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Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette and the Orioles need to publicly get on the same page.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette and the Orioles need to publicly get on the same page. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

No matter what you think about the uncertainty regarding Dan Duquette's status in the Orioles front office, there is one thing that is beyond dispute.

The simmering controversy — and the appearance of both conflict of interest and organizational dysfunction that has come with it — is the last thing the Orioles needed coming off their most successful season in 17 years.

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Duquette is still the Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations and owner Peter Angelos insists that's not going to change, but the fact that we've been pondering the possibility of Duquette becoming the president of the Toronto Blue Jays for a big chunk of the offseason is, at the very least, a troubling distraction at a time when the team seems to be losing competitive ground to some of its American League East rivals.

Angelos tried to settle the matter with his very definitive comments on the subject Wednesday, but it's going to take more than that to remove all doubt about the future makeup of the Orioles front office. Duquette, meanwhile, has declined numerous requests for comment since the issue bubbled up again this week, but several sources have indicated that The Sporting News' Major League Baseball Executive of the Year does covet the top executive job in the Blue Jays organization.

Otherwise, it would require only a short statement to clear all this up.

This situation has been percolating since early December and it is not a healthy one. The team and Duquette need to either get back on the same page in a very public way or they need to figure a way out of this mess while there's still time for the Orioles to reorganize the front office and get some more work done on the roster before the start of spring training.

If that means Angelos eventually has to do an about-face and let Duquette out of his long-term contract, so be it, but Angelos is no villain here. He signed both Duquette and manager Buck Showalter to lengthy extensions to show appreciation for their roles in the club's renaissance and to create unprecedented organizational stability. Now, that stability is in question at a very inconvenient time.

Duquette's positive impact on the franchise is indisputable and is a big reason why the Blue Jays are pursuing him, but Angelos can be forgiven for expecting a little more public loyalty after giving Duquette the opportunity three years ago to return to the upper echelon of baseball management after nearly a decade in major league exile.

Trouble is, the situation already has reached the point where there is the appearance of a conflict of interest, since Duquette is supposed to be working to improve the Orioles at the same time he might rather be doing that for one of their division rivals.

No one is questioning Duquette's integrity, but it doesn't help public perception that the Orioles have done so little to upgrade their roster this offseason.

In any other year, that would just be business as usual for Duquette, who has generally made his most significant moves in the final weeks leading up to spring training or — in the case of Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez last year — well after the spring reporting date.

The Orioles have made more headlines with their offseason departures, which include Cruz, elite setup man Andrew Miller and longest-tenured Oriole Nick Markakis.

The smart money says Duquette isn't going anywhere, at least not this season. Angelos is a tough customer who isn't known for drawing meaningless lines in the sand. He is under no obligation to let Duquette out of that contract and Duquette's long-term interests would not be well-served by publicly trying to force his hand.

He has to know that history has proven there's little upside to engaging in a war of wills with Angelos, who does not easily back down from a fight and is proving that again with the nasty television rights dispute that is ongoing with Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals.

Which, of course, makes this a very tricky situation that isn't well-served by Duquette's silence, either. It leaves the impression that he is either trying to manipulate the situation behind the scenes or waiting for the Orioles to blink.

If he's staying, there needs to be a clear, unified statement by Duquette and Orioles ownership that the matter is closed and will remain so at least until the end of the 2015 season. There doesn't appear to be doubt inside the organization that Duquette can still be an effective baseball operations chief, but it could become an uncomfortable situation.

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If that's not acceptable to both sides, then Angelos needs to allow negotiations to proceed with the Blue Jays on a suitable compensation package, though there is scant precedent for a truly-significant return in situations like this one.

There is one other option. The Orioles could do some internal realignment in the front office and name Duquette president of the team, nominally matching the Blue Jays promotion. But that seems unlikely — and perhaps unacceptable to Duquette — because it wouldn't really change the balance of power inside the organization.

There doesn't appear to be any perfect solution on the horizon, so somebody is going to have to settle for an imperfect one.

This has gone on long enough.

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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