The Orioles appear to be closing in on their next general manager after an excruciating, weeks-long saga that included one official rejection and several candidates' backing out of the process.
Club decision-makers planned to meet Saturday night for the second time in two days with Dan Duquette, the former Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos general manager. It's expected that he will be offered the club's top executive spot, especially after he was called back after leaving Baltimore on Friday evening.
One source said Duquette, who has been out of a major league job since being fired by the Red Sox in 2002, was extremely eager to return to the big leagues and was primed to take the position if offered.
Duquette, 53, interviewed Friday with the selection committee, which included manager Buck Showalter, team general counsel H. Russell Smouse and Lou Angelos, son of Orioles managing partner Peter Angelos.
Peter Angelos has had little or no interaction with those who have interviewed for the job in their first meeting; however, Angelos did have a sit-down with Toronto Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava as part of a second interview Monday. LaCava was offered the job the next day and turned it down.
The Orioles have interviewed six candidates for the position vacated by president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail in October. Three took themselves out of the running for various reasons, leaving Orioles player-development director John Stockstill, Philadelphia Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock and Duquette as the remaining candidates.
The Orioles also asked for and were granted permission to talk to New York Yankees vice president and scouting director Damon Oppenheimer but had not set up a meeting with him as of Saturday evening — further indication that they were nearing an agreement with Duquette.
The club sought permission to interview several other highly respected officials from other organizations but was denied by either the team or the individual — creating discussion within baseball circles about the questionable appeal of the Orioles' top job.
Ultimately, they might have found a fit with the only candidate who is not employed by another team — in fact, one who hasn't been associated with the majors in nine years. At one time, however, Duquette was considered one of the shrewdest executives in baseball.
Duquette began his career as a scouting assistant in Milwaukee under former Orioles general manager Harry Dalton. Duquette worked his way up to the Expos' GM job from 1991 to 1994, then took the same post with the big-market Red Sox for eight years.
He had success with both franchises and is credited with making many of the moves that helped the Red Sox win two World Series titles after he was dismissed. He twice traded for star pitcher Pedro Martinez (once while with Montreal) and consummated one of the most lopsided deals in Red Sox history when he sent reliever Heathcliff Slocumb to the Seattle Mariners for catcher Jason Varitek and starting pitcher Derek Lowe.
For all his successes, he also demonstrated a brashness that led to verbal wars with some underlings and the Boston media and created a reputation within the game as a poor communicator. Still, it was somewhat surprising that someone with his resume hadn't returned to major league baseball. Instead, he worked with minor league teams, began an upstart baseball league and created the Dan Duquette Sports Academy for kids in Hinsdale, Mass.
Duquette was also interviewed this offseason by the Los Angeles Angels, who ultimately hired Jerry Dipoto, the first candidate the Orioles brought in last month.
If he were hired, Duquette would become the second member of his extended family to hold an executive position with the Orioles. His cousin, Jim, was the team's vice president from 2005 to 2007.
Duquette — or any GM — has a difficult task ahead of him with a team that hasn't had a winning record in 14 years, is buried in the American League East and has one of the more barren farm systems in baseball.
It's expected that the new executive will be able to bring in several employees to fill holes in scouting and development, including the amateur scouting director spot that became vacant when Joe Jordan left for the Phillies after the regular season ended.
If he gets the job, it'll be interesting to see whom Duquette taps for those spots, considering his lengthy absence from the game. One industry source said, "Make no mistake, he still knows plenty of good people."
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