November 2011

Orioles uniform changes to be unveiled tmrw

Orioles fans are encouraged to visit www.orioles.com,  Tuesday, November 15, at 9:30 a.m. ET for a special announcement. As part of the club’s continued efforts to enhance the Orioles brand, the changes to the 2012 uniforms will be unveiled at this time, exclusively on the team’s website.

Yes, the long-rumored return of the cartoon bird is true. But there are a few other surprises that haven’t leaked out yet, so I encourage you to check it out.

 

 

Happy Veterans Day!

With two of my three sisters active duty in the military, it goes without saying that my family is pretty big on supporting our troops. Keeping in that theme, I’ll be gone all weekend to run the Soldiers Marathon/Half Marathon in Columbus, Georgia on Saturday. I’ll be joined by one of my sisters (we’re both doing the half) who is stationed in nearby Fort Gordon, and she’s running in honor of fallen hero Pat Tillman.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I won’t be checking this blog or my Twitter feed very frequently until I return on Monday. New executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is no doubt still evaluating the Orioles’ current personnel and trying to make decisions on their roster. But I’m not sure (and you never are) how soon those decisions will start to come.

Any Orioles-related moves will be covered, as always, on Orioles.com by our wealth of capable reporters.  And (assuming I’m in one piece after the race) I’ll be back Tweeting, blogging, etc. on Monday afternoon.

Happy Veterans Day, everyone. And if you see (or know someone) who serves or has served our country, be sure to thank them. I can tell you from witnessing it happen while with my sisters those appreciative words makes a soldier’s day a little brighter.

Cheers,

Brittany

Orioles to honor Buck O’Neil Sunday in Sarasota

The Orioles will honor Negro Leagues pioneer Buck O’Neil in a ceremony at their Minor League facility, the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota, Fla., on Sunday, at 1:00 p.m. ET.

The date marks the 100th anniversary of O’Neil’s birth, and a plaque honoring O’Neil will also be unveiled and hung at the main entrance to the administrative building at the complex.

O’Neil, who spent a portion of his childhood in Sarasota, was a star first baseman and manager in the Negro Leagues. He also scouted and coached in the Major Leagues and worked  tirelessly to preserve and promote the history of the Negro Leagues until his death in October 2006.

Sunday’s ceremony marks a rededication of the Orioles’ Minors’ site, originally named in honor of O’Neil in 1995. Sarasota County Commissioner Carolyn Mason, District 1, and Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta, District 2, will read a proclamation issued by the Commission identifying November 13, 2011 as Buck O’Neil Day in Sarasota. Roy McBean a longtime friend of O’Neil and the namesake of the McBean Boys and Girls Club, will also be present for the event.

The club will also unveil a series of three O’Neil illustrated baseball cards, created by artist Gary Cieradkowski, that have been hung in the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex cafeteria and on the observation tower between the playing fields. Cieradkowski is an avid baseball fan who started a project to honor Negro Leagues players, who never had baseball cards of their own, with illustrated baseball cards featuring the player’s likeness and a narrative of his career.

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.

Duquette higlights

I’ll have full coverage up on Orioles.com, but here are a few highlights from Dan Duquette’s introductory press conference as executive vice president of baseball operations. (You can watch video here.)

After an opening statement –in which he referenced that he used to pretend to be Orioles great Brooks Robinson in the backyard with his brother, Duquette –who has been out of baseball since 2002 — showed his rust by calling Baltimore “Boston” and frequently using the term “your” when talking about the Orioles. The whole thing –with a question and answer session — lasted about 40 minutes and he appeared pretty nervous throughout.

I’ve got some quotes below, but there are a few things to take away from the presser. At least in my mind. First, he’s going to make it a top priority to fix the farm system, constantly referencing the importance of scouting and player development and mentioning that he has an international plan that he will implement here with Baltimore. Duquette needs a scouting director and Minor League pitching coordinator and he mentioned that he hopes to have all the changes, and possible reassignments, in the front office done by the Winter Meetings.  When asked how he’s going to fix things exactly, he said it will be reliant on the people he brings in. There’s no set number right now as to how many people Duquette will bring with him, but he mentioned getting around 280 emails after news broke that he was taking over.

It doesn’t sound like the Orioles are poised to make a big splash in the free agency market, with Duquette saying he prefers to “build up inventory”. He mentioned Baltimore’s young core of players as being a good foundation to build around, although there’s no set timetable in years or a specific catchprase (such as Andy MacPhail’s “buy the bats, grows the arms” ) that he used.
[on why he's the right guy for the job]

“This is right up my alley, turning around a ballclub and building a farm and scouting system. 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.”

[on competing in the AL East]

“That’s the challenge of the job. The way we’re gonna be competitive is we’re gonna bring in some players and build from the ground up.

It can be done. I learned in a small market, I applied my skills in a small market to put together a top quality team and also worked from a major market perpective. In some respects, if you just focus on strong player development program, which you have to do in a small market, you can put together a pretty darn good program to give to a good team year in and year out.”

