If indeed it is always darkest before the dawn as the adage suggests, than Dawn should be on a fast moving trade to Camden Yards as we speak. That said, as the O’s searched for their next GM it seemed that few if any were wiling to buy into that notion. Enter Dan Duquette…
While there’s no single formula for building a winning baseball team, if there were an anti-formula we could safely guess that the O’s have perfected that mix. It would also seem that the serum is nowhere in sight. Or is it?
It’s easy to be put off about the O’s, especially given the number of budding GM candidates that were also put off by them. As the O’s made overture after unreciprocated overture at prospective GM candidates fans are rightly embarrassed for the franchise. There are only 30 of these jobs in existence right? As keepers of one, you’d think the O’s would have no trouble luring a candidate anxious to make his mark. Sure the franchise is a disaster at present, and the odds were against whomever accepted the challenge; but the reputation of Peter Angelos is well known, and the myriad of names that have tried and failed already suggests that anyone able to right the ship would be seen as a miracle worker able to write his own ticket going forward, a la Theo Epstein. And likewise trying and failing would do little to derail a candidate’s reputation given our understanding of those circumstances.
By way of encouragement, and again I’m squinting hard through my orange tinted shades here, just because the Orioles liked Tony LaCava and Jerry Dipoto best didn’t mean that they were the best guys for the job. Remember the Ravens’ rebuffed overtures toward Jason Garrett just a few years ago? Hindsight has seemingly proven in the years that have followed, that it was a rare and fortunate miss by the Ravens. Perhaps and hopefully hindsight will say the same about the process that brought the O’s to Duquette.
Squint a little more and you might see this with me too:
There’s no secret about the circumstances into which Duquette is willingly walking. Unlike the other candidates he’s up for the challenge, and unlike other candidates as well, and maybe to an even greater degree, because of his cousin Jim’s tenure here, Dan Duquette should harbor no false expectations of the task at hand or the inner workings of the organization. Still Duquette is up for the challenge.
Obviously there are literally hundreds of things we could point to and cast these O’s as deficient. One that has been a pet peeve of mine in recent seasons though is this; the O’s have consistently gone into free agency and tried to find lightning in a bottle with guys like Derek Lee and Garrett Atkins. The O’s found “bargains” in guys who had put up very productive seasons in the past but who also appeared to be past that prime and those numbers. The money they paid them while bargain basement if they were to capture lightning in a bottle was mostly wasted on guys who had already made plenty of money in their careers and was essentially money paid backwards, but not for services actually rendered with the O’s.
Other teams by contrast, have found real value in hitting on guys who were trending the opposite way. Guys like Carlos Pena and Jose Bautista had shown glimpses of talent over their brief careers, but had also disappointed enough to cast them as journeymen. When faced with the prospect of missing out on big paydays and possibly being out of baseball, those players responded and began to develop the talents that had made them intriguing prospects once upon a time. While those types of players may be harder to find, they come a lot cheaper. I’ll always bet on a guy trying to prove something over an old guy who’s already proven…and wealthy.
While I don’t know that Duquette will find or even look for those types of guys, I do believe that he is one of those guys. Duquette laid the groundwork for the 1994 Expos team (in hindsight an unbelievable collection of talent) that never got the opportunity to see how far they could go. Duquette also laid the groundwork that Theo Epstein and co. tweaked to the tune of a pair of World Series titles in Boston. Like Buck Showalter, who saw both the Yankees and Diamondbacks win world titles immediately after his departure, Duquette is due some level of championship credibility. And thus far, like Showalter, Duquette doesn’t get that credit. Give me the guy who gets out of bed with that chip on his shoulder every day.
Three years is hardly enough time to impart real change, but I’ll hope for the best. I’ll also hope that the inexplicable performance of the young pitchers last season is somehow or somewhat correctable and suggest that the future might be just a bit brighter than the present appears. While Duquette’s culpability begins today, he inherits an ongoing 14-year fiasco that has everyone impatient and skeptical if not downright hopeless. Time will not be on his side and for now, neither will most of the fans…and that’s what I like about Dan Duquette.