Commentary

Hot Dan! Duquette back in action?

Former Sox GM said he'd return someday ... and now it seems he will, with Orioles

Updated: November 6, 2011, 5:58 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- He had promised through tear-stained eyes, standing at the side of a swimming pool in Florida, that this day would come.

[+] EnlargeDan Duquette & Cal Ripken
John Mottern/AFP/Getty ImagesDan Duquette (left) saluted Cal Ripken in the Orioles legend's final game at Fenway in 2001, one year before he was ousted as Red Sox GM. Now, it seems he's headed to Baltimore himself.

"Well," Dan Duquette had said the day he was fired as general manager of the Boston Red Sox, "I'll be back. I'll be back at some point."

Who had believed him that day? And who would believe, nearly 10 years later, that Duquette -- who has spent as much time working in the big leagues in the past decade as Kim Kardashian -- is on the verge of fulfilling that pledge?

If the news reports out of Baltimore are to be believed, Duquette has been hired as general manager of the Baltimore Orioles, who already had offered the job to one candidate (Tony LaCava) and been rejected and were weeks into their search before even interviewing Duquette for the first time on Friday.

There have been general managers who have gone nearly 10 years or more between gigs. "Trader" Frank Lane was GM of the Kansas City Athletics in 1961, his fourth GM job, then shortly before his 75th birthday became GM of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970. Whitey Herzog was GM of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1980 to '82, then became GM of the California Angels in 1993. Gene Michael was GM of the Yankees in 1980-81, then was brought back by George Steinbrenner in 1991. Hank Peters was GM of the Athletics in 1965, then began an 11-year run as GM of the Orioles in 1976.

But in all four cases, each man remained engaged in major league employment, either as a special assistant (Lane); manager (Herzog); manager, third-base coach, scout (Michael); or director of player personnel and assistant GM (Peters).

Duquette? This is his résumé since John W. Henry gave him a $3 million golden parachute to go away:

•  overseeing his kids' sports camp in western Massachusetts
•  running a team in a college summer league
•  directing a baseball league in Israel that folded after one eight-week season
•  buying an ownership stake in an independent league team, the American Defenders of New Hampshire, who were sold just more than a year later
•  singing "You Gotta Have Heart" as the manager of the Washington Senators in a local production of the musical "Damn Yankees."

[+] EnlargeKim Kardashian
Getty ImagesWhat does Dan Duquette have in common with Kim Kardashian? An equal amount of MLB experience in the past decade.

It's hard to divine what in that lineup qualifies him in the eyes of Orioles owner Peter Angelos to have another go-round as GM in the AL East, where he will compete against the likes of a multiple-World Series winner in Brian Cashman (Yankees), highly regarded young GMs Andrew Friedman (Tampa) and Alex Anthopoulos (Toronto), and a Theo Epstein protégé (Ben Cherington) who comes out of Duquette's alma mater, Amherst College, and was given his first opportunity by Duquette.

Clearly, Duquette sold himself on the basis of his previous track record as a GM, first with the Montreal Expos (1991-93), then with the Red Sox from 1994 to 2002, a period that was not without its achievements: Duquette traded for Pedro Martinez twice, once for the Expos, once for the Sox; pulled off perhaps the most lopsided trade in Sox history, acquiring Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb, saved Tim Wakefield from the scrap heap; drafted Nomar Garciaparra; and signed Johnny Damon.

Under the Duke, the Sox won a division title in 1995 and went to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 1998 and 1999, the first time in 83 seasons they had done so.

But it's no accident that Duquette has taken an oh-fer in big league employment ever since he called his 2002 poolside news conference to announce that, contrary to his expectations, the incoming ownership group not only had elected not to promote him to the club presidency he thought he deserved but also was cutting all ties to him.

For all his accomplishments, Duquette turned Yawkey Way toxic with his glaring lack of people skills. He alienated the team's biggest stars, Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn, both of whom departed under bitter circumstances. He failed to back his manager, Jimy Williams, in an ugly falling-out with angry star Carl Everett, then promoted the unqualified Joe Kerrigan to succeed him, leading to Manny Ramirez's jumping the team in Anaheim. He hired an off-the-wall statistical analyst who took credit for the team's personnel moves. His promise to create an assembly line of homegrown talent like he did in Montreal fell woefully short, underscored by the pathetic botching of negotiations with a drafted high school first baseman named Mark Teixeira, who accused the Sox of showing no respect "to me or my family." His attempts to make inroads in the Asian market were mostly failures and marred by a dubious connection with a talent hunter named Ray Poitevint.

Duquette became notorious for not returning phone calls from his fellow general managers, for fostering an atmosphere of paranoia among his own scouts and minor league staffers. And his idea of media relations was to stonewall and sidestep, which left him with few supporters in the public arena.

Hey, people grow. People change. Duquette is still just 53.

But the Orioles, once a model franchise in the American League, have had 14 consecutive losing seasons, finishing last in the East in each of the past four seasons. They rank 11th in the AL in attendance despite playing in glorious Camden Yards.

Team president Andy MacPhail couldn't turn things around. Neither could the manager, Buck Showalter, after a promising start in 2010.

And now they plan to sell Dan Duquette as the answer?

Good luck with that.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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