When Mike Elias was asked about manager Brandon Hyde before Wednesday’s Orioles game, the team’s executive vice president/general manager said Hyde wouldn’t be judged by the team’s record this season.
The Orioles enter Friday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays on an eight-game losing streak. Earlier, they had a 14-game losing streak, equaling the second longest in team history. They also have lost 19 in a row on the road.
Since John Means pitched a no-hitter on May 5th, the Orioles are 7-30. Overall, they’re 22-46
Elias said he wasn’t going to answer if the team was contractually obligated to Hyde in 2022. He’s never discussed terms of Hyde’s contract.
Elias’ contract also is unknown. Many believe it to be a five-year deal, but not even Cot’s Baseball Contracts, a widely followed site that includes details on player and management contracts, lists terms for either the manager or general manager.
In the previous regime, multi-year extensions for former manager Buck Showalter and vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette were announced in January 2013, and everyone knew their contracts ran through 2018.
Hyde’s record in his three seasons in Baltimore is 101-189 for a winning percentage of .348. Baseballreference.com ranks manager’s winning percentages based on a minimum of 315 games, and Hyde falls just short. But a .348 percentage would be the sixth worst in major league history.
As fans have endured the losing seasons, the last two under Duquette and Showalter, and three under Elias and Hyde, they’ve become increasingly impatient. There’s a rebuild in place, but no one knows how it will turn out.
Many have grumbled about Hyde, but there’s really not much to grumble about. It’s obvious that his team, particularly its starting pitching, is inexperienced.
Entering this season, of the six pitchers who have started more than one game, only Matt Harvey had more than 38 starts.
John Means, who’s on the injured list, had 37 in 2019 and 2020. Jorge López started 33 times in his first five seasons. Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann combined for just 11 starts in 2020.
Because teams played just 60 games last year, the Orioles are monitoring starter’s innings in an attempt to get them through the 162-game schedule healthy.
Those who think that Hyde is pulling pitchers too early aren’t looking at the big picture. If Akin, Kremer, Zimmermann and perhaps Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells are all healthy when the season ends on October 3rd, Hyde will have done something important in setting the team up for a better 2022.
Another frequent complaint is Hyde’s use of the bullpen. Like Showalter, Hyde avoids overuse. Never in Showalter’s eight full seasons as Orioles manager did he have a reliever in baseball’s top 10 in appearances. Hyde has extended that streak.
During the eight-game losing streak, the relievers haven’t been involved in any of the decisions, and Hyde has struggled to find regular work for his de facto closer, Paul Fry.
When there aren’t any games to close, having a shutdown ninth-inning pitcher is a luxury.
Hyde has come under criticism for the Orioles’ poor defensive play, particularly in Wednesday night’s botched rundown. Before Thursday’s game, he was asked what he could do to prevent similar plays from occurring
“That’s tough to answer,” Hyde said. “You have the personnel you have and you do the best you can with teaching and work and spring training, and it’s up to them to perform. We probably throw to bases as much as anybody in the game, and sometimes the game speeds up on some of our players, so you’ll see a wide miss or not cut the ball, like we should have last night.
“But we have guys on the field that have played in the big leagues for a while now, so to not understand to cut the ball or not understand to run a guy hard on a rundown, that’s reminders that us as coaches …
“We show advance meetings and show all of our positive and negative plays and continue to teach and learn. But it’s also personnel, too. You do the best you can with what you have.”
In 2019, when the Orioles went 54-108, we met with Hyde twice each day from spring training through the regular season and got to know him. Such interactions were impossible during the height of the pandemic. The tight access restrictions have recently been relaxed, and on June 8th we had our first, and only, in-person briefing with him.
For now, those sessions are before night games, weather permitting. For day games, inclement weather days and postgames, we’re still on Zoom.
The lack of personal interaction has been a drawback. We haven’t been able to talk to the players, and there are still a handful we haven’t met. But during the pandemic, Hyde has handled his obligations without complaint.
He seems to enjoy the interactions and never snaps at a questioner, no matter how uninformed the question might be. While this may not seem important to the general public, this is the side of the manager the public sees, and it’s been a positive one.
During the losing, he’s been blunt above the team’s defensive shortcomings and its failure to hit in clutch situations without singling players out.
Last season’s restrictions, which had him learn intricate health and safety protocols, were a challenge, and the Orioles had few issues. This year, he was proud of his team’s high vaccination rate.
The 108 losses in 2019, the mental toughness in 2020 and his disappointment in 2021 have been a huge challenge, but he seems to have worn them well.
Hyde was interviewed for several other jobs after the 2018 season, when he was Joe Maddon’s bench coach with the Cubs. Elias selected him for what both knew would be a hard assignment.
At some point, perhaps in 2022, Hyde might be held to a different standard and Elias could look at the won/loss record as a gauge.
I’ve often been asked to rate Hyde as a manager, and I really can’t. Like others, I’m eager to see how he’d perform with a more complete roster. I hope he gets that opportunity. The guess here is that, based on all he’s dealt with since he’s been hired, he’ll prove he’s the man for the long term.