BALTIMORE — With their respective World Series experiences separated only by a single offseason, recently hired general manager Mike Elias and skipper Brandon Hyde bring similar success stories and a shared philosophy to the rebuilding Baltimore Orioles.
Baltimore ownership hired Elias in November, two years after he used analytics — with an emphasis on internal player development — to help guide the Houston Astros to their first-ever world championship in 2017 as assistant general manager. In turn, Elias whittled down his candidate list for the Orioles’ managerial vacancy by seeking out coaches who followed the same blueprint when it came to constructing a winning baseball club.
He eventually settled on Hyde, a 45-year-old baseball lifer, who spent the past six seasons as a member of the Chicago Cubs coaching staff, including 2016, when the team won its first World Series championship since 1908. Hyde spent this past summer as bench coach under manager Joe Maddon.
“Once we talked to Brandon, it made me feel really good that he understood the scope of this, and he’s been through it the same way that I have. To have that experience and shared perspective is an asset, I think, to have that in the managerial chair,” Elias said Monday following Hyde’s introductory news conference in the auxiliary clubhouse at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. “It absolutely added a lot to his candidacy, but it wasn’t something I was targeting at the outset.”
Prior to Chicago, Hyde spent nine seasons ascending through the Miami Marlins organization, beginning his coaching career in 2003 as the hitting coach for the Low-A Greensboro Grasshopper, before eventually earning a promotion to bench coach for the Major League club. He moved onto the Cubs prior to the 2012 campaign, taking on the position as Minor League field coordinator.
Initially, Elias — who also brought in former Astros analytic guru and NASA engineer Sig Mejdal to be his assistant GM — admittedly began his managerial search hoping to hire a seasoned major league skipper who could balance out his inexperience as general manager. However, he was continually drawn back to Hyde, who he called “an up-and-coming star in our business.”
“I think it speaks to how impressed we were with Brandon, the fact he hasn’t had major league manager experience and still he beat out very good candidates that did,” Elias said. “I was a little bit attracted to experience because I’m a first-year GM and we have a lot to do all around the organization. He impressed us to such a degree that we were able to move past that.
“He has a lot of experience in the dugout as a bench coach. While he was not the manager, that type of close experience to the manager in different phases of an organization’s life cycle… he’s about as experienced as you can get for someone who hasn’t managed.”
In his seven years in the Astros’ front office, Elias helped the team go from 100-plus losses to 100-plus wins, while building the most fertile farm system in the game — a pipeline that produced 2017 American League MVP Jose Altuve, 2015 AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, 2015 Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa, 2017 World Series MVP George Springer and 2018 All Star Game MVP Alex Bregman
Meanwhile, Hyde noted the crop of elite prospects that passed through the Cubs’ organization en route to the major leagues, including All Stars Kris Bryant (2016 MVP) Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and Javier Baez. Chicago went from finishing last in the NL Central in 2013 to reaching immortality just three seasons later.
“I think both teams got good a lot faster than people thought from the outside. In ‘14, we weren’t a very good club, but all of a sudden Bias comes to the big leagues and [pitcher] Kyle Hendricks comes to the big leagues, Jorge Soler comes to the big leagues and [acquired starting pitcher and 2016 Cy Young] Jake Arrieta starts becoming what Jake Arrieta became. You know, Hector Rondon, who was a Rule-5 pick the year before, all of a sudden he’s saving 30 games. It can happen a lot faster than you think,” Hyde said. “There are similarities between the Cubs and the Astros, and I want to think there’s going to be similarities here. Those guys have been through it, too, and that’s what really attracted me. They’ve done it before and they put together that team that’s in Houston right now. I’m looking forward to that being done here.”
The task ahead for Elias and Hyde will be to move the Orioles past a 47-115 season and back into the realm of respectability — a difficult challenge due to its home in the most difficult division in baseball, a roster devoid of talent and a farm system ranked among the worst in baseball.
“Honestly, I want our players to focus on competing. To get better every single day, to being a great teammate, to being held accountable and hold others accountable. Just go out and compete every single night. That’s the biggest thing for me. I’ll take that, and that’s going to be our goal,” Hyde said. “We’re going to be patient, we’re going to be positive. No promises made except that we’re going to play really, really hard and we’re going to play every single night.”
Elias noted that Hyde will help influence future decisions as the team enters what he called “a new era of Orioles baseball.”
Elias replaces former GM Dan Duquette, while Hyde was pegged to replace long-time manager Buck Showalter. Both were let go after the worst season in Orioles history.
While their stretch in Baltimore was defined more by success than failure — including a trip to the 2014 ALCS — there was well-documented friction between the decision makers and the dugout. The Orioles’ new regime pledged to have an open line of communication from the start in that regard.
“We view the manager’s chair as an outpost of the front office. While he’s on a nightly basis managing the 25-man roster, worrying about the players on the 40-man roster, trying to win games at the major league level, he’s also a full-blown senior member of our front office team. He will be involved in every decision and strategy,” Elias stated. “That’s the dynamic that I’m most familiar with because of my most recent experience in Houston, and that’s the dynamic that I know works around the league best. This is a big job, it’s a complicated job, there’s a lot that goes into our decisions, and we want him a part of it and vice versa.”
Follow Jordan Schatz on Twitter: @Jordan_Whig