The story has apparently ended with both sides pretending there’s nothing to see here.
The Toronto Blue Jays announced they’re keeping president and chief executive officer Paul Beeston before he retires at the end of the 2015 season while Dan Duquette remains under contract with the Orioles through 2018. We’re to believe everything is fine after a seven-week saga of rumors, reports, and deafening silence involving both American League East foes.
Blue Jays chairman Edward Rogers broke his silence Monday without addressing why he reportedly pursued Beeston’s replacement without alerting the longtime executive of his intentions. Meanwhile, we’ve yet to hear from Duquette or Orioles owner Peter Angelos since Toronto announced a one-year contract extension for their current president.
“We have been in discussions with Paul about his future with the team since his contract expired in October,” Rogers said in a release. “There were many rumors flying about, but it would have been inappropriate to comment on such matters publicly. Make no mistake — we are elated to have Paul continue to lead the team for this season.”
In the coming days, we’ll hear Duquette state his commitment to the Orioles — perhaps at Saturday’s FanFest in front of thousands of fans — and how he’s dedicated to bringing another winner to Baltimore, but will anyone believe him after weeks of declining comment on the Toronto situation? Yes, Angelos and the Orioles dug their heels in when it came to compensation and won, but you wonder if it still results in a losing outcome with a man in charge who doesn’t have his heart in Baltimore.
Make no mistake, the Blue Jays handled this poorly in not only disrespecting Beeston — a man who became the first employee of the expansion team in 1976 — but also ignoring the decorum of how to pursue another club’s employee, which doesn’t include trying to poach the executive vice president of baseball operations in the middle of an offseason.
Toronto put the Orioles in a terrible spot and expecting compensation was more than understandable, but asking for a package of three top prospects — an absurd return in relation to similar front office transactions in recent years — with the thought that it would prompt the Blue Jays to back off was shortsighted as it relates to Duquette’s future in Baltimore. His contract suggests he’ll remain with the Orioles for the next four seasons, but the events of the last two months make it look like Duquette could be a lame duck for the 2015 season, especially if the Blue Jays come calling again after the season.
Is the 56-year-old really invested in the Orioles after seeing a sparkling promotion dangled in front of him for weeks?
Are the reports of some in the organization preferring that Duquette be allowed to leave simply forgotten?
Have Duquette’s relationships with Angelos, manager Buck Showalter, and other front office members suffered irreparable harm?
Those questions don’t even address how little the Orioles have done this offseason after losing outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis and top reliever Andrew Miller in free agency. Duquette’s approach hasn’t exactly been a high-profile or aggressive one in his four-year tenure with the club except for the signings of pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez and Cruz during last year’s spring training, but his lack of activity casts doubt as the Orioles try to build on last season’s AL Championship Series appearance.
One of the reasons why the Orioles have experienced three straight winning seasons has been Angelos’ trust in Duquette and Showalter in recent years. With the 85-year-old owner mentioning Duquette’s contract and commitment on more than one occasion over the last two months, you wonder how much Angelos now trusts the man he rescued out of baseball purgatory a few years ago.
Even with the losses suffered this offseason, the Orioles remain serious contenders in the AL East and are led by one of the best managers in baseball.
But it’s difficult not to feel like Duquette has one foot out the door — even if his current title and contract suggests otherwise.
And that’s not a good place to be for a club and a fan base with championship aspirations.