Mike Elias and Brandon Hyde both expected to hold their end-of-season news conferences under different circumstances, but, as Elias noted, “sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way.”
On the heels of the Orioles’ sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers in the American League Division Series, Baltimore’s general manager and skipper both spoke with the media Thursday morning to wrap up the 2023 season and look ahead to 2024.
Here are 10 takeaways from what they said.
Elias and Hyde are back for 2024 and ‘100% in’
Elias and Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos have both declined to answer specifics about how long the general manager or Hyde are signed for.
Elias once again declined to provide such details, noting he doesn’t believe it’s “beneficial” for the organization to do so. However, when asked specifically if he and Hyde would be returning for 2024, Elias laughed and said, “We’re back next season. I’ll give you that.”
“Me and Brandon, we are 100% in on this,” Elias said. “We are giving our hearts and souls and minds and quite a bit of experience to this, and I hope that lasts forever.”
The Orioles have many questions to answer this offseason — from the lease to arbitration-eligible players to free agents. But who is leading the front office and team aren’t among them.
Elias doesn’t want to talk about roster specifics
The season just ended for Elias, too, and he doesn’t know what the offseason looks like. And even if he does, he still wasn’t answering specific questions about the Orioles’ roster.
“I’m going to be kind of boring today with specific positional roster questions,” he said when asked if the Orioles need a front-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. “This is very fresh. We just got off a plane. I’ll have probably a lot more to say later.”
Elias, entering his sixth offseason as the Orioles’ top executive, was still asked about whether the organization views Tyler Wells and DL Hall as starters or relievers, the club’s 16 arbitration-eligible players and other roster-related questions.
“I’m going to plead the fifth again and not talk about specifics with the roster or the offseason,” he said when asked about Wells and Hall.
The ALDS sweep was formative, but it was one small sample
Elias opened his news conference by putting the blame for the ALDS sweep on himself.
“Any shortcomings that anyone perceives with the 2023 campaign should be directed towards me,” he said.
But how will he evaluate the failure that was the three-game playoff series with the massive success that was his team’s 162-game regular season?
“I think that we want to overweight our failures when we go and self-reflect over the winter and try to push ourselves to get better,” he said. “That said, if we’re evaluating players or things like that, I don’t want to get caught up in what they did in a three-game sample. We’re going to weigh it heavily as an organization, but in terms of, like, finite events on the field, there’s much larger samples to draw from.”
Hyde was asked the same question about how he views the playoffs versus the regular season.
“In the world of analytics — there’s big samples and there’s small samples — they tend to long at the big sample,” Hyde said with a smile. “So, three games is kind of a small sample. It’s also a first experience for a lot of those guys and we’re going to evaluate everything going forward, we just got our teeth kicked in, so we’re still wearing it.”
Hyde is ‘still pissed’ about playoff loss
Like his players Tuesday, Hyde on Thursday was both sad at how the season ended but hopeful for the future. He twice said he was “still pissed” about how his club’s magical season ended.
“I’ll watch,” Hyde said when asked if he’ll watch the remainder of the MLB postseason. “I’m gonna watch a little differently this year, I’m gonna watch a little irritated, to be honest with you. Still irritated, still frustrated, still pissed.”
He was later asked about potentially being named the AL Manager of the Year in November, an award he will likely win after leading the Orioles to 101 wins after the club lost 110 two years ago. But Hyde isn’t concerned about November awards and wishes his team was still playing.
“That’s nice,” he said. “I’m still pissed, to be honest with you.”
Hyde, Elias discuss 5-day layoff
The way the MLB postseason has gone has led to plenty of discourse about whether the current format is fair for the sport’s best teams.
Of the four teams that received byes in the wild-card round, two were swept in the ALDS (Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers), one has its backs against the wall (Atlanta Braves) and one advanced to the AL Championship Series (Houston Astros). With the struggles of those teams, especially the 100-win Dodgers and 101-win Orioles, some have questioned whether the five-day layoff is too long and actually served as a disadvantage.
