The Orioles spent much of Brandon Hyde’s tenure being despised. They spent almost six months craning their necks upwards.
On Sunday, the Orioles clinched their first playoff berth since 2016, the culmination of a rebuilding process fully launched in the winter of 2018 when Mike Elias was named executive vice president and general manager and hired Hyde as manager for lead a club designed for wrestling.
They inherited the worst team in the majors, an organization with bad contracts and poor infrastructure. In each of Hyde’s first three years, Baltimore finished with one of the five worst records in baseball, twice losing at least 108 games while its lineups and pitching staff were filled with overmatched players.
The tide began to unexpectedly turn in 2022, when a team projected for another year as a bottom-feeder instead finished as the best team in the American League to miss the playoffs. With the Texas Rangers’ loss on Sunday, the Orioles and Tampa Bay both became the first AL teams to clinch playoff spots in 2023 in the middle of their series finale at Camden Yards, with Baltimore adding an exclamation to the day with a 5-4 victory. 11 innings on Cédric Mullins’ sacrifice fly. The win gave the Orioles (93-56) a two-game lead in the AL East.
After the Orioles won 83 games in 2022, a quiet offseason and a roster built on youth left many projection systems and sportsbooks projecting them to take a step back. Even before a playoff berth was assured, Hyde acknowledged those outside expectations didn’t go unnoticed in the Baltimore clubhouse.
“Honestly, we were disrespected at the beginning of this year,” Hyde said Sunday morning. “Where we come from are projections, smart people thinking they know what the records will be at the end of the year, the casinos, et cetera. I thought we were underestimated. Everyone thought we were going to have a setback this year. I wanted our players to be a little offended by that, the guys who were here last year. I thought that wasn’t accurate.
“I thought we were going to be better than everyone thought.”
They quickly established that this was the case, playing with a level of regularity atypical for a club lacking experience. The Orioles posted a winning record every month of the season. Their longest losing streak of the year is four games. They haven’t been swept in a multi-game series since May 2022, an AL record streak that began shortly before the promotion of catcher Adley Rutschman, the player selected with the first overall pick in 2019 attributed to Baltimore for its 115 losses. Year before.
The only players who have been more valuable to the club this year than Rutschman are also two who arrived in the majors last season: infielder Gunnar Henderson – drafted 41 picks after Rutschman and the favorite to be the AL rookie of the year – and the right-hander. Kyle Bradish, the club’s top starter who is one of several players who joined the organization via veteran trades in previous years.
After enduring odysseys to reach Baltimore, two other second-year pitchers, All-Stars Félix Bautista and Yennier Cano, anchored the Hyde bullpen, a particular weak spot on the Orioles’ rebuilding teams. Other products of Baltimore’s premier minor league system, built not only from early draft picks but also investments in technology and developmental practices, contributed to its success, rookie right-hander Grayson Rodriguez pitched eight scoreless innings Saturday to put the Orioles in the lead. pick up on Sunday.
But the players who held up through Hyde’s first few seasons make up the core of the team. Outfielders Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander; infielders Ryan Mountcastle and Ramón Urías; and starters John Means and Dean Kremer came to bad baseball teams, their inexperience sometimes contributing to their struggles. Each said what they endured during those seasons made the club’s taste of success even sweeter.
“Our guys just expect to win when they come to the stadium,” Hyde said Saturday. “A lot of our guys have lost a lot in this league and they have a lot of confidence now. … Our young people may not know any better. They go wild every night. »
The club’s modest additions before and during the rebuild paid off in the form of veteran presences and occasional impact performances. With Kyle Gibson, Danny Coulombe, James McCann, Adam Frazier and Aaron Hicks, the Orioles have added experience to their rotation, bullpen, catching group, infield and outfield. Left-handed slugger Ryan O’Hearn became one of their best hitters after the Kansas City Royals – now in Baltimore’s former position as one of the major’s worst teams – designated him for assignment and traded it to Baltimore for cash.
This mix of top prospects and castoffs, rebuilding holdouts and new faces is headed to the playoffs. Few people don’t watch them now.
This story will be updated.