Ask Gary: Wondering what Cash is really thinking

by Gary Shelton on April 14, 2018 · 3 comments

in general, Rowdies, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays

Can Cash really give a thumb's up to this season?/JEFFREY S. KING

Can Cash really give a thumb's up to this season?/JEFFREY S. KING

Each week, the readers take over and play Ask Gary. They send in a question, or a couple, on Thursday night or Friday morning and we all talk about the world of sports. Think of it as a radio show where you don't have to be on hold. Join us and ask a question, make a comment or be funny. Send the questions to

Saturday, 4 a.m.

In your candid interview with Kevin Cash just prior to opening day, the Rays manager said he expected to learn a lot about this team in the first two weeks of the season. If you were to interview him again this Monday, and if he was honest about it, what do you think he would say he has learned about this Rays team?

Larry Beller

Good, thoughtful question, Larry. And while I'm not gifted at figuring out another man's thoughts, let's give it a go for the heck of it.

Here's what we know about Cash in general. He's a loyal guy. He's upbeat. He's optimistic when the rest of us have trouble being. But he's smart, too. He knows the game.

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If I had to guess, I'd think Cash will hide behind the same thing all managers off to dreadful starts hide behind: Time. It IS early in the season, and the Rays have been overmatched agains the Red Sox and Yankees, the two playoff teams from the AL East a year ago. When a team has disappointed early, it's natural to think that, somehow, it won't disappoint in the middle or late.

So I think -- genuinely -- he would cling to the "it's early" mantra. If you're Cash, you have to believe that Alex Colome will be better. The guy led the league in saves last year, and he's been awful. In seven of their losses losses, they had the lead at one point.

I think Cash would be wondering, right about now, if there is anyone on the farm who could take the rotation slot of Jake Faria. He's been the weak link so far. But he was Good Friday, so that decision has been delayed.

I know Mallex Smith has hit the ball recently, but he's got a glove made of iron. He tries to give up more runs than he scores. If I'm Cash, I wonder how long I can keep him in the majors.

I think that Cash probably thinks that the schedule will be kinder to the Rays. They simply aren't as good as Boston or New York.

I would imagine that Cash looks around, and he thinks the basement, or fourth place, is where his team will settle this year. And then he stops thinking about it, and starts thinking about that day's game. Baseball is forgiving that way; there is always something to focus on so you don't think about the big disappointment.

I believe he realizes that this team isn't going to hit for most of the season. The pitching will be decent enough (aside from Faria) to keep the team close, but as we've seen, a lot of one-run games are in his future.

I assume Cash, an optimistic guy by nature, will continue to stress the expectations of doing the job. The question is whether this team is good enough to accomplish that.

As I write this (before Friday's game), the Rays are 3-9. I think they'll do slightly better than that this season, but not a lot. But I expect that Cash will remain positive, because what does he have to accomplish by letting any negative thoughts out?

Down deep, I suspect that Cash realizes  just how bad the hitting will be, that Mallex Smith is in the way of a decent defense, that Jake Faria is in the way of an okay rotation, that Alex Colome is in the way of a good bullpen. In short, I think that, down deep, he'd has to see that this team isn't as good as he had hoped.


Who would you say is the best pro athlete of the last 25 years?

 Jim Willson
That's always a good debate, Jim.
If we're going to go with how most of us define "pro," we're going to leave out Olympians (Michael Phelps) and collegians (DeShaun Watson).
So let's get to it. The first guy who pops into my mind is Michael Jordan. Granted, he needed Scottie Pippen to complete the legend, but most great pros have another guy. I'd give it to Jordan, and I'd give runner-up status to Tom Brady. After that, I'd mention Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky, Lawrence Taylor and Jerry Rice.
Now the best athlete I've ever seen -- and I'm talking about skills more than performance -- was Bo Jackson.He was an incredible athlete. While at Auburn one season, he made the tackle on every interception the quarterback threw. All of them.
Once, in the Louisiana Superdome, the quarterbacks were trying to hit a speaker attached to the girders near the roof. Jackson asked what they were doing, then picked up a ball and threw it. Wham. First shot.
I remember once watching a track meet he ran in. Another writer and I stood near the finish line, and here he came, his muscles flexing as he ran. I turned to the other write. "Now tackle him," I said.
Mind you, I'll repeat that for all of his size and speed, he wasn't a Hall of Famer. He played just four years in the NFL and never had a 1,000-yard season. He played eight years of baseball, and his average was just .250. But as far as the ingredients that make one a great athlete -- size, speed, body control -- he was the best I ever saw.
If you expand your timeline a bit, I'd mention Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Jim Brown, Bjorn Borg and Johnny Unitas. If you forget about PEDs, I'd mention Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. If you're talking about women, I'd go with Serena Williams and Jackie Joyner-Kersey.
In the end, I think Jordan eclipses them all. He was the biggest guy in the most clutch of moments. Jordan, his tongue hanging out, his eyes focused. Gretzky would be second.
Why is Shohei Ohtani being used so sparingly by LAA on offense?
Scott Myers
You're repeating a question that everyone in Southern California wants answered. Ohtani has been as good as promised, ranking among the team leaders in RBI and pitching strikeouts. The easy answer is that the Angels are over-protecting a 23-year-old investment.
So far, the Angels have treated him like glass. Ohtani doesn't play on days before or after after a pitching start, which means he's played in only seven games. I'm sure the other teams are thrilled every time they see an Angels' lineup card, and he isn't on it.
Here's something to consider: The one time this year that Ohtani played in three straight games, he homered in all of them. So why didn't he plain on the next day? It's the reason I fear that athletes who try to do to much often fall short of their potential in a single area.
According to ESPN:  “It’s the beginning of the season, so I think they are being pretty careful with me right now. Once the season gets tougher and the schedule gets tougher throughout the summer, hopefully I can make them want to play me more. I would like to play more. If not, that’s what it is. I have to follow what they have to say.”
I know this: If it costs Ohtani that much down time every time he throws, I'd stop throwing him despite his 2.08 era. The advantage to this guy how many ways he can hurt you. The Angels owe it to themselves to make that happen, or they should put him one place and leave him.
 I remember the original Rowdies, a kick in the grass. I watched them play in  Tampa Stadium, I think it was called. I was gone before they fell on hard times, and it's good to see them back again. I know they didn't get the MLS slot, but did read Bill Edwards said with an MLS slot and renovations to Al Lang, they could draw like Orlando, 24k per game. Do you think the Rowdies would be able to do that given the Rays' inability to get baseball fans on the Tampa side of the bay to regularly make the trek to St. Pete, even in their winning days?

