NEW YORK — Even though the Orioles are on a four-game losing streak, the first 45 games of this 60-game season has earned manager Brandon Hyde praise.
If the Orioles get hot in the final two weeks of the 2020 season and sneak into the postseason, Hyde will get consideration for the Manager of the Year.
In this most different and difficult of seasons, there are several managers who’ll be considered. Oakland’s Bob Melvin, who has the longest tenure of any manager (10 seasons), and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash (six seasons) appear to be the favorites.
Oakland and Tampa Bay, with outmoded stadiums and low payrolls, are challenging situations, but they are leading the American League West and East.
Rick Renteria of the Chicago White Sox, for whom Hyde coached when he managed the Chicago Cubs in 2014, also will get votes.
At the beginning of the season, it would have been farfetched to suggest that Hyde would be mentioned, but he’s done a solid job.
Last year, when Hyde came to the Orioles, he often told stories about Joe Maddon, who succeeded Renteria with the Cubs. Maddon is known for his people skills, and Hyde admires him.
Hyde worked for Maddon from 2015-2018, and that work helped earn Hyde the Orioles’ job. Maddon and the Cubs parted ways after the 2019 season, and he moved to the Los Angeles Angels.
This season, the Orioles’ record under Hyde is better than Maddon’s with the high-budget Angels, another surprise.
Hyde has become comfortable with the spotlight, and he’s been critical of the team when necessary, especially when it has played poorly.
Managers know that talent is necessary for success, but there’s more to it, such as an ability to communicate and skills as a strategist.
Fans like to second-guess managerial decisions, but they’re not privy to what goes on in the clubhouse.
Earlier this season, Hyde talked about the different roles he has to play. One minute, he’s putting out fires, the next minute he’s counseling.
In this particular season, he’s managed to navigate the unknown and kept his team together.
After relievers Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens were traded two weeks ago, Hyde adjusted his bullpen pieces and explained his thought process.
“I really do believe in communication,” Hyde said. “I think players, especially today’s player, needs to be coached and needs to have honest communications.
“Guys are getting to the big leagues so fast now, so young, their development isn’t finished when they get to the big leagues, so I think that there’s just a lot of coaching that goes on here.”
The Orioles have an inexperienced club, though Hyde isn’t the first major league manager most have played for.
“It’s well understated how much coaching goes on in the big leagues now,” Hyde said. “I think a positive outlook, solid communication, players knowing that you have their backs, trust, all those things that we are trying to build with our players, along with competing at the same time, trying to win every game by making good decisions.”
Hyde had a formidable task in 2019. He wasn’t hired until the week before Christmas and had little time to assemble a coaching staff for a team in transition. The Orioles lost 108 games after having lost 115 the season before.
With their next win, the Orioles will secure an improved winning percentage over last year. After the losses of their most experienced players, starting pitcher Dylan Bundy and infielder Jonathan Villar in trades and rightfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini to colon cancer surgery, many predicted the Orioles would have another awful season.
Covid-19 forced a shortened season and a different joke: “Well, at least they can’t lose 100.” But the Orioles have gotten past the punchline stage.
Hyde has gotten credit for the improved play of outfielder Cedric Mullins, who had a horrid April in 2019, and was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk and finally Double-A Bowie.
Mullins has taken advantage of his skills, leading the major leagues with eight bunt hits while playing an outstanding outfield. He’s impressed with Hyde.
“I think communication helps make those moves a lot easier,” Mullins said. “Him knowing where we are mentally, physically, is able to help him.”
Hyde was critical of his team for taking so many swings at pitches out of the strike zone in its 2-1 loss to the Yankees on Saturday. There’s a difference between being aggressive and being overaggressive. Still, he believes in his players and lets them know it.
“As your players play better … you get rewarded for your decisions,” he said. “As your players get better, things fall into place a little bit easier.”