Dan Duquette is going to be good for the Baltimore Orioles. Sure, we all laughed when everyone who has been in baseball this century turned down the opportunity to serve as the most visible private in Peter Angelos’s imbecile army, leaving the owner with no choice but to hire Duquette, a man who had been out of baseball practically since the last century. The former general manager of the Expos and Red Sox had not commanded a front office since ending an eight-year stay in Boston in 2001. His version of the Sox had reached the playoffs three times but had won only one division title and, of course, failed to snap "The Curse". This guy was going to be the innovative, creative executive that would free the Orioles from years of ignominy?

I can’t tell you the answer to that question. What I can tell you is that the qualities that made Duquette a poor fit for Boston will make him helpful to the Orioles.

When we began work on the Boston Red Sox book that eventually became Mind Game, we internally referred to our work as “The Rudy Pemberton Project.” “How is Rudy going?” people would ask me each day. “Rudy Pemberton” was a reference to one of Duquette’s many projects. Perhaps because the Yawkey Trust was a very different kind of boss, with far shallower pockets, than John Henry was for Theo Epstein, or maybe because he just loved bargain-shopping, Duquette was seemingly obsessed with turning over rocks to find secret stars. Rather than compete with the Yankees for the big names, he’d try to fill out his roster by attempting Hail Mary passes on players like Pemberton, Morgan Burkhart, Izzy Alcantara, Tuffy Rhodes, Dwayne Hosey, Calvin Pickering, and, on the pitching side, Robinson Checo.

Not all of Duquette’s scrap drives were failures. Sorting through other teams’ refuse led him to Brian Daubach, Rich Garces, Troy O’Leary, Matt Stairs (who didn’t catch on in Boston), Tim Wakefield, and Reggie Jefferson. He also made two of the all-time great trades, getting Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek from Seattle for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb, and taking Pedro Martinez from the hapless Expos for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas—the former a product of the draft, the latter a gift from the Yankees in return for 28 games of a 34-year-old Mike Stanley.

The problem with this strategy when you’re running the Boston Red Sox is that you’re not going to beat the Yankees this way. It’s great to be creative, and you might somehow beat the 2011 Cardinals in a division race with this approach, but you’re not going to beat the 1998 Yankees this way. Duquette’s taste in established players wasn’t as wide-ranging as it was with journeymen. He didn’t get along with Mo Vaughn or Roger Clemens and gave out regrettable contracts to players such as Dante Bichette, Mike Lansing, Steve Avery, Jose Offerman, and Tony Clark.

Simultaneously, the farm system under Duquette had been quiet. Sure, drafts overseen by him resulted in Nomar Garciaparra, Pavano, Justin Duchscherer (dealt for Doug Mirabelli), Shea Hillenbrand, David Eckstein (Duquette put him on waivers, thus launching the infielder’s career with the Angels), Adam Everett (traded for Carl Everett), Mike Maroth (traded for Bryce Florie), and Lew Ford (traded for Hector Carrasco). Pre-Duquette drafts also produced Scott Hatteberg and Trot Nixon. It wasn’t enough, and Duquette’s restlessness didn’t help matters. If you pick a Duquette-Red Sox lineup based on the leading players at each position, you get something of a mess. Keep in mind, these games totals are out of a possible 1231 games:





Scott Hatteberg



Mo Vaughn



Jose Offerman



John Valentin



Nomar Garciaparra



Troy O’Leary



Darren Lewis



Trot Nixon



Mike Stanley



Tim Wakefield



Pedro Martinez



Aaron Sele



Roger Clemens



Derek Lowe


Tim Naehring actually played the most games at third. Valentin played the second-most games at both shortstop and third and the second-most games under Duquette overall, so he gets listed here. Jeff Frye was close behind Offerman at second, Varitek close behind Hatteberg at catcher. Reggie Jefferson actually had more games at DH than did Mike Stanley, but Stanley played more games overall.

