There haven’t been many, if any, managers who can relate to what Brandon Hyde has endured over the past three weeks and, frankly, this season. His Orioles are on a 19-game losing streak, their second skid lasting beyond a fortnight. Many of this drought’s games, including the latest, have been out of hand early. Only one wasn’t decided by multiple runs.
But his former boss, Joe Maddon, said before he managed the Los Angeles Angels to a 14-8 victory Tuesday night at Camden Yards that he believes himself to be one of them. His comparisons stem from his first two full seasons leading what were then the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who lost 101 games in 2006 and 96 in 2007.
The next year, the Rays reached the World Series. Eight seasons later, Maddon guided the Chicago Cubs to a historic title with Hyde on his coaching staff. Maddon’s roughest seasons preceded a successful managerial career. It remains to be seen whether Hyde gets the chance to have the same experience.
“He and I worked really, really well together in Chicago,” Maddon said. “I have the utmost respect for him. He’s a really good baseball mind. The players do really respect him a lot. The guys in Chicago really loved Hyder. Not easy, it’s not easy what they’re going through. I’ve done it, maybe not to this level, but I’ve lived that.
“Not easy, but Hyder’s the right man for the job. I’m telling you, he’s really grounded, he’s well versed, he knows the game inside and out, and he’s got the kind of sense of humor that I know that the players can connect with.”
The Orioles, a major league-worst 38-86 with more than a month left in the season, have already lost more games than any of the 14 teams Maddon has managed since 2007. Maddon said they ran into each other and caught up coming into Oriole Park on Tuesday, and Hyde said after the game that Maddon is someone he’s leaned on throughout this stretch, as well as the season.
“I am handling it the best I possibly can,” Hyde said. “I have talked to Joe a few times throughout the year on this. I have talked to other coaches around the league, guys that are close friends of mine. I’ve talked to our coaches, too, try to keep our spirits up. This is incredibly challenging and a huge gut check. We’re having a lot of tough nights, and we’ve been trying to keep our spirits high, trying to be there for the guys. We are. But yeah, people have reached out to me a little bit, kind of going through this.”
This marks the latest in a series of challenging periods Hyde has endured as Baltimore’s manager. Inheriting a team that lost 115 games in 2018, Hyde oversaw a 108-loss campaign in which an inexperienced Orioles pitching staff surrendered more home runs than any team in history.
“Normally, managers get smarter with bullpens,” Maddon quipped.
In the shortened 2020 season, Baltimore surprisingly remained in contention late into the year, which Hyde has repeatedly said was partly the result of other teams not being fully prepared to play amid the coronavirus pandemic.
This year, they got off to a 15-16 start, culminating in John Means’ no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners, but a 2-21 stretch followed. It featured a 14-game losing streak, one that’s paired with this skid to make the Orioles the first team in American League history with multiple winless stretches that long. Along the way, previously productive pitchers have suddenly lost command, and batters expected to be fixtures in the lineup have gone through long dry spells.
Amid all the losing, executive vice president and vice president Mike Elias said Friday the Orioles’ rebuild “remains on track,” and there’s evidence to support that. In Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez, they have what many entities view as the game’s best position player and pitching prospects, and they’re leading what’s also been declared one of the league’s top farm systems.
But much of that talent has yet to trickle to Baltimore, where Hyde is responsible for addressing the Orioles’ now-daily losing.
“It’s just not easy,” Maddon said. “You have to understand and tell yourself, ‘Don’t take it personally.’ It’s not personal. It’s just where you’re at right now developmentally and the players that you have. So when you start taking it personally, then you could lose your confidence and you could also lose your way, meaning that you start getting angry when it’s not about anger. It should never be angry. It’s a teaching moment.”
Hyde has previously said he and his coaching staff have preached a similar concept, noting that each member of the roster “has something to play for” and an opportunity in front of them as this season continues. But few have fully capitalized on it, meaning a season that was already expected to be difficult has devolved into historically bad.
“It cuts at your core, man, and you do doubt yourself,” Maddon said. “When you’re really an accountable person, you think it’s your fault. That’s just the way it works. And that’s good. There’s a good part about that, and there’s a bad part about that. And that’s why you need people that are working here above him to come in and remind him about how good his work is, they understand what’s going on, and they understand weathering this position that they are. And I think he gets that. I know he gets that.”
Elias said he has provided messages of encouragement and support to Hyde, who he selected as Baltimore’s manager not only because of his championship coaching experience but also his work in player development; he spent a couple of seasons as the Cubs’ minor league infield coordinator and director of player development before joining the major league coaching staff. When asked directly about Hyde’s job status going forward in June, Elias said he wasn’t judging Hyde on the team’s 2021 record, adding that he hoped “all of us are still here together” whenever the Orioles return to the postseason.
“That’s another good thing, that he’s rooted in development,” Maddon said. “It’s not like he was just ordained and given this job at some point after a major league career. He’s actually worked to get here, and he understands what it takes developmentally. So, all those things are in play right here, and he loves being here. He’s an absolute grunt, and I mean that, because I consider myself one, too.
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“He will come out the other side with this group as the team improves.”