Cecil DeBald

I like the Rowdies. I've covered a lot of their games, and I think their fans enjoy their game more than any fans in Tampa Bay. They don't sit down, and they don't keep quiet. Good for them.

Still, 24 thousand a game is a lot of fans. I think the Rowdies have a chance if they can update their facilities and become the place to be. But let's face it: We're a lot bigger market than Orlando. I see no reason why we can't draw as well.

Soccer fans are a loyal bunch, and remember, they only have one home game every two weeks. It's a lot better schedule than the Rays, who may have an eight- or nine-game homestand. How many fans go to more than a couple of those?

Here's one caution: Beware of attendance projections by the owner. They're rarely correct. The Lightning is a sellout at 19,000 a game; that's 5,000 fewer than the Rowdies are talking about.

I wonder how many Rowdies fans come from Tampa. I know soccer fans are loyal, but it has the feel of a local crowd to me. But a lot of kids play soccer. If the Rowdies have the room to put them, they could do a lot of good with youth league tie-ins.

I never felt as if the Rowdies were a good bet for the recent expansion. Other cities seemed to be in line well in advance of St. Petersburg. But in the next couple of expansions, I think St. Pete will represent itself well.

Of course, I've been wrong before.

Who makes a bigger impression this season: Dan Mullen or Willie Taggart?

Jim Willson

Jim, the "bigger impression" is open for debate. Are you asking who the better team will be? Who will have the most improvement? Who will be the coach to beat in the state?

I think Taggart will have the best team. He has the better returning players, and FSU has won five straight (and seven of eight) over Florida in recent years.'

That head start is going to be tough for Mullen to beat this year. The hope for him is that he can stop the underachievement of the McElwain years.  He's had some recruiting wins already and, don't forget,  and there are a lot of Florida alumni in this state. I think he has a chance.

On the other hand, I know Willie a lot better. In a perfect world, maybe FSU doesn't open up for him for another couple of years, when he would have been a seasoned coach. But kids like him, and he'll recruit well. I think the rivalry has a chance to be as much fun as Bowden-Spurrier was.

Right now, FSU seems to have the edge with high school kids. If Taggart can keep that going, it's going to be hard for Florida to catch up. But Mullen has a lot of energy, too. Stay tuned.

Looks to me like Kucherov, Hedman & Vasilevskiy, maybe others, could be in the running for NHL awards for the season - who on the Lightning, if anyone, do you think will win an award this year?

Cecil DeBald

Cecil, one of my pet peeves in sports is that  the vote for a big award happens before the season is over. In hockey, that means that the post-season is ignored.

That seems silly to me. Isn't the post-season a huge part of what happened this year? If Kucherov blows up in the post-season, couldn't you make a great case for him over Connor McDavid? I'll be honest with you: The coach who does the best job with his team this year is the one who wins the Cup. So why vote early on one?

I've told this story before. When Chris Winke was in the running  against Josh Heupel for the Heisman, I thought that the winner of their bowl game deserved the trophy. So I wrote that, and I waited to send in my ballot. I finally sent it in about a month late. The committee was not amused. No more ballots for me.

The tea-leaves say that Hedman has the best chance to win the Norris. That makes sense. He plays ungodly minutes, and you could make an argument that he's the best player the Lightning has.

I think Vasilevskiy is running behind Pekka Rinne, I think Kucherov is running behind McDavid for the Ross. I think Jon Cooper is running behind Gerald Gallant of Vegas for coach of the year.

One of the things that is hurting the Lighting candidates is that the team was so good early in the season and then leveled off. That could hurt in the individual balloting, too.

You know, though. Tampa Bay will be in great shape if it can win the Stanley Cup. If they can do that, no other awards will matter.

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