As Wednesday night’s painful 8-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays again demonstrated, the Orioles’ building process will continue to be difficult.
With the team’s record now 7-12, Brandon Hyde continues to draw rave reviews for his performance in his first year as a manager.
Hyde, who was chosen by general manager Mike Elias, has his full support.
“We’re thrilled with the job that Brandon and the staff is doing,” Elias said. “Any new managerial situation is challenging, but in particular, ours. We’ve got a lot of young players and the team is coming off a rough year last year. This one had its particular challenges as well. He and his staff have met things head-on and injected great energy and a style of play that has carried through the first couple of weeks of April here and hopefully continues. The team is playing good defense and playing hard and enjoying one another.”
Hyde has encountered unexpected challenges during his first three weeks as a big league manager. He never expected that Chris Davis would fail at a record pace, then recover only to miss the last two games because of illness.
Davis appreciated Hyde’s support during his hitless streak that became a national story.
“Good grief, he’s had to answer questions pretty much every day about me,” Davis said on Saturday after he got his first three hits of the 2018 season, ending a hitless streak that had reached 54 at-bats.
Hyde sloughed off credit for making things easier for Davis.
“How hard it was on me was miniscule to what he’s going through,” Hyde said. “I don’t look at it like that. I don’t look at it as it was hard for me. I think that’s part of my job. I want to support our players. I want to put our guys in a position to have success. If that means I have to answer tough questions, then that’s OK.”
Hyde does have to answer tough questions, and he’s been terrific at press conferences, patiently explaining his decisions without becoming defensive.
“It’s 100 percent about him,” Hyde said about Davis. “I just wanted him to play well and feel good. That’s why [Saturday] was such a big deal for our team because I saw what he has been going through and reading about it and watching it on TV. You feel for the guy and you want the guy to have success. It’s nothing about anybody else except for him…I know how much it meant to him. It’s about him.”
His other players appreciate him, too. When Hyde won his first major league game in his second game at Yankee Stadium on March 30, they pushed him into a laundry cart and doused him in syrup.
In just his fourth game, Hyde removed starter David Hess after he had thrown 6 1/3 hitless innings. When asked about his impressions of his manager, Trey Mancini volunteered his admiration.
“He’s done an incredible job,” Mancini said. “It’s been kind of eventful with Hess’ no-hitter. It got blown up in the media. He handled it fantastically. We’re thinking long-term here. David had pitched in relief a few days before. It was the right call. Especially in hindsight, it was the right call.”
Mancini played his first two seasons for Buck Showalter, a manager he greatly respected. Hyde has brought his own style, and Mancini appreciates it.
“There’s no sense of panic,” Mancini said. “Just get them tomorrow. We weren’t playing our best baseball, either. Some of the first few games we lost, we played pretty well, I thought…there’s never a sense of panic, never anything like that, just go get them tomorrow. We all know things are going to happen throughout the year. There are going to be some games where we don’t play our best ball.
“A lot of that starts with ‘Hyder,’ and the mood that…he’s set the tone with how we should go about our business, and I think we’ve been doing a good job of that.
One of Showalter’s bromides used to be: Never catch a falling star. He was fearful of how a veteran reacted when his fortunes fell. Hyde never had that fear with Davis.
“I think he has handled it and continues to handle it extremely well,” Elias said. “ It’s a tough situation to encounter a veteran, a star veteran that is in a prolonged multi-year slump, and there’s a lot from the manager’s perspective in terms of communication that goes into navigating a situation like that.
“From the outset, Brandon sat down with Chris, talked about how we wanted to best situate him this year, try to use him in spots where he can start putting together some good at-bats and continue to help the team with his great defense, some of the leadership he provides. That’s coming along, and I think we’re going to see him continue to turn the corner throughout the year.”
Elias says that his talks with Hyde about Davis weren’t unusual, but rather the rule
“We talk about every player extensively,” Elias said. “We’re in a situation right now where we’re trying to develop guys, maximize talent, give opportunities, evaluate players. We talked at length beginning from the time he was hired and through spring training about it. With Chris Davis’ situation in particular, we’ve tried to stay on top of that. We are and continue to be looking into things that we can do to help him, and we’re going to continue to try and do stuff.”
When the Orioles hit the expected rough patches in the next five-plus months, Hyde will be tested again, but according to Mancini, he has not only the Hess situation to fall back on, but the Davis experience, too.
“It’s not easy to be in that situation, to have people asking every day,” Mancini said. “It kind of dominated the storylines for a little bit. They both handled that great.
“He knew that Chris would come around, and he kept saying it, and it showed. There are going to be more things that happen this year that are unexpected. He’ll handle that the same way. I’ve got full confidence in that.”