Elias called the discussion “interesting” but said he didn’t want to use that as an “excuse.”
“I do not believe that was the difference between us winning or getting swept in the ALDS the way we did,” he said. “I don’t have a big opinion about it.”
Added Hyde: “Well, I don’t think it helps. Let’s put it that way. … I don’t know what they’re going to do about that. I think it’s a long time.”
Jackson Holliday could make Orioles’ 2024 opening day roster
Underneath the Orioles’ 101-win season is the top-ranked farm system in the sport. Jackson Holliday, who Baseball America ranks as baseball’s top prospect, climbed from Low-A Delmarva to Triple-A Norfolk in his first full professional season at just 19 years old.
Next season, he’ll no longer be a teenager, and perhaps he’ll stop being a minor leaguer, too.
“He didn’t have a full season anywhere because he moved so fast, but he hasn’t been in Triple-A terribly long but he did pretty well,” Elias said. “I think when you’re 19 and then you’re 20, it’s one year, but that’s a lot of aging and physical development. I can’t wait to see what he looks like in spring training. Look forward to having him there, he’s going to have a chance to make the team.”
John Means’ elbow is OK
Starting pitcher John Means’ elbow, which flared up during his simulated game before the ALDS, is “in good shape,” Elias said, and the left-hander will be a “full-go” in spring training.
Whether Means started one of Baltimore’s games in Texas or came out of the bullpen, not having the veteran did take a reliable arm out of the Orioles’ pitching staff for the series.
“It’s unfortunate, but it happened and it didn’t allow us to have one of our starters go in the bullpen,” Hyde said.
Team uncertain on closer for 2024
Félix Bautista, who underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction on Monday, will soon begin his rehab at the team’s complex in Sarasota, Florida, Elias said. The right-hander is expected to miss the entire 2024 season and be ready for 2025 spring training.
The Orioles got by without him over the campaign’s final six weeks, but replacing him for an entire season won’t be easy.
“That is a massive hole,” Elias said. “We’re going to bring all of our brain power towards answering that question.”
Baltimore might be an attractive destination for free agents
Elias wouldn’t commit to a higher payroll for 2024, but he did say he hopes the Orioles’ success in 2023 leads to more free agents seeing Baltimore as a place to win.
“It’s something that’s really important for me to have a good environment for players,” he said. “We talk constantly about how best to do that. I think it showed this year. I think our clubhouse was wonderful, a lot of people to credit for that, but we want this to be a great place to play.”
The Orioles entered 2023 with a $60.9 million payroll that ranked 29th of 30 MLB teams, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Elias has yet to sign a free agent to a multiyear contract during his tenure.
“Everybody from last year was very interested because of the talent we have on our team and what we’re going to look like going forward,” Hyde said. “I think it’s going to be the same way this year, where people are going to see that they enjoy playing here, this is a fun team to be on and we’re going to win.”
The 2023 season was still a success
Despite their disappointment at how it ended, both Hyde and Elias acknowledged the Orioles’ unprecedented 101-win season was still worthy of praise.
“The way it ended was awful, it sucked, and we’re wearing that still, but it was a really successful season,” Hyde said. “Overcoming so many odds and obstacles that are against us and so many people thinking that we weren’t going to be playoff team and all of a sudden we win 101 games and win the American League East, that says a lot about a lot of people in the organization, a lot of guys in that clubhouse, so I’m really proud of that.
“Unfortunately in the postseason, we just didn’t play our best and ran into a little bit of a buzz saw, but I’m going to have great memories of this team.”
Elias has frequently spoken about the rich baseball tradition in Baltimore, and he hopes the team’s fans are proud of what the 2023 team accomplished.
“I hope that the city of Baltimore remembers this group for kind of reminding the world that this is Baltimore and we do baseball here,” he said.