Connect dots: Duquette to Pittsburgh?

The Baltimore Sun

With Kevin McClatchy stepping down as the Pittsburgh Pirates' chief executive officer at the end of the season, it's unclear whether majority owner Robert Nutting will be looking for a baseball man or a business expert to run the much-maligned Bucs.

If he's searching for someone within the game, though, Orioles vice president Jim Duquette seems like a logical candidate to at least get a phone call.

There is an obvious connection between Nutting, president of a West Virginia-based newspaper company, and Duquette. Though they weren't there at the same time, they graduated from the same small liberal arts school, Williams College. Nutting, a 1983 Williams alumnus, and Duquette, 1988, were both history majors.

Duquette, 41, joined the Orioles in October 2005 and is signed through 2008. But when Andy MacPhail was hired to be club president last month, Duquette dropped to No. 3 in the baseball operations hierarchy behind MacPhail and executive vice president Mike Flanagan.

MacPhail will now have the call on all baseball decisions, but he said Duquette's and Flanagan's jobs are safe. Duquette encountered a similar situation with the New York Mets in 2004, when he was edged aside by Omar Minaya. Within 13 months, he left for Baltimore.

Leading the Pirates, a cash-strapped club headed toward its 15th consecutive losing season, would be a significant challenge. And Duquette has reiterated that he's content with the Orioles.

"It'd be flattering to be considered," Duquette said, "but hopefully I am part of the changing things that are going on around here."

Interestingly, Nutting isn't the only team owner with a degree from Williams. The New York Yankees' George Steinbrenner graduated from the college in 1952. And the Boss' executives aren't exactly flush with job security, either. So it might make sense for Duquette to keep paying his Williams alumni dues for a while.

Hunter's big dreams

With Vernon Wells having signed an extension with the Toronto Blue Jays and Ichiro Suzuki doing the same with the Seattle Mariners, the ballyhooed free-agent center fielder class of 2008 is thinning.

The two biggest names remaining are the Atlanta Braves' Andruw Jones and the Minnesota Twins' Torii Hunter. While Jones is having his worst offensive season, Hunter, an All-Star, was batting .301 with 19 homers and 25 doubles at the break. He has been with the Twins his entire career and said it's difficult to think about leaving.

"It's the worst feeling in the world. Sixteen years in this organization, I got the chance to know everybody," Hunter said. "[But] whatever happens, I am ready for it because I am at peace with it, but it is still tough."

He said he is a humble guy who enjoys the small-town feel of Minneapolis, but "I also see the New York Yankees on TV every night. A lot of people know who Johnny Damon is, and nobody knows who Torii Hunter is."

He mentioned several big-market places he has thought about, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. The word "Baltimore" never crossed his lips.

Key time for Patterson

Super agent Scott Boras said he still thinks there will be plenty of center field jobs to go around this offseason.

"This is a class where when anybody leaves, somebody has to replace them, and there isn't anybody coming up from the minor leagues, except for maybe a few situations, that could replace [the incumbents]," said Boras, who represents Jones and the Orioles' Corey Patterson. "So there is going to be a lot of musical chairs in center field."

He thinks Patterson, who has struggled offensively but has excelled defensively, could remain an Oriole, but admits, "This second half is important to him."

Quote of the Week

"Tejada was breathing down my neck for a minute, so I had him taken care of."

-- Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr., joking last week about his record of 2,632 consecutive games played and how its most recent challenger, current Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, had to stop at 1,152 because of an injured wrist.

Quick hits

Of the 58 players who signed multi-year deals last offseason, only four made the All-Star Game: the Chicago Cubs' Alfonso Soriano, Houston's Carlos Lee, Kansas City's Gil Meche and Boston's Hideki Okajima. ... The Orioles have had only one All-Star in six of the past seven years.

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