Tampa Bay Rays
- 2014 Finish: 77-85, 4th in AL East
- 2015 Key to Success: Kevin Cash becoming a dominant manager
Quick, who’s been the face of the Tampa Bay Rays since 2008 which saw the franchise drop the “Devil” and win the AL East with a stunning 97 games?
Evan Longoria? Yeah, I’ll give that to you.
However, it’s been manager Joe Maddon who’s meant the most to the club, and now he’s gone.
Maddon is a guy who no doubt plays the numbers. He’s often obnoxious with how frequently he plays the numbers instead of going with a gut feeling.
Regardless, he always has his team ready to perform and exceed expectations, extreme shifts or not.
Last year saw Tampa Bay only 77-games, finishing fourth in the AL East. It was their lowest win total since that breakout season of ’08. In fact, it’s been their only losing season since 2007.
Perhaps Maddon saw the handwriting on the wall?
Because the Rays are small-market team who develops through the draft, or more specifically through compensatory picks, their window for dominance has arguably closed. It’s been Maddon who’s kept them afloat the past couple seasons.
Despite the Rays missing out on that “dominance” window, they’re still a decent squad on paper. The starting staff looks solid with Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Matt Moore who’ll be back in late May or early June. Jake McGee closing games and Brad Boxberger, with his filthy 104 strikeouts in 64.2 innings last year, look solid out of the pen.
The lineup most definitely has holes, but is a workable unit if the pitching remains stout.
Will brand spanking new manager Kevin Cash push the right buttons the way Maddon did these many years?
With a club that doesn’t possess a ton of stars and relies on development, the manager is usually star number-one.
Cash will have big shoes to fill in Maddon who guided the Rays to five 90-win seasons during his nine-year run as Tampa manager.
New boss Matthew Silverman also has big shoes to fill for the departed Andrew Friedman. After immediately shipping guys like Wil Mayers, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar and Joel Peralta, the Rays will need some managing magic from Cash if they feel like contending in 2015.
Next: Toronto Blue Jays