Orioles general manager Mike Elias introduces Brandon Hyde as the new Orioles manager. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun video)
One of the main selling points for the new Orioles front office has been that executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and assistant general manager Sig Mejdal have seen a challenge on the scale of Baltimore’s before, and came out of it with a 2017 World Series ring with the Houston Astros.
The only other team to execute that on a similar scale recently is the Chicago Cubs, and new Orioles manager Brandon Hyde spearheaded their player development operation early before joining the major league coaching staff through a rebuild that netted the 2016 World Series title.
Elias said Monday that such shared experience wasn't initially something he sought in a field manager, but the more he thought about it, the idea grew on him.
"It wasn't a consideration as we entered the process, but once we talked to Brandon, it made me feel really good that he understood the scope of this, and he's been through it in the same way that Sig and I have," Elias said. "To have that experience, and just sort of that shared perspective is an asset, I think, to have that in the managerial chair. It absolutely added a lot to his candidacy, but it wasn't something I was targeting at the outset."
When Hyde, 45, joined the Cubs as their minor league field coordinator in 2011, he was joining a new front office led by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, who were tasked with improving a franchise that was two years into a five-year run of well-below-.500 baseball. Elias and Mejdal joined the Astros from the St. Louis Cardinals that offseason, following their former boss, Jeff Luhnow, when he took over as Houston's general manager at the 2011 winter meetings to overhaul the major league-worst Astros. They'd just endured three years of sub-.500 baseball, and from 2011 to 2013 lost 106, 107 and 111 games.
One of the similarities Hyde found in both, however, was that as bad as the early days were, the teams "got good a lot faster than people thought from the outside." He rattled off the 2014 arrivals of the likes of Javier Báez, Kyle Hendricks and Jorge Soler to the big leagues, the presence of Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber on the farm, and improvements from former Oriole Jake Arrieta and Rule 5 reliever Héctor Rondón.
"All of a sudden the next year , we're in the [National League] Championships Series," Hyde said. "I think there's similarities in that way between the Cubs and the Astros. I want to believe there's going to be similarities here, and I trust that those guys have been through it before, too. That's what really attracted me. Those guys have done it before. They put together that team that's in Houston right now. I'm looking forward to that being done here."
While the construction of what Elias has called an "elite talent pipeline" will be the responsibility of the front office, Hyde will be charged with setting the organization's tone at the major league level and pushing it down to the minor leagues. The way the Epstein-Hoyer regime changed the culture in Chicago, which was the goal at the time, was simple.
"I think we brought in the right people," Hyde said. "That was the first thing. We brought in passionate guys that love to coach, that like to get after it. I just want to be fully invested in the Cubs’ way at that time, and I think we accomplished that. And that system got better quickly. I think that's very, very possible. We've come from two organizations that have had some down years, but all of a sudden, get good real quick. That's going to be the process here."
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As the one who will be the day-to-day face of this process with 162 opportunities to speak for the team's performance both before and after each game, Hyde will be the one who is explaining that process to the public. He's also seen how that part works, too, and said the Cubs were "very transparent at that time about how we were going to build and we were going to build from within, and we were going to develop our farm system.”
"We were going to change our culture from the farm system to the big leagues, but it was about getting talent, and developing that talent," Hyde said. "That was my goal at that time as a field coordinator and farm director, but being here as the major league manager, my goal is going to be to develop the talent that's here. I'm looking forward to working with everybody on the 40-man roster and trying to improve every single day."
The shared experiences also extend to the idea of integrating modern analytical practices into in-game decision-making and player development. The Orioles' previous analytics operation had little in the way of funding and even fewer ways for what it did produce to get to the field and help the players at any level, major or minor league.
"He's no stranger to this whatsoever because of where he's coming from, and in fact, the fact that he comes from the Chicago Cubs was attractive because I think he's going to bring ideas that are new to us, and will improve and make us smarter," Elias said. "This was an easy one."