Duquette Wants To Build Winner In Baltimore
Dan Duquette grew up in Mark Belanger's hometown and delivered the former Oriole shortstop's newspaper. When he was 8 years old, Duquette met a major league baseball player for the first time. It just happened to be Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. During his formative years, Duquette played Wiffle ball in the backyard and pretended to play the 1966 Baltimore Orioles against the 1967 Boston Red Sox.
As a young man, he became fascinated with trades when the Orioles acquired Frank Robinson from the Reds.
"I learned everything I know about pitching from the Oriole Way," Duquette said.
Now, he will have to carve out a new Oriole Way. Duquette officially became the team's executive vice president of baseball operations on Nov. 8, ending a month-long search for Andy MacPhail's successor.
"I'm here to build a contending team that everyone in Baltimore can be proud of," Duquette said at his introductory news conference. "During our meetings last week, it was obvious that [owner Peter] Angelos and I share a passion for organization efficiency and a commitment to build a competitive team in the American League East, which I know from experience is baseball's most competitive division."
Duquette has a steep hill to climb. The Orioles have suffered 14 consecutive losing seasons -- the second-longest streak in Major League Baseball.
"I'm going to do everything in my power to help this club succeed," Duquette said.
The club's farm system was partially re-stocked after being ravaged during the 1990s and early 2000s. MacPhail, who was hired in 2007, emphasized young pitchers and hitters, but struggled to invest money in international scouting and to woo marquee hitters to round out the lineup.
Duquette addressed scouting on day one.
"Aggressive scouting will build you a winning ball club," Duquette said. "Aggressive international scouting, I believe, will build you a championship ball club. You weave that in with a sound player development operation."
Young players such as Adam Jones and Matt Wieters blossomed during MacPhail's tenure, but the pitchers regressed and the team's fortunes were too tied to their development.
"The value of pitching to a major league team, I couldn't overstate that to you today," Duquette said, "and if we're going to talk about where we're going to start in terms of building a contending team, it's going to be right there on the mound."
Duquette was general manager of the Montreal Expos and the Boston Red Sox during the 1990s and early 2000s. He helped position both franchises to be competitive. He acquired Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon, Tim Wakefield and Johnny Damon for the Red Sox, who won the World Series in 2004 with those players, two years after Duquette was fired.
Duquette was often viewed as brash during his Boston tenure and famously said Roger Clemens was nearing the end of his career. Clemens went on to win Cy Young awards and World Series rings after leaving the Red Sox.
Since being relieved of his duties, Duquette had been out of baseball and ran a series of youth sports camps, which he said was a dream.
Still, people will wonder why the Orioles went with a man who hadn't had a job in baseball in nearly a decade.
Angelos, who tried to convince MacPhail to return for another year, has gone through many general managers during his 18-year tenure. He interviewed a series of candidates before hiring Duquette, who was not part of the first round of talks. Toronto assistant general manager Tony LaCava was actually offered the position, but chose to return to his role with the Blue Jays.
The Orioles became the subject of national mockery during the drawn-out search. With the only vacancy in the majors by November, the Orioles were turned down by LaCava and Jerry Dipoto took the same job with the Los Angeles Angels. De Jon Watson, director of the Dodgers' player development, also backed out of talks with the team after interviewing.
Duquette interviewed in early November and had the job after a weekend of talks with the Orioles' brass. It was a surprise hire to most around the country.
"It's true that I haven't been with a major league team for a period of time," Duquette said. "I've got to tell you, baseball's really in my DNA. I've been a baseball man for 20-25 years.
"I have maintained my contacts with a number of executives in baseball. I've got to tell you my focus is going to be sharper and better from my time being away from the game."
Angelos, widely criticized for his reputation as a meddler in player personnel decisions, said Duquette was the right hire.
"With an emphasis on developing players from within as well as acquiring players through the international and trade markets, Dan built the Red Sox and Expos into formidable franchises during his tenures," Angelos said. "His record of success, extensive baseball operations leadership and strong scouting background give Dan the experience and skills essential for this position."
Duquette praised former manager Earl Weaver for emphasizing on-base percentage before sabermetricians did during the early 2000s. He said Weaver's book, "The Classic Work on the Art of Managing a Baseball Team," was required reading throughout the organization.
"He knew the value of how precious each out is and he was able to impart that on his ball club," Duquette said, "and that's why you had some brilliant clubs here under Weaver's leadership."
Duquette said the club would emphasize fundamentals and be a team of which fans could be proud. Praising manager Buck Showalter as a tried-and-true tactician, Duquette said he would form a dynamic team with Showalter.
Duquette would not commit to defining a long-term plan, but it's clear he has his work cut out for him during free agency. The Orioles have been rumored as a possible suitor for slugger Prince Fielder.
"I believe we will be able to find some players to fill in, in terms of gaining depth to the pitching staff and gaining depth to the overall lineup," he said. "I think the foundation is there. How long is it going to take? That depends on quickly we can sign the players we need. I think you have the establishment of a core group of players here that are at a good age that players can identify and certainly build around."
Posted Nov. 8, 2011