O's, Duquette make a deal

New VP for baseball operations signed for 3 years

Flanagan: `It's not a co-GM situation'

Baseball

October 21, 2005|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

Jim Duquette was hired yesterday as Orioles vice president for baseball operations to assist executive vice president Mike Flanagan. He will help Flanagan and the rest of the front office with contract negotiations, salary arbitration and personnel decisions.

That's something the Orioles want to make clear.

"It's not a co-GM situation," Flanagan said.

Still, the addition of Duquette, a well-respected executive with general manager's experience, prompted the obvious questions about the structure of the Orioles' new-look front office.

Club officials want everyone to know that they haven't returned to the two-headed decision-making tandem that was in place until last week, when former executive vice president Jim Beattie was not retained and Flanagan was promoted.

"That perception [of two GMs] is inaccurate, but that isn't to diminish the important role that Jim Duquette will play for the Orioles," said team owner Peter G. Angelos. "Mike Flanagan is in charge of the Orioles' front office and will be energetically and ably supported in that role by Jim Duquette."

Duquette, 39, who served as the New York Mets' interim general manager and then general manager from June 2003 through October 2004 before becoming a senior vice president of baseball operations under Omar Minaya, sounds fine with that reality.

In a conference call with local reporters, he talked about what a great opportunity it is to have a chance to help the Orioles break from eight straight losing seasons. He talked about the team's potential, even mentioning that one general manager he talked to from another organization referred to the Orioles as a "sleeping giant."

"I view it as a step up," said Duquette, who signed a three-year contract. "If I thought it was a lateral move, I wouldn't be coming down here. I feel I have authority, more responsibility, more decision-making responsibility.

"Mike and I have spent several days together. We are going to work really hard to try to turn the organization around. I think it is going to be a very good fit."

Duquette, who will report directly to Flanagan, has experience in rebuilding projects. When the Mets fired general manager Steve Phillips in June 2003, Duquette received the interim title and was asked by ownership to start slashing the Mets' $117 million payroll.

He dumped the overpriced and underperforming trio of Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz and Armando Benitez, but those moves were ultimately forgotten the next season, when he traded top pitching prospect Scott Kazmir to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for pitcher Victor Zambrano. The trade was reportedly encouraged by ownership and Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson. Kazmir is one of the American League's top young pitchers, while Zambrano has given the Mets little other than inconsistency.

Duquette shed the interim label before the 2004 season, but the three-year contract he signed guaranteed him only one season as GM. That's all he got as the Mets hired Minaya in September 2004.

"His attention to detail, and wide expansive knowledge of the industry was very impressive," Flanagan said.

Duquette also came away from his two interviews impressed with the direction of the franchise.

"I think the Orioles are ahead of the curve," he said. "They have some very good young talent, especially in pitching. They've done a terrific job in player development and scouting. I don't think they are far away. It's just a matter of making some key decisions."

The Orioles will also announce the hire of former Tampa Bay executive Scott Proefrock in the coming days, according to team and industry sources. He will likely assume a similar role to the one occupied by Ed Kenney, the former director of baseball administration, who will not return.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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