Small market, small payroll, big payoff.
Guided by manager Kevin Cash, who played at Florida State from 1997-99, and the Tampa Bay Rays begin play in the World Series tonight against the Los Angeles Dodgers (8 p.m. on FOX). The Rays’ payroll may have some big names but it doesn’t come with a big price tag, just $28 million. Compare that to the New York Yankees’ $113 million, whom the Rays have already knocked off in the AL division series. And of course next up is the Dodgers and their $105 million payroll.
While personnel executives, scouts and Cash have been praised for their use of analytics it is how they scout other major league rosters and farm systems that often sets them apart.
“When we acquire a player, as much work that goes into what he can do on the field, there’s that much on the personality and character,” Cash said, via ESPN. “That’s where scouts come into play and word of mouth comes into play. Getting to know and having relationships throughout the game that you can find some pretty crucial information about how’s his personality. We know we have enough information about how those players can match on the field, but how do they match in the clubhouse?”
ESPN.com’s Pedro Gomez writes that Tampa has often become “a magnet for the discarded.” He points to seven regular starters who were acquired from other teams.
Cash has proven you can alter some of the tenants of baseball. He came up with the concept of the “opener,” using a bullpen arm for a short start. He used nine left-handed hitters in the lineup against a right-hander this summer, too.
The Rays also opt not to bunt. According to research by the Athletic’s Jayson Stark, they did not bunt in 309 plate appearances with runners on and first base open.
Cash is 454-416 in the regular season since 2015 with the Rays, including a 90-win season in 2018 and 96-win season in 2019.
While many of the concepts Cash and the Rays use raise eyebrows, there’s little doubting the results. Even despite the limitations of the payroll, the Rays went 40-20 in the regular season and knocked off the Blue Jays, Yankees and Houston Astros en route to the World Series.
“It’s a special feeling,” Cash said, via the Boston Globe. “I don’t know that I’ve had many better other than getting married and having three kids. It’s a special group to be a part of.”
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