a question of when, not if he was going to manage.

With Joe leaving it presented the opportunity for us to go out and figure out who our next manager, and hopefully our next manager for the next decade or so. And so you look at the hit list and look at the frequency of names, his was at the top of that list in those early conversations.

Q. How do you factor that Joe is such a big presence with the Rays and being the guy to replace him? You making that decision and you being that guy?

MATT SILVERMAN: Well, Joe leaving certainly had a factor and Joe's personality had a factor. But it didn't influence it didn't influence our decision on Kevin. We were looking for a manager that had Kevin's qualities. And obviously he lined up with those qualities we were looking for as someone who is a motivator, someone who is a good communicator, someone who is going to work really hard and earn the respect of the players and coaches. And get the best out of a team. To do that it's about the relationships and the communication that Kevin preaches.

He's got the energy and passion for it that came through in the conversations. He's got his hit list of players and coaches he wants to talk to. That shows his resolve and his dedication to getting things right straight out of the gate.

Q. How do you feel about being the guy that follows Joe?

KEVIN CASH: I think it's great. I embrace it. I'm almost somewhat appreciative. What he's been a part of, a big piece, and the opportunity to now join with that group. I think that he has done everyone knows what a job he's done, what he's meant to the players, what he's meant to the Tampa Bay community. To somewhat follow in his footsteps and join the group. I know he's moved on, but you can still value and respect everything he's done over the last 18 years.

Q. (INAUDIBLE).

MATT SILVERMAN: Well, I remember when we hired Joe, back in the Devil Rays days, there was a lot of work to be done. And we were building things from scratch together. And the partnership between Andrew and Joe and figuring out how they wanted to construct the roster and also execute in terms of the game plan, it's a motto we'd like to follow, in terms of putting ourselves in the room together, working through that with Eric and Heim, our baseball staff. We both have that motivation, that energy, to put ourselves into it, like it's a rebuilding project, while we know we have a great roster.

We saw a partner in Kevin in order to do that and someone who can take the roster that we put together and execute in the dugout, on the field and make sure we get back to our winning ways.

Q. Can you bring us up to date on the tampering issue, if you're aware of what that is, and how --

MATT SILVERMAN: It's an MLB matter. And they're handling it.