Duquette says he's up to challenge of turning around Orioles

New executive VP plans to 'build a perennial contending club' through farm and scouting systems

November 08, 2011|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

Standing alone at a podium in the sixth-floor conference room at Camden Yards on Tuesday morning, new Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette proclaimed why he is the right man for such a challenging — some might say perilous — job.

"I'm a builder," said Duquette, 53, who helped turn around the Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox franchises but hasn't been in major league baseball since being fired by the Red Sox in 2002.

"This is right up my alley, frankly — turning around a ballclub and building a farm and scouting system. This is what I love to do," Duquette said. "This is a great opportunity. I'm thankful for it. I'm ready to go to work."

In a 30-minute conference, Duquette waxed poetic about the Orioles' past, his connections to people who created the Oriole Way and said he would emulate the great Orioles teams of the 1960s while playing Wiffle Ball in his backyard in Western Massachusetts.

Duquette also misspoke in a major way once during his opening statement — talking about his goals to "build a perennial contending club here in Boston."

Inadvertently, he highlighted the uphill battle facing his new club, one that has lost for 14 consecutive seasons and has been in the interminable shadow of American League East behemoths, the Red Sox and New York Yankees.

As the GM of a small-market team in Montreal (1991-1994) and a big market one in Boston (1994-2002), he said, he used the same philosophy: build the farm system through scouting and player development.

"When you don't have resources that the top two clubs have, you have to work harder and you have to work smarter, and you have to do a better job in scouting and you've got to do a better job in player development," Duquette said. "If you can build up the inventory of your farm system and you've got core players coming to your major league team, you've got something to talk about. The team that has the best farm system is the team that competes year in and year out. So irrespective of your market size, it all starts with signing good players and bringing them up to your team. … My philosophy is that aggressive scouting will build you winning ballclubs."

Duquette was the sixth and final candidate to interview for the club's top executive spot, vacated last month by former club president Andy MacPhail. Two of those candidates took their names out of consideration, and a third turned down the position.

That left Duquette, who said his nine-year absence from big league baseball was mainly because he tended to other priorities, including family and upstart baseball ventures, as the unquestioned favorite in the shrinking field of candidates.

Within one weekend, he had met three times with various members of the search committee before landing a three-year contract Sunday. The three primary members of the committee, manager Buck Showalter, general counsel H. Russell Smouse and Louis Angelos, son of club managing partner Peter Angelos, attended Tuesday's conference, though only Showalter spoke publicly.

Peter Angelos, who typically does not make appearances during such announcements, issued the following statement: "I am pleased to welcome Dan Duquette to the Orioles' organization. With an emphasis on developing players from within as well as acquiring players through the international and trade markets, Dan built the Red Sox and Expos into formidable franchises during his tenures. His record of success, extensive baseball operations leadership and strong scouting background give Dan the experience and skills essential for this position."

Duquette becomes the 14th top executive in Orioles history and the eighth under Angelos' ownership.

On Tuesday, though, the spotlight was strictly on Duquette, who wore a fiery orange tie and spoke glowingly about working in concert with Showalter to turn around the club. He didn't outline his plans for free agency, which began Thursday, but it's obvious in his quotes that big-ticket items such as first baseman Prince Fielder and pitcher C.J. Wilson likely will take a back seat to improving the club's infrastructure. Although, he didn't specifically rule out anything.

"We will be active in a lot of markets, a lot of talent markets to field competitive and winning teams," Duquette said. "The major league free-agency market is probably the riskiest one, right? I'm much more comfortable operating with less risk."

One of his first moves will be filling personnel holes within the organization, which include amateur scouting director, minor league pitching coordinator and potentially player-development director, among others. He said he does not have a list of personnel he wants to bring to the Orioles but that he received hundreds of emails and messages this weekend.

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