A major league manager can make an impact and change games with sound strategic moves. But perhaps their biggest impact is as a tone-setter and the daily public voice and face for their teams.
In that regard, I believe that Brandon Hyde had a very solid first season with the Orioles. He and his staff seemed to quickly gain players’ trust and confidence in spring training. The upbeat attitude and energy the club developed then carried through Game 162.
And it was no given that would happen. There were several times in spring and early in the year when it was fair to wonder about that. Sure, all was rosy and energetic early on, but how would that hold up through the first five-game losing streak? Or the second, third or fourth?
It did hold up. The Orioles clubhouse was always a pretty relaxed place, players were able to put tough losses behind them (and there were many) and quickly turn the page to the next game and challenge.
This carried through to the end. On the final Monday of the season, the Orioles blew three leads at Toronto after falling behind 5-0 early, then lost in 15 innings. Pretty brutal defeat. The next night they won 11-4 as Trey Mancini went 5-for-5.
It can be easy to say that teams need to put losses behind them and move on, but it’s much harder to actually do. When a team loses 108 games, that is a lot of losses to move on from. No matter how brutal the defeat, the 2019 Orioles kept moving forward and didn’t get dragged down by them.
“I credit our players, our coaching staff and I think credit goes to the environment we’ve tried to create here, which is one where we’re going to show up to compete and win every single night,” Hyde said during the last Toronto series. “You never know what the result was in our clubhouse from the day before. Think that is a real positive thing and pretty rare.”
Hyde said there were absolutely days he would get frustrated and even be down himself. But he said he tried not to let his players see his frustrations and that his coaches would keep him pumped up.
“My frustration is more that I feel like so many of our guys are putting so much into it. Like Trey Mancini. He really takes the losses hard. I want them to feel what it feels like to win. I feel sorry for some guys sometimes, because they are trying so hard to win and something happens late in the game and it doesn’t happen.
“I think there is going to be a day sometime soon where we are going to win those games. And our guys will look back at this and be better because of it.”
From a media standpoint, Hyde did a solid job too. He answered the same questions over and over with patience and respect for those of us doing the asking. Major league managers hold court with writers twice a day and many days the questions are just another variation on the latest loss, roster move or injury. Hyde handled this well. As the season went on, he would let fans know about team shortcomings or mistakes without specifically throwing anyone under the bus.
Media only can see so much, but from my viewpoint, Hyde found a good balance in making players and staff comfortable around him and he was always there to encourage them and put an arm around a player if it was needed. But it was also clear he remained an authority figure and he was their boss.
Hyde was a rookie major league manager but far from a rookie in the sport. He did his job with confidence while at the same time knowing there was a lot he didn’t know about that job. He grew into being a manager in the majors this year at the same time some of his players were growing into major leaguers.
He seems like a good manager for young players. His player development background gives him valuable and much needed experience in dealing with young big leaguers.
One could criticize Hyde for 108 losses, but mounting losses were a given for this team, so doing so would be pretty baseless. You can criticize his bullpen moves and that is fair. But he seldom had multiple bullpen pitchers throwing well. It’s not like he left pitchers throwing well in the ‘pen as games went down in flames. But they did crash and burn many nights.
Will Hyde be here long term? Will he be the guy when the Orioles are winning again? No one has that crystal ball but in sizing up his first year, I give him solid grades and feel like right now he is clearly the right guy at the right time for the Orioles.