Duquette introduced, ready to “get to work”
After more than nine years out of Major League Baseball, Dan Duquette was officially introduced Tuesday afternoon as the Baltimore Orioles’ executive vice president of baseball operations, bringing with him more than two decades experience and a new beacon of hope for an organization — with 14 consecutive losing seasons – in dire need of a turnaround.
“This is right up my alley, turning around a ballclub and building a farm and scouting system,” said Duquette who, after expressing his interest in the Orioles’ vacancy, met with the club’s decision makers for seven hours on Friday. “This is what I love to do. This is a great opportunity and I’m thankful for it and I’m ready to go to work.”
And while Duquette –who opened the 33-minute presser with tales of playing in his backyard and pretending to be famed Oriole Brooks Robinson — said the long layoff was something he would use as a strength, vowing in a half-joking manner to be “kinder and friendlier” than his previous stops, some rust was still evident. The 53-year-old, who was dismissed as the Boston Red Sox GM before the 2002 season, closed his lengthy opening statement by promising the crowd assembled that his goal was to fix the farm system, invest in international scouting and ultimately assemble a perennially-contending club: in Boston.
But if Duquette –who served as the Montreal Expos GM before spending the next eight seasons in Boston — can succeed where his predecessors have not, his initial blunder will be long forgotten. Long gone is the dynasty-caliber clubs, chock full of the Orioles’ greats Duquette and his brother emulated in their backyard of their Western Massachusetts home. Instead, Baltimore has made a living in the baseman of the American League East, struggling to attract top-tier talent and unable to step out of the shadows cast by baseball’s two biggest behemoths in Boston and New York.
“When you don’t have the resources that the top two clubs have, you have to work harder and you have to work smarter. You have to do a better job in scouting and player development,” said Duquette, who has an international plan that he plans on implementing immediately to help boost Baltimore’s much-maligned international efforts.
That background in scouting and player development –Duquette has extensive contacts in Latin America and Asia – were major pluses for a team with a subpar farm system. Baltimore’s scouting and player-development system has come under increasing scrutiny and the club has been unable to make any headway internationally, a key aspect of trying to succeed with a lower payroll in the AL East. Duquette said the changes, which he hopes to have in place by next month’s Winter Meetings, will be about the people he brings in and the expectation is the organization’s infrastructure will deal with several new hires and internal reassignments.
“I think anybody who doesn’t think he’s up to speed on the industry is sadly mistaken,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Duquette, who gave such an impressive initial interview in Baltimore that he immediately became the front-runner in the second round of the search, agreeing to terms just two days later.
“We picked everybody’s brain who came through here about what they thought of us and the club and everything, and I think Dan had a real grasp on where we are as an organization,” Showalter said. “[He] talked about the improvements and some of the things we did last year and how our record’s gotten better each year, but it’s time to increase the increments.”
Duquette served as farm director for the Expos from 1987-91 and their general manager from 1991-94, when he was hired to be Boston’s GM. He traded for pitcher Pedro Martinez twice, first when he was with Montreal and again when he was with Boston, and also acquired Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek for the Red Sox in a trade with the Mariners. As Red Sox GM, Duquette also signed Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon, and despite being dismissed under Boston’s new ownership, helped lay the groundwork for the club that won the World Series in 2004.
“I am pleased to welcome Dan Duquette to the Orioles organization,” principal owner Peter Angelos, who was not present Tuesday, said in a club-issued statement. “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. His record of success, extensive baseball operations leadership and strong scouting background give Dan the experience and skills essential for this position.”
Duquette assumes the role vacated by president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail last month, and he wasn’t shy on Tuesday in acknowledging the challenge that lies before him. When asked if the team needs a total rebuild, Duquette –who is the organization’s eighth top executive under Angelos – wasn’t in total agreement, but made it clear that the emphasis will be on stockpiling inventory in the system over signing big-name free agents.
“[There are] a lot of talent markets to field a competitive and winning team,” said Duquette, who signed a three-year contract. “We will be active in several of those markets. The Major League free agency market is probably the riskiest one right? I’m much more comfortable operating with less risk.”
Duquette is expected to work closely with Showalter, who places heavy value on scouting and player development, and the Orioles will now shift their attention toward solidifying their Major League coaching staff and Minor League operations. The club is in need of a scouting director, Minor League pitching coordinator, and a third base coach and bench coach for Showalter’s staff, the latter two which is expected to be announced within a week.
The cousin of former Orioles vice president of baseball operations Jim Duquette, Dan Duquette was the sixth candidate to interview, coming on the heels of Thursday’s meeting with Phillies assistant GM Scott Proefrock. Dodgers assistant GM DeJon Watson, Jerry Dipoto and O’s director of player development John Stockstill also interviewed. Watson took his name out of contention and Dipoto accepted the GM position with the Angels. Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava was offered the position initially, but declined.