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In a year where it seems like every team has been hunting for a general manager, dozens of names have been tossed about: former GMs, assistant GMs ready to take over for their current team or accept a promotion with another team, and long-rumored potential candidates like Kim Ng. One name that didn’t get much attention until he emerged as the front-runner in Baltimore: former Red Sox General Manager Dan Duquette. After nearly a decade away from a management job in Major League Baseball, Duquette has returned to rebuild a Red Sox rival in a tough AL East.
Dan Duquette was the last GM of the Yawkey ownership and failed to end the championship drought while the team was still owned by the family. During the eight seasons between 1994 when he won the job and 2002 when he was fired, Duquette’s teams went 656-574, reaching the playoffs three times and taking home one AL East division title. Duquette drafted Nomar Garciaparra and Kevin Youkilis, although the latter didn’t reach the majors during Duquette’s time in Boston. He acquired Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe in trades. He brought Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon to Boston, and for what it’s worth, eventually freed the team of clubhouse cancer and dinosaur denier Carl Everett. These moves built the foundation that the Red Sox would transform into some of the greatest teams to take the field under John Henry’s ownership.
On the other hand, Duquette draftee Justin Duchscherer was traded for backup catcher Doug Mirabelli and plucky shortstop David Eckstein was lost on waivers to the Angels. Duquette also failed to sign draft pick Mark Teixeira, a move which could have altered the fortunes of the early 2000’s Red Sox tremendously.
Overall his tenure in Boston was nothing to sneeze at, and maybe, had the Yankees not gone on such an amazing run at the end of the last century, one of Duquette’s teams could have gotten lucky and made a run at a World Series. With Pedro and Nomar in their primes, a few breaks in the Sox favor could have changed history.
However, the Red Sox string of second place finishes and their inability to make it past the ALCS during Duquette’s reign left the fans wanting more. The bad taste surrounding Duquette’s time in Boston would be forever tied to one moment in 1996 when the GM said these words: “The Red Sox and our fans were fortunate to see Roger Clemens play in his prime and we had hoped to keep him in Boston during the twilight of his career.” The twilight of his career. Those words would sting Red Sox Nation while Clemens took his skills to Toronto, New York, and Houston, winning Cy Young awards along the way and made Duquette look foolish.
Today, we know that part of Clemens’ rejuvenation was fueled by performance enhancing drugs. While this may be of little consolation to Duquette, it at least partially validates his assessment of Clemens in the mid-90’s.
When John Henry’s ownership group completed their purchase of the Red Sox there was still a lot of work to be done before Henry could really make the team his own. In his behind the scenes book about the Red Sox, Feeding the Monster, Seth Mnookin describes the Duquette days as “needlessly combative.” Henry said the secrecy surrounding the team was worrisome and that under his control the Sox would be “committed to being open and having open lines of communication” in response to stories about minor league pitching coaches worrying about being fired if they spoke to the press. The money quote from a reporter Henry relayed to Mnookin: “Get out your broom and sweep out the Duke.” When Duquette reached the end of the road in Boston, he landed hard.
The aftermath for Dan Duquette was not as welcoming as the GM shuffle that has taken place this year. The former Red Sox and Expos executive found himself shut out of the exclusive network of Major League Baseball. In America. Duquette was part of a team that formed the Israel Baseball League. The league lasted just one season, 2007. However, Israel, denied a team for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, will be participating in the 2013 WBC. At the very least, the effort helped baseball gain traction in another country, while graduating several players to other professional baseball leagues.
Now that Duquette is back in the helm of a team, time will tell if the executive can rebuild a historic franchise. Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Matt Weiters form the core to build around. Uber-prospect Manny Machado looms on the horizon, and the O’s have a stable of pitching prospects who have struggled with injuries, ineffectiveness or both.
With a three-year contract in place, Duquette has his work set out for him, as the AL East is a tough division with the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays battling each other for playoff contention, and the Blue Jays are pretty good too. The next wave of prospects should arrive during Duquette’s tenure and if he can surround them with some excellent under-the-radar pickups while drafting well, the Orioles could make enough progress to keep him around long enough to see his team be competitive.
The ultimate wild card: the Orioles have money. Baltimore was in on the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes a few years ago and it wouldn’t be impossible to see them surface as a mystery team for Prince Fielder or even Albert Pujols. At the end of the day, Duquette may leave his mark on baseball as an Oriole, rather than a Red Sox.