By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun
9:00 PM EST, November 7, 2011
When the Orioles agreed to a three-year contract Sunday with Dan Duquette to be the club's executive vice president, they hired a candidate with more than a decade of experience as a general manager and a track of record of getting teams on the right path.
The reality, however, is that the floundering Orioles also targeted a guy who hasn't been part of Major League Baseball since he was fired by the Red Sox in March 2002 — a veritable lifetime in the ever-rotating circles of baseball.
"I don't think it is going to be a huge factor," said Jim Duquette, the former Orioles vice president and Duquette's cousin. "It is something, early on, he'll have to get up to speed on some things. But it's not like this guy has been in Siberia."
Dan Duquette, who will be introduced at an 11 a.m. Camden Yards news conference Tuesday, has kept busy since he was ousted by a change in regime in Boston. He created a sports camp in his name for kids, owned and operated a collegiate-level summer team, developed the short-lived Israel Baseball League and acted in community theater. He just didn't have a big league job.
"Guys are staying in the game even if they are not employed in the game these days. You see guys get out of it, maybe not for as long as you are talking about with Dan, but they maintain some connection with people," said Dave Jauss, the former Orioles coach and current Pittsburgh Pirates scout who was an Amherst College teammate and fraternity brother of Duquette's.
"You don't get that far away from baseball, even if you dabble in other things to make a living," Jauss said. "You don't get that far away, and he didn't."
But for whatever reason — the theories range from being blackballed by fellow general managers whom he alienated to a hiring trend within the industry of young statistics-based GMs to his own personal priorities — Duquette didn't re-join the MLB fraternity for nearly a decade.
It's possible, of course, that the edge he exhibited while helping turn around the Montreal Expos (1991-94) and the Red Sox (1994-2002) is gone.
"The reasons he had so much success at his two stops are the same reasons why the learning curve will be so short for him. Part of it is he'll have a fresh look on certain things," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who was part of the club's interviewing committee. "You only get away from baseball if you want to. And I think Dan and I share a lot of things in common, quite frankly."
Showalter was fired by the Texas Rangers after the 2006 season and didn't manage again until the Orioles hired him in August 2010. In each of his three managerial stints — the New York Yankees, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Rangers — the man who followed Showalter on the bench got to the World Series. The Yankees and Diamondbacks won championships the very next year after Showalter was dismissed.
In comparison, the Red Sox won the 2004 and 2007 World Series with clubs that Duquette at least partially built.
"A lot of that Boston team was Dan Duquette," Showalter said. "That's not something he would say, and that's not to say there weren't others, too, but a lot of the trappings, a lot of things that were done there were put in place by Dan."
How long has it been since Duquette's name was prominent in baseball circles?
Consider that when he left the Red Sox: Boston was still lamenting the Curse of the Bambino; Rafael Palmeiro had yet to wag his finger on Capitol Hill; and Albert Pujols had just completed his rookie year.
"I think there's a level of change you do have to overcome, though the same skills apply and the evaluation skills will still be there," said Duquette's cousin, Jim, who is now a broadcaster for Sirius/XM. "Now it's a matter of comparing them to a different group of players than the ones that have come and gone and graduated. Obviously he'll be relying heavily on Buck. … But that's why hiring good people is going to be key."
This is not the first time the Orioles have chosen a former GM who hadn't been associated with Major League Baseball for several years. In 1975, they hired Hank Peters, who had been the Kansas City Athletics general manager in 1965. He then spent five years as player personnel director with the Cleveland Indians before working for four years as the president of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, essentially directing the minor leagues.
Peters got back into the majors with the Orioles and stayed nearly 14 years, the longest GM tenure in franchise history. Peters, now 87 and retired, said he faced a bit of a learning curve, but said it took him "about two weeks" to get back into the rhythm of directing a big league team.
"Naturally, when you've been away from something for a period of time, there are always subtle changes and sometimes dramatic changes in philosophy and even the rules of baseball," said Peters, who was in charge of the Orioles during their last two World Series appearances in 1979 and 1983. "So there are some things that you need to get up to tune with."
In his fifth month on the job in 1976, Peters traded for future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. Three months later, Peters made one of the greatest deals in Orioles' history, a 10-player trade with the New York Yankees that brought future stalwarts Rick Dempsey, Scott McGregor and Tippy Martinez to Baltimore.
So the layoff didn't affect Peters' nerve or evaluation skills. But his situation was a little different than Duquette's, Peters said, because while with the NAPBL he was in constant contact with scouts and baseball personnel. And he was only away from a major-league club for four years.
"I think it is going to be different initially because he has been away totally from professional baseball for nine years and that's a pretty big gap in time," Peters said. "But I think it all depends on how he surrounds himself with experienced people as he builds things himself.
"Hopefully, those people can contribute considerably with both the needs of the Orioles as well as Dan's personal needs to do the job."
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