Tampa Manager Still Facing Undue Criticism For Pulling Blake Snell against Los Angeles
He led his All-Star squad to yet another victory in the Midsummer Classic, but it is worth noting that many baseball fans would have fired him just eight months before. His crucial decision, to him and anyone who studies the game, was really a no-brainer.
Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash, because of that decision, was immediately blamed for losing the 2020 World Series.
“Kevin Cash pulled one of the worst decisions in World Series history,” wrote Larry Brown of MSN.com on 10/28/20. “And his move backfired.”
Columnist Joel Sherman, along with a horde of other pundits and fans, echoed that sentiment.
“It was the worst World Series Game Six flub since the ball was going through Bill Buckner's legs in 1986,” Sherman wrote in the New York Post on the same day.
Because of rhetoric like the above examples, people across the nation were calling for Cash to be canned. Fortunately, Tampa Bay's front office personnel ignored the knee-jerk reaction, opting instead to see the decision as very practical.
Statistics over his Big League career have revealed Snell to be a guy who quickly loses effectiveness in the fifth inning, as even a cursory check at baseball reference can prove. Just by looking at his fourth frame numbers, a quite respectable 3.82 earned run average and an opponent batting average of .237, a manager might be tempted to bring him back out to the mound.
That respectable ERA, however, jumps up to 4.42 in the fifth inning, a fact not overlooked by Tampa Bay Cash in the World Series. Nevertheless, he suffered weeks of backlash for pulling Snell in game six, when the Rays were leading 1-0 and the lefthander was dominating the Dodgers.
In all likelihood Cash felt fortunate that Snell had gone even that deep, considering the ace's history of fifth inning trouble. On this occasion and on baseball's biggest stage Snell had retired Los Angeles in order in frame five, keeping mind he had faced the bottom half of the order.
So when number nine hitter Austin Barnes lined a hard one out single in the sixth, Cash naturally figured he had reached the end of his rope. Snell had already gone an inning deeper than expected, and now the Dodgers had leadoff hitter Mookie Betts and Corey Seager and Justin Turner due up with the tying run on base.
The odds were slim of Snell being able to shut down that trio on their third time through the order, especially given Snell's career history. The bullpen gave up the lead, so Cash had to endure the unfair criticism from most everyone in the baseball media.
When Snell was traded to San Diego after the season, Cash's decision to pull him was immediately assumed to be the reason. In reality Snell and his contract would have been moved even if Tampa had won the World Series, since Tampa has been operating with limited payroll almost since its inception.
Since joining the Padres, Snell's performance has pretty much justified Cash's so-called World Series blunder. Snell has continued to be a four to five inning starter, who has been less effective with San Diego than he had been with Tampa.
In seventeen starts in 2021, Snell has worked past the fifth inning just three times. The reason is obvious, for opponents are hitting fifty points higher against him in innings four through six than during the first three frames.
He is just 3-3 with an ugly 5.21 earned run average, statistics that are partly to blame for the underachievement of a talented San Diego team. Preseason favorites to compete with the Dodgers as a two-team race to the pennant, the Padres currently find themselves in third place in the National League West.
As for Kevin Cash and Snell's old team, they are pretty much right where they were when Snell was the ace of their rotation. The Rays have more wins than San Diego, and Cash has them just one game back in the American League East.
In spite of what everyone around baseball was screaming about after game six of the World Series, Tampa made the right choice. You could say they saved Cash, as well as cash.