Brandon Hyde is one of the finalists for American League Manager of the Year. This year, he should win the award.
I thought Hyde would win it last year when his team won 31 more games than in the previous season, but he finished second to Cleveland’s Terry Francona, who retired after this past season.
Hyde’s competition is Texas’ Bruce Bochy, whose Rangers won the World Series, and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash, who won the award in 2020 and 2021 and whose Rays finished second to the Orioles in the American League East. The Rangers eliminated the Rays and Orioles in the playoffs, but the voting was conducted before the postseason.
It’s fitting that the finalists for Manager of the Year were announced on a wild day of managerial news.
Craig Counsell, longtime manager of the Milwaukee Brewers who was thought to be choosing between staying in Milwaukee or going to the New York Mets, shocked the baseball world by choosing the Chicago Cubs, who fired David Ross when Counsell agreed to come to the Cubs.
Cleveland named Stephen Vogt, a longtime major league catcher who played as recently as 2022, as Francona’s successor. The Mets reportedly settled on Yankees’ bench coach Carlos Mendoza as their new manager.
Openings remain in Houston, where Dusty Baker retired, and with the Brewers, Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres.
Two former Orioles, Buck Showalter and Ryan Flaherty, are possibilities for the Angels and Padres, according to reports.
Counsell’s salary which is reported at $8 million annually, would be far above what any other team is paying its manager.
The Orioles don’t release contract length or terms for managers, but Hyde is probably envious of Counsell’s new deal, which reportedly is for five years.
When Hyde was hired in December 2018, he was assumed to be a placeholder by many as the Orioles went through a painful rebuild. He’d manage the Orioles until they improved and make way for a more experienced manager.
The wiseguys were wrong, and executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias stuck with Hyde through seasons of 108 and 110 losses, and a pandemic-shortened year in 2020.
Once the 110-loss season in 2021 was over, it was forecast that the Orioles would get somewhat better in 2022. Catcher Adley Rutschman was on the horizon, but instead of getting somewhat better, they got way better and won 83 games, a 31-game improvement.
Hyde’s accomplishment was recognized by nine voters. Francona got 17 first-place votes.
This year, it shouldn’t be as close. Cash is clearly one of the best managers in baseball, and the Rays won 99 games despite losing their best pitcher and one of the best in the game, Shane McClanahan, to Tommy John surgery and their best player, shortstop Wander Franco, who is on administrative leave because of criminal allegations in the Dominican Republic.
Bochy did a marvelous job with the Rangers and deserves all the accolades he’s receiving for his work in the postseason, but the vote was conducted after the regular season ended.
Interestingly, Torey Lovullo, whose Arizona Diamondbacks lost to Texas in the World Series, wasn’t a finalist for the National League Manager of the Year despite beating out the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants and unexpectedly getting to the postseason. Lovullo was rewarded on Monday with a two-year contract extension.
Hyde won 101 games with a team that had the second-lowest payroll in baseball. The Orioles never lost more than four straight and Hyde was astute enough to stay patient with role players such as reliever Danny Coulombe and first baseman Ryan O’Hearn, who blossomed into essential performers.
I’m not sure how to classify Hyde. Is he a “player’s manager?” He doesn’t criticize his players publicly and kept the clubhouse tranquil during those losing seasons and the pandemic year. Nor does he play cards with his players.
Hyde, who turned 50 last month, isn’t a recently retired player, like Vogt is. In fact, he didn’t have much of a playing career at all, never coming close to the major leagues.
But that’s not important now. Few current major league managers made much of a mark as a player, and Hyde’s steadiness has enabled him to win the trust of his clubhouse.
Manager of the Year is a hard award to quantify. Unlike the others, it’s more of a “feel” award, and Hyde managing to nearly double the Orioles’ win total in two years is an impressive measurement.
Expectations for the Orioles entering 2023, despite their huge improvement from 2021 to 2022, were low, and beating out the Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees and Red Sox in the toughest division in the game is another worthy accomplishment.
Many fans focus on a manager’s handling of the bullpen, and under Hyde, not only Coulombe, but Félix Bautista, Yennier Cano and Cionel Pérez have all starred for the first time in the majors.
Hyde doesn’t have stock stories or cliches to entertain during pregame and postgame media sessions but does try to explain his strategic moves.
In 2024, he’ll have a harder job because more will be expected from the Orioles, and a second straight division title and 100-win season will be hard to accomplish.
The guess here is that a week from now, Hyde will be recognized for his marvelous season, and he’ll take his place among the game’s most respected managers.
Elias named Executive of the Year: Mike Elias was named MLB Executive of the Year in a vote conducted before the postseason. The award was announced at the General Managers’ meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Atlanta’s Alex Anthopoulos and Arizona’s Mike Hazen finished second and third.
Elias was also voted as The Sporting News’ Executive of the Year.