Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was an obvious choice to win the 2023 BBWAA American League Manager of the Year award, what with his club’s 101 regular-season wins and his Dirtbags-to-riches story.
The former Long Beach State backup catcher came close after last year’s turnaround season got the O’s to the edge of the playoffs about a season earlier than the front office targeted when executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias laid out the plan to rebuild the team from the ground up. Hyde blew away all expectations by leading his team to its first American League East title since 2014.
Heck, he would have had my vote (if I had been one of the voters) just for embarrassing FanGraphs and all the other preseason analysts who predicted the Orioles would take a step back after over-performing with 83 wins in 2022.
To be fair, nobody really believed back in March that the Orioles would be looking down at all their big, bad AL East rivals at season’s end. The oddsmakers had them as a 50-1 longshot to win the division even after they ran off seven straight wins in mid-April.
Hyde believed and his players believed and that was no coincidence because of the work he and the Orioles’ coaching staff put in during the frustrating growth years to nurture a winning atmosphere on a club that hadn’t won anything in quite some time. After he got 27 of the 30 first-place votes for this year’s Manager of the Year award, he wasted no time sharing the credit with every player and coach and club exec who helped him get the credit he so richly deserves.
What does it all mean?
“It means that our team had a really good year,’’ he said. “I’m just proud of what we’ve accomplished up to this point. And this is definitely not an individual award, and I don’t look at it as that at all. I look at it as a team award, an entire coaching staff award, really an organizational award for what we’ve done here in five years and what we’ve done here the past couple of years.
“I thought we had a really special season. To win 101 games in the big leagues is so hard to do and how we fought for six months and for the team to improve. I’m looking forward to next year already and am really proud of the year we had.”
There were a lot of people who wondered if he would make it this far, considering the fate of some caretaker managers who were put in the same position and replaced with bigger names as soon as their teams registered a pulse. Elias said from the start that everyone was in this together and didn’t blink when the Orioles lost 110 games in Year Three of the rebuild.
Forced to be introspective during Tuesday night’s Zoom conference with the local media, Hyde tried to put into words what he thought were the most important things he brought to the table during the climb from doormat to division champion.
“I want to say patience,’’ he said, “but I think I was guilty a lot of times of not being patient. I think consistent around the players. I think I hid a lot of things from them in a good way. I feel like they always enjoyed the atmosphere we’ve created — and they’ve had a big part in that as well as the coaching staff. I wanted them to know that I was always going to be okay and that if we were consistent, we eventually would be good.
“I didn’t want them to see me too up and too down. Now, those times happened, for sure, but the guy that presented the award (longtime manager and his former boss Joe Maddon) is really who I learned that from the most. How important consistency is and how important honesty is. That’s what players need and want. I think it’s my honesty with players and being as consistent as possible.”
Those early years certainly tested him, but Hyde said he never lost faith that the drastic rebuilding plan would work and that he would still be around when it did.
“During those years, I had confidence we were going to turn this thing around, but you struggle to see when … to see the light at the end of the tunnel, honestly,’’ he said. “Last year, there came a point where you saw the light at the end of the tunnel. You could see that we were able to pitch against the teams we were competing with. We were able to win series. So really, from June on last year, that was a huge turning point for this organization and our big-league club.”