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Despite 2015 Struggles, Orioles Should Keep Dan Duquette

September 15, 2015

You know you've been here a long time when you can rattle off the names of all the people you have covered in the Baltimore Orioles' general manager's office -- Hank Peters, Roland Hemond, Pat Gillick, Frank Wren, Syd Thrift, Jim Beattie, Mike Flanagan, Jim Duquette, Andy MacPhail and Dan Duquette.

When you consider that list of names spans three ownerships and 34 years, and that a few of them -- Beattie-Flanagan and Flanagan-Jim Duquette -- were two-headed monsters, it's not an amazingly high number.

One thing I can tell you, in all that time, just two -- Gillick and current baseball boss Dan Duquette -- have experienced positive results immediately. But all of them like to put a stamp on it being their era.

Gillick went after it hard when he took over after the 1995 season, acquiring outfielder B.J. Surhoff, second baseman Roberto Alomar and left-handed reliever Randy Myers within days of one another. Those acquisitions, followed by many more, led to two of the best seasons -- 1996-97 -- of Orioles baseball during owner Peter Angelos' regime.

The other good stretch, in spite of a miserable second half of this past August, has been the current years under Dan Duquette from 2012-15. Whenever I write about this, I always have to give credit where credit is due, and that goes to MacPhail, who set in motion a lot of the infrastructure that a first-class organization needed to have in place.

I bring up all this historical perspective, because, depending on who you talk to, there is a curious anti-Dan Duquette sentiment online, on the radio and in conversations I've had.

Orioles 2014: Dan Duquette (ALDS Game 1)
Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox

The other thing I have observed throughout these years is that every change in management brings the end of continuity. And with that end of continuity comes the end of intimate knowledge of your talent. Point in case: Maybe someone like right-hander Jake Arrieta, who is now a Cy Young candidate, doesn't get tossed away if not for a new general manager. Arrieta joined the Orioles in 2010, when MacPhail was team president of baseball operations, and he was traded to the Cubs in 2013, after Dan Duquette took over.

One of my best friends in baseball is 93-year-old Sam Mele, who briefly played for the Baltimore Orioles in 1954. He also played for the Washington Senators and ultimately managed the Minnesota Twins, including a trip to the 1965 World Series versus the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Mele eventually ended up back near his home in Quincy, Mass., about 30 miles away from Fenway Park. After being fired by the Twins, Mele was promised a lifetime job as a scout for the Red Sox by then-owner Tom Yawkey. That was a position he held from 1968-1997. 

It just so happens that starting in 1994, Mele's boss was Dan Duquette. I got to know Mele, because throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, he was in and out of Baltimore several times a summer. It got to be that I'd often drive him to or from the airport. 

Mele always told me anecdotes about how he would kid Dan Duquette about which barber he had gone to in order get the bowl cut this time. However, never once did Mele have anything but the utmost respect for Dan Duquette's knowledge of the game and passion for putting a winning product on the field.

Around 1997, Dan Duquette fired Mele as a scout. I was always ticked off about that, because I thought age was no impediment for a good baseball man, and selfishly, because I knew I'd get few opportunities to have the visits with Mele that I had grown to enjoy so much.

As small a world as baseball is, Dan Duquette, much to my initial chagrin, was named the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations in November 2011, after an almost unheard of nine years away from baseball.

As much as I held a grudge against this man out of my respect for Mele, I couldn't help but see something noble in the way Dan Duquette jumped back into the fray in Baltimore.

When Dan Duquette came to Baltimore, he was 55, and he lived up to the remarkable boy-genius reputation he had in my eyes since his days as an assistant general manager, then general manager in Montreal and finally as the general manager in Boston.

Up until the past year or so, Mele and I would call each other about every couple months. When Dan Duquette was hired by the Orioles, Mele was no longer upset about his firing. It was almost as if Mele lived vicariously through the success Dan Duquette was having in Baltimore.

Late last September, Mele asked me to ask Dan Duquette to call him, so I did. I was never sure whether Duquette made that call. In my mind, I sure hoped he did.

But one thing is for certain, Mele is a fan of the job Dan Duquette has done in Baltimore, especially since he came in after 14 straight losing seasons.

This season was not Dan Duquette's finest hour. But, from this point of view, I think it would be preposterous not to allow Dan Duquette to continue the job he started in November 2011.

Issue 213: September 2015