We didn’t need to see the Orioles take their magic number from one to zero to know that Brandon Hyde is the right manager for this team. That should have been apparent well before last night.
But after the Orioles won the AL East with a 2-0 victory over Boston and Hyde had been doused in the clubhouse, he made his way to the interview room where he was asked this question – how does it feel to not only be the manager who saw this team through the rebuild, but to still be here when they won the division?
Hyde was not a caretaker during all the losing only to watch someone else take his guys and win. He did that.
“It means a lot,” said Hyde. “(Executive vice president and general manager) Mike (Elias) told me that he was hiring me and said, ‘I’m not hiring you to replace you when we get more talented.’ He held true to that.
“He was way more patient, honestly those first few years, than I was. I took losses hard and knew we weren’t as talented as other teams. I felt bad for the guys in the clubhouse, and it beats you up. Mike showed great patience. And understood the plan was in place. And he drafted extremely well and got more talent in this organization like he said he was going to. And you are seeing it now.
“Two years ago, if you sat in this chair, 110 losses, I wouldn’t think we were going to win 100 games and the AL East. For me it’s a remarkable story. It shows how good he is as a leader and evaluator.”
The Orioles improved to 100-59 last night and wrapped up both the division and No. 1 seed throughout the American League playoffs with magical win No. 100. They become the sixth O’s team in history to win 100 or more and first since 1980.
So many people deserve credit – from the front office to the dugout to the clubhouse to the player development staff, scouts, the analytics staff and others. In the loud clubhouse celebration last night, I asked Sig Mejdal, the O’s vice president and assistant general manager, analytics, about Elias and his staff and how they built an emerging AL power. He noted there was a lot of credit to go around.
“I think it’s Brandon too, I think it’s the culture he created,” he said of the success. “It’s that combination with the types of players we not only drafted but we brought in. As an analyst it’s hard to quantify chemistry but you can see it when it exists. What Brandon has brought here is really hard to measure.
“Our goal was to get in the playoffs. I think when we made up like five games against Tampa Bay in seven or eight days (in July), it was at that point that we go, ‘OK, the division is in our sights.’”
I asked Mejdal about the leadership of Elias.
“You know it’s not only Mike. It’s John Angelos too. John has enabled Mike and us all the freedom to do what we felt was best. Given that, Elias created a culture in the front office and throughout baseball operations that is something I’ve never seen before. It was both of them enabling the changes that have taken place."
Hyde was asked why the Orioles did not take a step back this year as the preseason oddsmakers expected them to? He used that as a battle cry late in the year and repeated it last night after the clinching that, “It was in every publication everywhere, that we’re going to regress. I wanted our guys to know that. They took it personal. And we just won 100 in the AL East.”
So why didn’t these young O’s take a step back before more forward?
“I think everybody involved from coaching staff to the players themselves taking ownership,” said Hyde. “To strength and conditioning, our trainers. Our players have improved and that is one thing Mike said to us my first year. ‘You are going to struggle, but we’d love to see improvement in the players that we have. Our core players.’
“The biggest for me is our pitching. We are able to now pitch, and we were able to pitch last year in our division,” said Hyde.
The pitching was so big in the last week. Just last Saturday had the O’s lost at Cleveland, the AL East lead would have been down to a ½-game. But John Means came up with a huge outing and the Orioles have now won five in a row allowing just three runs.
“No doubt. Means and Gibby (Kyle Gibson) those last two games in Cleveland,” Hyde said. “We lost the first two games against Tampa here and then showed the toughness to come back and win the last two games.
“You know we are going to go as far as we pitch. And we played a lot of close games. I wish we could win 8-1 one time but doesn’t happen very often.
“I wouldn’t have thought we would win 100 before the year, but I knew we were a good club. I knew we had to stay healthy, but as the year goes along and we’re piling up wins and winning a ton of series, I didn’t think it was impossible to do that.”
Now some video: Click here for the clincher in Baltimore and here for the clincher as Norfolk won the Triple-A International League championship for the first time in 38 years. That led to celebrations in Baltimore and Norfolk.
Here is more on the Tides' title from our website last night.