Manager Brandon Hyde finally had to bite his tongue this week. And on this club, any movement is an injury risk.
Hyde tore into the umpiring and review process Monday night after the blown call at the plate on the Jace Peterson-Chris Davis double steal attempt, and he didn’t pull any punches - or muscles or tendons - after the pitching staff served up six more home runs the following night.
I’ve read fan comments praising and criticizing Hyde for his bluntness. Way to go for not sugar-coating it. Or nothing is gained by throwing guys under the bus.
(I check the injury report every day and haven’t seen “thrown under bus” included along with the shoulder and biceps strains.)
Here’s my take: Hyde isn’t naming names. He isn’t singling out anyone publicly and bashing him to the media. But everyone knows who’s giving up the home runs. Who’s contributing to the record-setting pace. Who’s causing the embarrassment.
Hyde knew what he was getting into and fully supports the rebuilding plan. Or, as I’ve said, he wouldn’t be here. He can accept that losing comes with it, but he won’t tolerate sloppy play. And he’s stating the obvious, what everyone else can see. The separators between the really good and below-average pitching staffs.
He’d be less inclined to speak about it publicly except that he’s asked on a daily basis. It’s part of the media sessions. What’s he supposed to do? He won’t shout “next question!” And he won’t risk losing credibility by downplaying the impact and frustration that comes with allowing five or six home runs in what feels like every game.
Hyde is trying to explain, again, why it’s happening. The poor location, the inability to pitch inside, the inability to put away hitters when ahead in the count, the inexperience that dots the roster.
If there are guys who can’t take the criticism, who are too sensitive or thin-skinned, they probably aren’t going to handle the intense heat of competing in the American League East.
The Orioles want to hoist a World Series trophy. No one is handing out hardware for participating.
As for the dugout argument with Davis, there shouldn’t be comparisons, though they’re fun, to the Billy Martin-Reggie Jackson altercation back in 1977.
Martin’s reasons for blowing up weren’t shrouded in mystery. Jackson loafed on a ball hit to right field. And Martin was the dugout aggressor. Hyde was walking away from Davis, who had to be restrained.
I didn’t see anyone holding back Hyde.
Hyde said he wanted to keep the details in-house. Hence, the tongue-biting.
But maybe just this once.
“I think both of us are trying to be honest and transparent about things, and there are only so many ways to answer questions about losing 14 straight games to the Yankees,” said executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias. “I understood the things that he said, and we’ve said things like that before, and I think the team knows where we’re coming from when we make comments like that.
“We’re at the beginning of raising the talent level with this team and giving these guys extended opportunities to perform and stick at the major league level, many of whom have not had those opportunities in the past. I really like his approach throughout this year. It’s a very difficult task he’s been given. Managing this type of team, all the roster comings and goings that we’ve had and doing this in this division on a high-profile stage, and he has to talk to the media a lot more than I do, and sometimes you don’t want to say the same thing over and over.
“I respect the honesty, and I think the messaging has been very consistent from him and from the organization in general.”
* Getting a chance to interview Mark Trumbo postgame didn’t figure to happen until next month, if at all. He’s been restricted to talking in the afternoons about his knee and rehab schedule. The progress and setbacks.
Trumbo finally had a crowd around his locker after 10 p.m., but only to talk about Hyde and Davis. He was basically serving as team spokesman, a veteran who serves as a leader and, at least for one night, dugout bouncer.
It was Trumbo who led Davis back to the bench while restoring order, joining hitting coach Don Long in cutting him off from Hyde. And it was Trumbo who fielded the questions after Hyde met with the media.
He could have declined, especially because he didn’t know what triggered it. But he waited for the media to enter the clubhouse, his locker closest to the door, joked about the easy access for us and patiently took each question.
A nice job of fielding by the designated hitter.
* At the same Winter Meetings in 2016 when the Orioles chose Anthony Santander from the Indians in the Rule 5 draft, they took a chance earlier in the first round on Red Sox minor league outfielder Aneury Tavárez.
Liked his speed and viewed him as carrying certain tools lacking in the organization. At least until they got a closer look at Cedric Mullins.
