On the Orioles agreeing to terms w. Duquette

By now, you’ve heard the news: the Orioles have agreed to hire former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette as their new GM. Duquette, who will take the position vacated by president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, is expected to be made official very soon. (You can read all about his background and the events leading up to the Orioles’ decision here.)

But what about the actual hire? Good move or bad? The sign of a turnaround or another few years of languishing in the American League East basement? It’s impossible to say at this point. Duquette comes with plenty of detractors. But so did manager Buck Showalter when he came to Baltimore. I’m not saying either guy is perfect, but I am saying you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the game who doesn’t have an opinion –good or bad — about any high-ranking front official in baseball.

So, why did the Orioles decide on Duquette? I wasn’t in the interview room, but here’s my take on how the 53-year-old emerged as the Orioles’ choice.

*His background in scouting and player development. The Orioles desperately need someone to help fix a system that has struggled to produce Major League-ready players, particularly pitchers, despite an advantageous position in the Draft ever year. What Duquette did in Montreal, and to a lesser degree with Boston, certainly bolstered his stock.

*International talent. The Orioles are lagging behind in this category, and by several accounts Duquette has a wealth of contacts in Latin American and Asia. It’s time to start exploring.

*His experience in the AL East. Duquette knows what it’s like to compete in baseball’s toughest division. He also knows what comes with the gig, having dealt with the spotlight in Boston.

*His passion and competitive nature. Duquette made it no secret in his interviews that beating the Red Sox and Yankees is high on his list. Don’t think for a second that kind of talk doesn’t shoot you right up the proverbial ladder.

Now, some potential drawbacks.

*Duquette’s recent history. Maybe he is as well plugged in as initial reports suggest. But, still, being out of the game since 2002 has to be seen as a major concern. Who does he bring with him to the front office? Does he have enough pull (and backing) to lure a scouting director, revamp minor league operations and international efforts?

*He wasn’t on the Orioles’ radar  initially, and didn’t even interview until Friday, after the job had been turned down by Tony LaCava. Fighting off the fact that he wasn’t the organization’s top choice, and working with the rumblings the he may still be handcuffed internally to some degree, will always be a con.

*His passion and competitive nature.  How will that work in tandem with manager Buck Showalter? If the Orioles are going to succeed, the relationship between Duquette and Showalter must be a positive one.  MacPhail and Showalter, for all of their differences to the outside eye, were an excellent pairing. It’s no secret Showalter has the ear of principal owner Peter Angelos. Will that put a strain on his relationship with Duquette down the road?

I give credit to the Orioles for making a risky hire. For an organization that gets criticized for not taking chances, offering the job to Duquette –instead of a more reserved “yes-man — could be exactly what this organization needs. Duquette laid the groundwork in Boston, before being dimissed in ’02, with a lot of his players coming up big in the Red Sox ’04 World Series title. Whether he can fix things in Baltimore remains to be seen.

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