The Case for Dan Duquette

(Note: Posted this in the open thread already, but decided to give it its own space.)

If this Boston Herald article is to believed, the O’s made an offer to Duquette last night. If this is true, and they want to be ready for the start of business Monday, then an announcement will probably be forthcoming late morning. I suspect Duquette left the room last night with the deal he wanted, and told them he just wanted to "sleep on it." By waiting until 11 or 12, he doesn’t appear desperate. The O’s then call a presser for this afternoon.

Or maybe none of this happens. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he’s in place by the end of the day.

The more I read around the interwebz this morning, the more I like the Duquette choice.

There was always an appeal to having a 35-40-year old stathead running the show, but it’s not a shock that Angelos wouldn’t give up complete autonomy. So for a team that’s reeling as much as this one is, what’s the next best model to go after?

Answer: someone with enough experience and time in the game to confidently overhaul the baseball operations department. Someone who can restore functionality to a dysfunctional operation. And someone with the bona fides to push back at the owner when necessary. Duquette is only three years older than LaCava, but he has run two teams successfully. He’s probably a little more politiccally savvy. If he wants to do it a certain way, he has more cards to play with Angelos than LaCava, as someone who has never GM’d before, ever could have.

Or to put it a different way, let’s assume Tony LaCava was allowed to hire his own guys, but wouldn’t take the job because he couldn’t fire the Stockstills. As others have pointed out here, it’s a little ridiculous to think LaCava couldn’t have just given them busy work and conducted his operation around them. But he didn’t want to deal with the hassle—and yet a GM has to find ways to work with an owner, no matter how much of a troglodyte that owner is. If Duquette can find ways to appease PA and get what he needs in the end (and that’s a BIG if), then we may all be better off.

In the positive column, Duquette has a proven track record in terms of acquiring great players and making great trades. One of the Orioles’ major weaknesses, Latin America, is one of his best strengths. By all accounts, the reason he was cut loose in Beantown was his personality. The players found him arrogant and aloof, he clashed with Jimy Williams, he refused to talk to the media. But growing a little older and spending a decade away from the game he loves may have changed that. Plus, while he obviously didn’t respect Williams, it’s hard to imagine he’d take this job if he didn’t respect Showalter.

Whatever his detractors say, there is no question that he had a strong hand in building great teams, both in Boston and in Montreal. Some of the crucial players Epstein got for the Sox were obtained in part because of Duquette’s farm system.

So what’s the issue? The biggest gripes I hear are

  1. Nobody else wanted him, so why are we taking him?;
  2. He’s been away from the game too long (it’s passed him by); and
  3. Related to 2, he’s not enough of a SABR guy.

The first complaint is dubious. Nobody here knows all the reasons why Duquette hasn’t held an MLB job in 9 years, but the likelihood is that it was at least partially his own choice. I can find no evidence of him interviewing for any MLB job from 2002-2007. Think about that for a moment: his interpersonal skills notwithstanding, wouldn’t you think that some team would have at least interviewed him after his track record with the Expos and Sox? The fact that none did may well have been because he chose not to participate, not because he wasn’t asked. Perhaps he wanted to step away from the game for a while to de-stress. We know he ran the Israeli Baseball League, and that would have taken up at least 2-3 of the 9 years. Perhaps his time there whetted his appetite to return to baseball: just after the League folded in 2007, he applied for a CEO job with the Pirates. In any case, I don’t think our barometer should be, "only guys that other teams have liked in the past." Omar Minaya wanted to interview for this job, and I’m thrilled that he didn’t get the opportunity.

Regarding #s 2 and 3: That’s what you hire a staff for. We know for a fact that Duquette has valued SABR stats in the past. Assuming he gets to bring in 9 or 10 guys (or more), there’s no reason to think he won’t get a whole staff of people who have been in the game for the past decade andhave been using advanced stats. And that’s a very workable model: get a good CEO, let that CEO hire great lieutenants, and delegate, delegate, delegate.

Which means the crucial question is not whether an announcement happens today, but what announcements happen in the next few weeks as Duquette staffs up.

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