No bench coach? O's taking dynamic approach

Club will spread out responsibilities among empowered staff, with focus on player development

January 28th, 2019

To hear the Orioles explain it, the curious decision to not equip first-year skipper Brandon Hyde with a bench coach wasn't an oversight, but one made by design.
It may end up as mere semantics, with most of the bench-coach duties set to fall to Tim Cossins, though he'll technically assume them under the title of Major League coordinator/catching instructor. But through another lens, the choice speaks to the overwhelming priority that player development will take over everything else in Baltimore this season, as well as to the commitment to collaboration that club officials have preached for months.
"The way our dynamic will be in the dugout will be evolving a little bit," Hyde said.
How it will work, the Orioles don't exactly know. But their plan, essentially, is to spread out the responsibility. Instead of having one lieutenant to lean on for in-game decisions, Hyde plans to consult a triumvirate of coaches for input. Brainstorming ideas with a wider variety of sources, the Orioles hope, will allow Hyde to make better decisions in the aggregate.
"Talking to Brandon, his style is, he likes to talk throughout the game," general manager and executive vice president Mike Elias said. "He likes to talk to all of his coaches."
Cossins' voice figures to carry the most weight, given his and Hyde's longstanding ties. The two grew up near one another in Northern California, before spending nearly two decades working together in the Marlins' and Cubs' organizations. Hyde said the two most senior members of his staff -- hitting coach Don Long and pitching coach Doug Brocail -- will also wield in-game influence.
"I'm going to rely heavily on those three guys for game planning and game decisions," Hyde said. "The title thing, for me, didn't matter. I think the people you have around you as a manager are really, really important. I feel like I've surrounded myself with awesome people, so I feel good about that."
The irony is that Hyde has spent a chunk of his Major League coaching career as a bench coach, serving as the right-hand man for four different managers. Now in his first managerial gig, he won't have one -- nor any former skippers on his staff. The Orioles will be the only team to go without one in 2019, and while there are scattered, recent examples of clubs doing that, most come from teams with long-tenured managers who could counsel other former managers on their staffs.
That won't be the case in Baltimore. Hyde, Long, Cossins and first-base coach Arnie Beyeler have experience managing only in the Minors, while third-base coach Jose Flores managed for eight years in Puerto Rico. For Cossins, bullpen coach John Wasdin and Major League coach Jose Hernandez, the jobs mark their first Major League appointments.

Elias called surrounding Hyde with a former skipper "a consideration that was attractive," adding it was "definitely something that was discussed." But ultimately, given the early stage of their rebuild, the O's saw more value in hiring instructors with experience working with younger players and with expertise in specific areas. Cossins, for example, is known as a catching guru. He'll assist with pre- and in-game strategy, but a larger focus will be grooming the likes of young backstop .
"The reality is that [bench coach] is a title. I feel like this whole thing is going to be collective," Cossins said. "The industry now is about human/player development. The teams that have success have people who can connect with players, have people who can help players move from one place to another. That's the art of this game right now. I feel like we have those people in the clubhouse, for sure."