Orioles manager Brandon Hyde’s first year in charge of a major league team was like many other of his seasons in baseball: tiring. But the farther he got away from it and recharged, talking to friends and confidantes around the game, his feeling on what transpired for the 2019 Orioles was only reinforced.
He felt like they were building something.
“I feel really good about the atmosphere with what we created, and what we were doing internally,” Hyde told the Baltimore Sun. “I really feel good about that.
“I feel proud of, and talking to other managers and people from other organizations also, just really proud of how hard our guys played for six months, and how hard that is to do with a team that is struggling to get wins. If you look at the way we ended the year, we probably could have won the last seven or eight series we played if we make a pitch late in the game and have a late-inning loss to lose a series. For us to be in games, with the record that we have, continuing to play hard up until the last game of the year, when we lost in extra innings to sweep Boston, I feel like our guys were together and I thought they played their butts off.”
Often in 2019, Hyde needed to fall back on all that — the effort, the preparation and the approach of his team — as the losses mounted. The Orioles’ 108 losses were only better than the Detroit Tigers’ 114, and only an improvement when held against their club-record 115 losses in 2018. They were so consistently setting records for home runs allowed in a month, a season, or to a specific opponent that even their unique historical achievements became monotonous.
The improvement of young players like Trey Mancini, John Means and Anthony Santander, plus the charming season of Hanser Alberto, were bright spots. There were far fewer dark ones, too, and considering the team’s recent trades of starter Dylan Bundy and infielder Jonathan Villar portend an even darker 2020, Hyde’s proud to have helped build a culture that can withstand the losing.
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“I think everybody is in a great frame of mind,” Hyde said. “I think everybody feels like the losing is obviously frustrating, and losing late in the game a lot is frustrating. But I felt like our guys did like to play, and our guys liked the atmosphere that was created, and I felt like they liked each other and were pulling for each other. That’s really what I was trying to do this year.”
In his second year, he wants to find more time to get to what he sees as important. He was hired for what he’s done as an instructor and coach at several stops, but found himself pulled in myriad directions.
“You don’t realize that until you are sitting in that seat,” Hyde said. “If I get to the ballpark at one o’clock and I have a list of things I want to take care of, next thing you know I’m meeting with the media at four and I haven’t done any of them because of all the things that come into my office. You’re constantly putting out fires in your office, and you’re talking to people in your office, and you’re in the coaches room, and you’re in the clubhouse.”
Hyde said that he’s pondering ways to prioritize his duties. It being his second season will allow him the mental bandwidth to do so. After not officially signing on with the Orioles until after last year’s winter meetings, he said that he’s much more comfortable in his understanding of what he has on his roster and on the horizon, to say nothing of familiarity with his job.
“Last year we were hired and pretty much it was Christmas, and a month and a half later is spring training,” Hyde said. “So I have a good pulse of a team, of the organization as a whole. I’ve been in and out of Baltimore, I’ve been to the [Arizona Fall League], I watched our fall league guys, I just have a much better feel for what we have in our organization, our strengths and our weaknesses, and I had no clue really last year, except on paper, going into spring training. I’m much more comfortable with where we are organizationally.
“I’ve evaluated our major league roster for more than a year now. I’ve created really good relationships with the coaching staff and the players and the front office. It’s nice to have a full offseason to gauge where you’re at.”