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The Tampa Bay Rays started the year 13-0 and spent 12 of the first 13 weeks of the 2023 season in the No. 1 spot in B/R’s weekly power rankings. Before the Atlanta Braves juggernaut offense hit its stride, they looked like the team to beat.
It would be easy to point to injuries to Shane McClanahan, Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen in the starting rotation and sluggers Brandon Lowe and Luke Raley in the starting lineup. Or to say that this is a young roster, that the Texas Rangers offense was clicking, or that Nathan Eovaldi simply pitched a gem.
However, it’s time to start asking if Kevin Cash is the right man to be steering the ship in Tampa Bay.
The Rays didn’t just get beat, they were flat-out embarrassed, and for the brief 48 hours they were a playoff team they looked poorly composed and ill-prepared for playoff baseball. Those are issues that fall squarely on the shoulders of the man in the manager’s seat.
He let a two-run inning turn into a four-run inning by leaving Zach Eflin in the game too long in the fourth. The Tampa Bay starter had already given up a solo home run to Adolis García, single to Leody Taveras and triple to Josh Jung, yet he was still left in to give up a two-run blast to Evan Carter.
For a Rays offense that got shut out on Tuesday night and failed to get a runner past first base until the seventh inning on Wednesday, four runs was insurmountable. A quiet offense has become a troubling trend for the Rays in October.
A year ago, this same Rays team managed just one run and nine hits in 24 innings while getting swept by the Cleveland Guardians in the Wild Card Round.
The Tampa Bay organization consistently finds a way to contend with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, but it’s the front office that deserves credit for mining diamonds in the rough, spending wisely and excelling in player development.
In his role as manager, Cash has now failed to set the team up for postseason success in consecutive years, and that should put him on the hot seat.
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