[on player development/farm system]
“The team that has the best farm system is the team that competes year in year out, irrespective of your market size. It all starts with signing and developing and bringing them up to your team.

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.

I’m glad that I’m here. I can tell you that my strengths in building an organization and the work I did with the organizations I was with to make them into perennial contending teams and my experience in a small market and large market club is what distinguished me from other candidates.

This challenge is the kind of challenge that I looked for and that I successfully met in the two places I’ve been, in Montreal and Boston. I took over teams that were below .500 and I wouldn’t be here standing if I didn’t believe I could turn this franchise around and get it to a championship level.”

[on if this organization needs a total rebuild]

“You’ve got a core group of players here to build around along with the strength of your management team and I believe we’ll be able to find some players in terms of gaining depth for the pitching staff and the overall lineup. I believe the foundation is there.

All your great tradition, all your great Oriole teams, all the leadership that you had on those great teams of the 70s, we’re gonna put together those same fundamentals of player development, of sound scouting, to build a team that Orioles fans can be proud of.

I’m a builder, and when I evaluated this club and looked at the strengths of the organization, one of the things I was really impressed with was the caliber of your manager, Buck Showalter. He’s a tried and true tactician and a roll-up-your-sleeves baseball guy.

The value of pitching to a Major League team, I couldn’t overstate that to you today. If we’re gonna talk about where we’re gonna start in terms of building a contending team, it’s gonna be right there on the mound.”

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.

Duquette agrees to terms (updated)

The Orioles’ general manager search is finally over, as former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette agreed to terms Sunday afternoon to fill the position vacated by president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.

The news, first reported by ESPN’s Jim Bowden, was confirmed to MLB.com by multiple sources. Duquette is expected to be officially introduced in Baltimore at a press conference on Tuesday and the exact terms of his contract were not immediately known. A separate source close to negotiations said the two sides were close to finalizing the deal, and expected it to be done late Sunday night or Monday morning, at the latest.

The 53-year-old Duquette –who has been out of baseball since 2002 – was not formally offered the position until Sunday, which was the third meeting he had in regards to the position, although he had emerged as the favorite in the days leading up to that.

Duquette first interviewed Friday and flew back to Baltimore to meet with –among others – principal owner Peter Angelos on Saturday afternoon. He met with the Orioles’ brass again on Sunday morning, with the expectation being he would leave with the job.  The only other candidate who was believed to have met with the interview committee twice was Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava who was offered the position Tuesday, but declined.

Duquette served as farm director for the Expos from 1987-91 and was the general manager from then until ’94, when he was hired by the Red Sox. He traded for pitcher Pedro Martinez twice, in one of his most notable moves, and also acquired Derek Low and Jason Varitek in a trade. As  Boston’s GM, Duquette signed Manny Ramirex and Johnny Damon and –despite being dismissed under the Red Sox new ownership in 2002 — helped lay the groundwork for a club that won the World Series in ‘04.

After being dismissed by Boston, Duquette opened a sports academy for children in Hinsdale, Mass., where he has spent the majority of his time. He also interviewed for the Angels’ GM vacancy last month and had expressed an interest to get back into baseball’s front office to those close to him.

The Orioles were impressed with Duquette’s contacts and connections in the game, and his background in scouting and player development — as well as a heavy presence in Latin America and Asia — are major pluses for a farm system in dire straits. Baltimore’s scouting and player development system has come under increasing scrutiny and the club has been unable to keep pace in the international market, a key aspect of trying to succeed with a lower payroll in the American League East.

It is unknown who Duquette will bring with him to join Baltimore’s staff, although he will have a heavy say in finding a new scouting director, with Joe Jordan leaving for Philadelphia.  He is expected to work closely with manager Buck 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, Minor League operations and baseball’s free agency period, which started on Thursday.

The cousin of former Orioles GM 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 (who took his name out of contention), Jerry Dipoto (who took the Angels’ GM vacancy) and O’s director of player development John Stockstill also interviewed.

Sources: Duquette favorite, deal could be reached soon

The Orioles search for a new president of baseball operations could be over very soon. Former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette, who interviewed Friday in Baltimore, is headed back to meet with principal owner Peter Angelos Saturday afternoon and, according to multiple sources, the speculation that Duquette is the favorite to land the job vacated by Andy MacPhail is accurate.

One source said a deal has not been reached, and there is not a contract on the table, although that could change when Duquette  sits down with Angelos. The only other candidate who is believed to have met with the interview committee twice, and have a sitdown with the Orioles principal owner, was Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava, who was offered the position –but declined – on Tuesday.

The 53-year-old Duquette — who is currently out of baseball – 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 –who took his name out of contention – Jerry Dipoto (who took the Angels GM job) and Baltimore’s director of player development John Stockstill also interviewed.

Duquette served as farm director for the Montreal Expos from 1987-91 and served as GM after that until ’94, when he was hired by the Red Sox. After being dismissed under Boston’s new ownership in 2002, Duquette opened a sports academy for children in Hinsdale, Mass. He has more than 25 years of experience in baseball, and is the cousin of former Orioles GM Jim Duquette.

