If there was a sense of relief around Camden Yards on Monday as Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias introduced his new manager, Brandon Hyde, it was as much for the fact that the process is over as it was for what was to come next.
In Hyde, a 45-year-old longtime minor league and major league coach with a player development background whom Elias described as an "up-and-coming star" in baseball, Elias now has another public face for his daunting project of rebuilding the Orioles into a winning franchise.
So as they sat side by side at Camden Yards for the first time Monday, it was no longer just Elias' vision for the Orioles that was available for public consumption. It was a joint message of patience, of a player development emphasis and of another layer of confidence added to the front office's notion that it can replicate the most successful rebuilds in the game. And in Hyde, the Orioles added another leader who has himself been part of a successful rebuild.
The pair spoke for nearly 40 minutes Monday, with plenty to unpack about the short- and long-term future of the Orioles. Here are five things we learned from Hyde's introduction as Orioles manager.
1. This is Mike Elias' manager, and it'll be Brandon Hyde's staff, and those are one and the same.
The way Elias has spoken of the manager's role is as an equal partner in baseball decision-making with him and assistant general manager Sig Mejdal, in the sense that they all share the same values and philosophies about the game, and will all have a significant influence in how the future of Orioles baseball looks.
But Hyde's ability to understand the game's data-driven trends isn't all this progressive front office was looking for. It also wanted a good baseball manager and a teacher, and Hyde views himself and whomever he hires as a conduit for all those messages, with the ability to teach at the highest level "a major requirement" to be on his staff.
"I want as much information as possible, and the good coaches are able to communicate that with the players because they have previous relationships with them, and it's that point where I can have this conversation with you and because there's trust there, back and forth," Hyde said. "Our job as coaches is to relay this information to the players in the best way possible."
Elias has made clear that such methods are becoming common around the game, and said it would be incumbent on the manager to surround himself with those types of hires. It's clear that data are going to play a major part of the Orioles' player development strategy, and that player development isn't going to end when players get to the majors.
In Hyde, Elias has the person he believes will be able to meld all that together on a public stage every night for six months come Opening Day. At least in their first opportunity, they matched pitch on what exactly this is going to look like.
2. Hyde's early evaluation won't be on wins and losses, but who gets better and by how much.
Like Elias before him, Hyde was careful not to assign a timeline to whatever they're trying to build in Baltimore. That's all for the best. But the onus he did put on himself and the staff he builds in the coming weeks is one of player development at the major league level, where fans and the organization can reasonably expect to see tangible results.
There are certainly candidates. Can Trey Mancini be the consistent, productive threat he was for his rookie season and parts of last year? Can Cedric Mullins avoid the platoon hole he might get stuck into and stick as an everyday center fielder? Will Hyde, a former catcher, be the kind of compassionate and understanding voice that gets the best out of one-time top prospect Chance Sisco at the major league level? Can Rule 5 draft picks Richie Martin and/or Drew Jackson stick and succeed in the big leagues?
How those types of questions are answered — and not necessarily the major league record — will be the measures of progress for Hyde and company. Especially for position players, the Orioles are ripe with options in the high minors who will give Hyde a chance to make that kind of mark early on. Elias and Mejdal will be tasked with bringing in the impact talent required to win a World Series, as they did with the Houston Astros. Hyde's main responsibility is to create a foundation of winning talent that's waiting for them in the majors.
3. Working for Joe Maddon isn't a cure-all, but it's going to help Hyde in this situation.
Look no farther than right down the road in Washington to realize that learning at the right hand of a future Hall of Fame manager like Joe Maddon doesn't make a coach into Joe Maddon himself. Nationals manager Dave Martinez came from Maddon's bench coach role last year and found plenty of challenges he didn't expect, with the Nationals underachieving for the talent assembled.
At last week’s winter meetings in Las Vegas, Martinez said he was surprised to find that the easy relationships that came as a bench coach were a bit more challenging as a manager in a new situation — players who would have welcomed conversations with someone seen as a conduit to the manager shied away from chatting with the man who actually held that title.
That's an adjustment that will come with time if it's required of Hyde, but it's also one he seems well-equipped for. He touted his ability to communicate and build relationships that end up being the foundation for good coaching and improvement, and with a major league team full of unproven players, they might be more receptive to that than an established team such as the Nationals.
Maddon said last week that his advice to a manager in Hyde's role would be to build the relationships to be able to push the rest of the agenda forward. Hyde has taken that to heart, but will need to prove himself able to replicate Maddon's success with the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs on the field for there to be true proof that it's the method that works, not just the man.
4. The separation from the last era of Orioles baseball is complete.
Away from the cameras and the glaring lights required for a production like Monday’s, Elias and Hyde were both asked about the fact that Hyde was replacing a beloved figure in Buck Showalter.
Both men spoke their truth, appropriately so.
Hyde said that while growing up as a coach he always watched how Showalter handled himself as a manager, and noted how he enjoyed Showalter's ESPN work while saying he had a ton of respect for what Showalter did.
Elias said the fact that Showalter was beloved and Hyde had to fill that role in the public sphere wasn't a factor in choosing his new manager, and stressed that while the old guard in Baltimore did well, the new guard is doing things its own way.
Showalter took on an almost mythic status in Baltimore, and rightfully so. He oversaw a lot of good baseball after this city watched nearly a decade and a half of bad baseball. But clinging to any part of that, whether in staff or in style, wasn't going to mesh with what Elias wanted to build with the Orioles. Hyde and any other young manager would do well to adopt the style and structure of Showalter's teams in making their own successful club. It's just more incumbent on Hyde to replicate the progress on the field than to try to fill Showalter's shoes from the start, and Elias' blessing to not try to do that will mean a lot.
5. There's still a lot of work to be done for the Orioles to be where they want to be in the second week of February.
Hyde has less than two months before pitchers and catchers are required to report to spring training in Sarasota, Fla. — Feb. 13 — and the list of what will be required of him and the organization before then is a long one.
The business of filling out the major league staff and hiring a Triple-A manager — which Elias said was going to be viewed as essentially an extension of the major league staff — is Hyde's immediate priority.
The major jobs on staff would probably best be filled by the time he starts visiting players, as he has said he might do in addition to introductory phone calls. There's also the aspect of structuring spring training, giving input on where he might need Elias to upgrade the roster, and trying to create plans that best fit the Orioles' goal of improving major leaguers while still competing on a daily basis.
For Elias, the goals shift to other aspects of baseball operations, and he's noted the vacancies in the areas of analytics and international scouting as particular concerns for him. The Orioles have some carryover in the areas of player development and scouting, and Elias has said he and Mejdal will have big roles in those as they get what they consider best practices in place.
But if it all seems daunting, consider that this week is the last before baseball effectively shuts down for a holiday break, then the window to execute most of this by the time spring training starts shrinks to six weeks. It'll be a lot to accomplish, but the outcome will be more important than the timing. Considering where the Orioles ended up in their protracted executive and managerial searches, they seem to understand that.