Tavárez was returned to the Red Sox late in camp, his defense viewed as lacking. They kept Santander, who wasn’t exactly a Gold Glove candidate but absolutely destroyed Single-A pitching with Lynchburg and was recovering from shoulder surgery.
The Orioles waited. They got him through the mandatory period in the majors and allowed his development to continue at the Double-A and Triple-A levels after another physical setback with the Bowie Baysox. And he’s become an everyday player who absolutely factors into any plans moving forward. He’s a piece in the rebuild.
What happened to Tavárez?
He’s 27 years old and playing in the Mexican League for Durango, where he batted .349/.409/.515 in his first 53 games. He appeared in 20 games with Double-A Portland and slashed .192/.272/.260 before his release on May 10.
The Orioles made the right decision, and it came after I heard some criticism over executive Dan Duquette taking a player who had a bad shoulder and didn’t grade highly on defense.
The dice were rolled. The same roll that Santander is on in 2019.
“I just like his game,” Hyde said. “I love his swing from both sides of the plate. That’s impressive, (Tuesday) night being able to stay inside that ball and hit the ball 400 feet and keep it fair down the left field line right-handed, and I think you’ve seen the power left-handed also.
“I like the way he covers the plate, I like the way he can drive the ball out to all fields. I think he’s got a really balanced swing and balanced setup, in that there’s not a whole lot of movement. It’s a simple swing. Stays through the ball really well.
“Teams will start adjusting to him a little bit, and then it will be his turn to make the adjustment back as he continues to get at-bats, but he’s in there for the fight every single pitch offensively. And I just like his swing from both sides of the plate. I think he’s got a chance to be a really good hitter.”
* With so much to ponder and debate as the summer melts away, what the Orioles do with their catching as they proceed through the tenures of Elias and Hyde is worthy of the back burner.
Adley Rutschman isn’t walking through that door anytime soon.
Assuming that he stays healthy and eventually kicks it down, the Orioles will need to figure out who’s paired with him. And Pedro Severino is making a strong case for himself.
We know he’s tough. He’s been hit with foul balls as if it’s being done for charity. He has a strong arm. He takes charge and exudes the type of personality you expect to find in a catcher. And he isn’t the automatic out that he became with the Nationals.
Running out of options is a drawback, but he’s been a good waiver claim.
Then there’s Chance Sisco, with the much higher offensive ceiling. The developing skills behind the plate. Severino trumps him in that department, but Sisco is a hard worker - he met early again on the field Tuesday afternoon with field coordinator and catching instructor Tim Cossins - and he’s shown some improvement.
He’s also a left-handed bat, which tends to attract teams.
There’s always the possibility that the Orioles find another position for Sisco, but it isn’t that easy. And I state this for the “try him at second base” crowd. Or wherever.
The Orioles aren’t likely to carry three catchers, though rosters are expanding next season to 26 players. They can gauge the market for Severino if they’d rather keep Sisco. He’s more marketable now than in spring training. But there’s no rush.
Austin Wynns could join Severino and Sisco in September. The Orioles always recall a third catcher. Meanwhile, Rutschman could be playing for Single-A Delmarva in the South Atlantic League playoffs.
How it all plays out later, well down the road, shouldn’t be creating angst today.
Also, you never have enough catching. If that’s the biggest problem on this team, clear the floor and break out the happy dance.
* Peterson’s home run last night off Wade Miley was the first he’s hit against a left-hander since he got one off the Diamondbacks’ Jorge De La Rosa on July 15, 2017.
Peterson has 20 career home runs and only three have come against a lefty.
Meanwhile, eight of Stevie Wilkerson’s nine homers this season have come against right-handers.
Hanser Alberto is 62-for-150 (.413) against lefties after collecting three hits off Miley.
* And finally, I’m not an “I told you so” kind of guy. OK, I really am.
Anyway, once again, for those thinking that the worst was behind the Orioles after a .500 July and the rebuild might speed up and it was only rainbows and unicorns moving forward, I give you the Yankees series. I’ll give you more examples later.
Rebuilds don’t work that way.
They require patience from everyone and a vision of the bigger picture.
* I’m off for the rest of the day while helping Emily with an early birthday celebration. I’ll return on Sunday.