Did I mention that Duquette also had a bad relationship with the press? And yet, if he maintains his approach, he’s going to help the Orioles. They need a dumpster-diver. This is an organization that has lately developed something resembling pitching, or at least human beings who could at some point be effective pitchers. Position players have remained mostly out of reach. Brandon Snyder, anyone? Billy Rowell? Maybe Matt Wieters builds on his breakthrough season (he’s still not a star, kids!) and Adam Jones finds consistency. Perhaps J.J. Hardy pops another 30 home runs next year, or Nick Markakis remembers where his power went. Even if all those things happen, they still need more.

The Orioles aren’t competing with the Yankees; they’re competing with themselves. They need to get sorted at a basic level to reach basic, sustained competency before they can think about that. They can use a Rudy Pemberton more than any team on Earth. Duquette made his first gesture in this direction earlier this month when he selected Cubs infielder Ryan Flaherty in the Rule 5 draft. Called the 16th-best prospect in the Cubs organization this offseason by Kevin Goldstein, Flaherty is a left-handed hitter who carries .278/.346/.462 rates in the minors. Turning 25 this season, he’s a bit on the old side to be a true prospect, and he has no defensive home, profiling as a firstsecondthirdleftfielder. In short, he’s a Pemberton.

Maybe Flaherty sticks, maybe he doesn’t, but anyone who might prevent another attempt to ring Josh Bell can’t be all bad. F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said that there are no second acts in American lives. He was right when it came to his own alcohol-addled existence, but wrong about so many others. Some people are doomed to never grow, to never learn from their mistakes. Others who life has knocked down will analyze what went wrong and resolve never to be defeated in the same way again. They attack again, even if many years later, and thrive. I don’t know which group Duquette belongs to, or what he learned during his long exile, but for the Orioles’ sake let’s hope that he didn’t forget that the big metal container in the parking lot isn’t for trash, but for treasure.

Thank you for reading

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If I recall correctly (let me know BP readers), Duquette left with a Red Sox core in place that would take the Yankees to Game seven in the ALCS in 2003 and win the WS in 2004. The big additions made by Theo Epstein prior to 2003 were David Ortiz, who turned out to be huge, but was signed after he was non-tendered by the Twinkies. Ortiz wasn't a stroke of brilliance so much a insurance and roster filler; he only got a regular DH job with those Sox when another Epstein signee for bigger bucks as DH that winter, Jeremy Giambi, bombed (in the bad sense) out. Dumpster dive Bill Mueller signeee turned into a near star at 3b.

That 2003 team would have gone to the WS but for some inexplicable managing by Grady Little, who had in his possession a red-hot bullpen he chose to ignore. Epstein would have credit for one more scalp, but that team would have been Duquette's plus some of those "dumpster dive" picks that panned gold. Every team "dumpster dives" to a greater or lesser extent. Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia anyone?

Duquette might deserve a little more credit than he receives for his stint in Boston. Prickly with the Press? Yes. Overall success at turning a franchise? Yes. Didn't quite getthere? Yes. His fault? ???
Duquette might deserve more credit, but considering that the Orioles have a good chunk of young talent, I'm not sure a "dumpster diving" GM is the right person for that organization either.
They have a good chunk of young talent? Outside of Adam Jones and maybe Matt Wieters, it's safe to say all of their regulars are at or near their peak. Their pitching leaves a bit more to hope and dream on, and you have a bit in the farm (Machado), but they're still a distant fifth in the East to me, given the strength of Blue Jays farm and the three established teams ahead of them.
Well they're still a distant fifth since the other teams in the AL East have both young talent and major league talent. The point I was trying to make was that a dumpster diving GM wouldn't help them as much as, say, a GM focused on building a kick arse farm system and/or cultivating young talent.
Ummm, Curt Schilling and Kieth Foulke would like their due.
If memory serves, Duquette traded for Mike Lansing's contract; he didn't sign Lansing himself. Lansing was a throw-in to a deal to get the immortal Rolando Arrojo (sort of like Mike Lowell was a throw-in in the Josh Beckett deal, with notably less successful results).
This is the exact kind of baseball writing (in December) that no one but BP has. Excellent.