Despite being out of baseball for the last few years, the Orioles were impressed with Duquette’s contacts and connections still in the game, and his background in scouting and player development –as well as a heavy presence in Latin America and Asia—are major pluses for a farm system in dire straits. The Orioles scouting and player development system has come under increasing scrutiny and they’ve failed to keep pace in the international market, a key aspect of trying to succeed despite a lower payroll in the American League East.

There are currently no other interviews scheduled and the Orioles –who have been cautiously optimistic that they could reach a decision by Monday – appear to have finally reached the end of a process that took much longer than anyone expected. Duquette, who appears to be seriously interested in the job, also brings a fiery passion for the job and according to a source spoke candidly about what it would take to unset baseball’s two biggest powerhouses in Boston and New York.

The Orioles are currently the only team in Major League Baseball without a GM, and baseball’s free agency period began officially on Thursday, making a speedy –but not haste—hire all the more important.

ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian was the first to report that Duquette would be returning to Baltimore on Saturday.

Os GM job updated…

The Orioles’ list in replacing president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail continues to change daily, with former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette interviewing in Baltimore on Friday –as expected – and Boston executive Allard Baird and the Minnesota Twins vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff coming off the latest list.

Duquette, who had a lengthy interview with the Orioles’ front office according to an industry source, is the third candidate left standing in a process that has taken much longer than anyone anticipated. Baltimore’s request to interview Radcliff was reportedly denied by the Twins and Baird –who was given permission to pursue the opportunity—chose to remain with the Red Sox, becoming the latest executive to decline a chance to turn around a beleaguered Orioles team. The former Kansas City Royals GM, Baird is a big fan of O’s manager Buck Showalter, but chose to remain in Boston despite the Sox’s front office shakeup, which includes the departure of GM Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona.

Here is the statement Baird sent out via text: “I was honored that the Baltimore Orioles expressed interested in me for their GM position. The opportunity to possibly work side by side with Buck Showalter made this very attractive. At the end of the day it came down to my loyalty to the Red Sox [and GM]m Ben Cherington.”

With Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava declining the Orioles’ offer on Tuesday, Baltimore was forced to go back to the drawing board and bring in more candidates to go along with the two left standing from the first round: Dodgers assistant GM DeJon Watson and Baltimore’s director of player development, John Stockstill. Neither Watson nor Stockstill appeared likely to get the position, based on the club’s decision to open the search back up, and Watson withdrew his name from contention on Wednesday night.

The Orioles interviewed former executive, and current Phillies assistant GM Scott Proefrock on Thursday and they have contacted the New York Yankees in regards to scouting director Damon Oppenheimer. A separate source confirmed that the Yankees have granted permission for Oppenheimer to interview although –similar to Baird – there hasn’t been anything scheduled and he could opt to stay in his current role with New York.

The preference in the Orioles organization was to conduct several interviews this weekend and have a decision reached by Monday. But given the difficulty they’ve had luring in potential candidates, the process of bringing a qualified GM to Baltimore could take much longer than that. The Orioles are currently the only team in Major League Baseball without a GM, and baseball’s free agency period began officially on Thursday, making a speedy –but not haste—hire all the more important.

More GM notes (Updated)

Update 9:12 p.m. ET: The Orioles have requested, and been granted, permission to interview Red Sox executive Allard Baird. Baird is the former Royals GM who was one of Theo Epstein’s top advisors. Given Epstein’s departure for Chicago, Baird could be looking for a new opportunity and he’s familiar with working in a smaller market (ie budget) given his time in Kansas City. A longtime admirer of Showalter, Baird’s got the background in player development and scouting the Orioles crave for a future GM.

As of Thursday night, no formal interview has been scheduled. But things could change in a hurry.  Stay tuned.

****

So the Orioles interviewed  Phillies assistant GM Scott Proefrock this morning in Baltimore and  former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette is slated for Friday. They will bring in at least one or two more candidates this weekend and ideally would like to have made a decision and have this whole process over with by Monday.

So who is on the list?

They’re pretty high on the Yankees’ scouting director Damon Oppenheimer and are waiting back to hear on permission. Ditto from the Twins in regards to vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff. Those are two guys to watch for, and there could be another name or two brought in this weekend. Keep in mind manager Buck Showalter has Yankee ties, and another name rumored by a few others has been New York’s Billy Eppler.

Who can you cross off?

The Rays’ Andrew Friedman and Chicago’s Rick Hahn both turned down interview requests, which was to be expected. Other heavily rumored names you can cross off the list are the Rangers executives Thad Levine and A.J. Preller. I was told there’s some sort of freeze where the Orioles couldn’t even ask permission to talk to them until Nov. 15.

What about John Stockstill and De Jon Watson?

I’ve said it before, but both are long shots to get the gig. If the Orioles were that high on them before, they would have avoided this whole second round of interviews.

UPDATE: Watson has reportedly pulled his name out of contention. So the Orioles have just two candidates that have interviewed: Stockstill and Proefrock.

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