It’s been a boring year, at least so far as managerial changes go. The Braves dismissed Fredi Gonzalez in May, and the rest of the league has since stood pat with their skippers — either out of satisfaction or toleration. With the season’s end approaching, it appears we could well go the entire campaign with just one switch at the helm. Ain’t that something?
Fortunately, for those who desire coaching-staff pink slips like many desire frozen peanut butter cups, the Rays did the next best thing to firing their manager on Tuesday — axing long-time hitting coach Derek Shelton and replacing him with former big-league outfielder Chad Mottola:
The decision to fire Shelton now is odd for multiple reasons. Namely, there’s precious little time for new instruction to take place or sink in. Beyond that, the Rays’ lineup has been better than you think. They exited Labor Day with the 12th-best offense, according to advanced metrics that adjust for ballpark and the like. Maybe Mottola can help Steven Souza, Corey Dickerson, and a few other struggling Rays find their swings. But this would appear to be a situation where the Rays wanted a scapegoat (er, “a new voice”) more than anything else.
Why? Because the Rays are 58-78 after entering the spring as a trendy postseason pick. Because management’s trades of veterans for prospects has yet to pay off anywhere outside of the budget. Because the front office isn’t going to fire itself — nor is it going to fire manager Kevin Cash.
If anything, Cash is secure in his position. In part because he’s willing to run whatever science experiment the front office wants him to, and in part because he’s in the second year of a five-year deal — Rays handed him one of the longest contracts in baseball before he’d overseen a game.
Cash’s willingness to eschew tradition is a plus on the whole, but it’s clear he’s a step down from predecessor Joe Maddon in handling players — the organization has had to punish or threaten to punish multiple players for not hustling, including Tim Beckham. It’s also worth noting that players have spoken out against Cash’s decisions more than they did Maddon’s — likely due to the difference in results — and that, if you trust the rumor mill, he’s clashed with multiple since-departed veterans.
In short, the Rays are a mess — and one that’s unlikely to be fixed by a new hitting coach.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Rays fire hitting coach, a possible fall guy in what has been a dismal season