Taking a look at O's skipper Brandon Hyde

On the day after the Manager of the Year awards were announced - Kevin Cash of Tampa Bay won in the American League and Miami's Don Mattingly in the National League - it seems an appropriate time to say a few words about the manager here in Baltimore. Brandon Hyde just completed his second season as Orioles skipper.

I think judging a manager is a difficult task. Of course, there is the bottom line of the won-loss record. That is there for all to see and you earn your record. It's one way to pass judgment. Maybe the best way, but not the only one.

Often we pass some judgments about how teams did compared to what they were projected to do. When a team predicted to finish third or fourth wins its division, you can probably count on that manager getting some strong consideration for Manager of the Year. While Hyde was not among the finalists for the AL award this year, his team did play better than some expected.

Some of the over-under 2020 preseason win totals for the Orioles were listed at 20 1/2 and 21 1/2, and the team won 25 games. They were headed for a few more than that before going 5-14 over the last 19 games. Before that finish, the O's were 20-21 on Sept. 8 and just a half-game out of a playoff spot in an eight-team American League playoff field.

In his season wrap-up Zoom press conference, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias threw some praise Hyde's way.

"I think he and his staff, it's been an extremely difficult year to be a major league manager, which is one of the hardest jobs in sports to begin with. Everything he has to deal with on a day-in, day-out basis, it's been crazy," Elias said. "But I think he's handled it with grace and humanity, and he also continues to be a good baseball coach. So I think everyone is impressed with the work that he has done and it's exciting having him as part of the organization."

Hyde's club, even with a rough finish, did make progress in 2020 on the won-loss record. His first team in 2019 gained in win percentage from the year before and so did his second O's club.

* The 2018 Orioles went 47-115 and played .290 baseball.
* The 2019 Orioles went 54-108 and played .333 baseball.
* The 2020 Orioles went 25-35 and played .417 baseball.

The Orioles lost 223 games and played just .312 ball combined over 2018-19 and then improved that to .417 against a schedule that saw them play 40 of 60 games versus AL East clubs.

Thumbnail image for Hyde-Arms-Crossed-Dugout-Railing-Sidebar.jpgHyde had to handle several situations that were challenging this year. Let's start with a season that was halted in mid-March and didn't resume until early July. And then he had to run a team and manage a club during pandemic baseball. Observing and enforcing protocols almost became more important than setting a lineup or rotation. Challenging, indeed.

Late in the year, I remember MASN analyst Mike Bordick looked back on the club's 12-8 start and felt Hyde deserved some credit for that. Bordick felt Hyde ran a great summer camp that was productive even as all clubs were trying to figure out how to handle the strangest of situations. Bordick felt the O's got great work in during that camp and that it helped them come out of the gates playing so well.

Hyde also had to deal with Trey Mancini's cancer diagnosis, which robbed him both of his best player and team leader. His opening day choice as starter, John Means, missed that assignment with an injury, and had an ERA of 8.10 in early September. José Iglesias, due to injuries, started just 22 games at shortstop. Anthony Santander played only 37 games, Ryan Mountcastle 35 and Austin Hays 33.

But still the club improved against a tough schedule during a strange season. The team ERA improved from last in the league at 5.59 to ninth at 4.51. The bullpen ERA dropped significantly from 5.79 to 3.90 - and that was with two young guns in Hunter Harvey and Dillon Tate throwing a combined 25 innings. Shawn Armstrong was throwing great, got hurt and pitched just 15 innings. Richard Bleier, Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro were traded and still the 'pen was solid. It showed that, unlike in 2019, Hyde could manage a successful 'pen if the pitchers did their parts.

But the manager can impact only so many games. For me, he is a tone-setter, first and foremost. He has to keep his team upbeat and playing hard. He and his staff have to stay positive, especially with a young team. Hyde had to blend analytics and the usage of data with old-school instincts when it was needed. He seems to the right guy for a young team that understands how analytics plays a major role, but sometimes a feel for your players is important and there is no printout providing that.

Hyde seems to find a good balance of being close with his players without being a peer or friend, like another player. After all, he is their boss. They have to respect that, while also believing his concern for them is sincere. With Hyde, it was evident it was.

He didn't win any manager of the year awards in two seasons with the Orioles, but from my observations, he's been the right guy at the right time for this team.

From the club: The Orioles announced yesterday that the proceeds of the #F16HT T-shirt sales, created in support of Mancini's fight against colon cancer, have totaled more than $80,000 to benefit the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. Nearly 5,000 shirts were sold to fans across North America, with orders spanning 45 states, Washington D.C., and Canada. All net proceeds will benefit the Colorectal Cancer Alliance Patient and Family Support Services.

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