It is difficult in the divided political atmosphere of the country to not be a despised President or former President. One often sees Facebook posts (and even billboards) by fans of former President George W. Bush that say, “Miss me yet?”
In the same way that Bush was largely reviled during the final portion of his presidency, the same was true for former Orioles general manager Andy MacPhail. Taking over in 2007, the team never won under his guidance, though quite a number of the good things that have happened in the past two years may be traced to his administration – Showalter, the trade for Chris Davis, the incredible Adam Jones / Chris Tillman heist, and several other moves that have proven to be winners.
At the end of his tenure, MacPhail was largely hated by Orioles fans and followers. Often one would see them write of him as “MacFail” … like we see “NoBama” or “O’Bummer.” But now, the tide has shifted; he is more often remembered with fondness as compared to the current guy – Dan Duquette.
Baseball GM-ing (VP of Baseball Operations, whatever) is no job for the faint-hearted and thin-skinned. And this is especially true in a market such realities as exist for the Baltimore Orioles (though it is occasionally disputed that the budget REALLY needs to be as limited as it is). The challenge of financial constraints is exacerbated by playing in the same five-team division with two of the biggest spenders and another with the best developmental program in the sport.
In any event, it is a reality that the Orioles cannot spend their way to a championship. They must make great decisions with dollars allocated – getting, in the words of Duquette, “value” for the roster. There are few guarantees in life, and even less in baseball.
Without doubt, the road to success is to build a great farm system that regularly feeds the organization with young talent. This requires, in our modern world, a very excellent international presence in both Latin America and the Orient. Beyond that, the budget needs to not ever be saddled with a long-term and unproductive debt – the product of a veteran player or free agent going bust.
So, is Dan Duquette building the farm system? The answer has to be “yes” as compared to the recent past. There are better options – even witnessed by the competitive teams in the system.
So, is Dan Duquette being wise with the budget? He’ll never get a reputation as a spender; that is for sure. I think he is playing in a very difficult arena with tight constraints and narrow margins.
I do not fault him for trading Jim Johnson and reclaiming that salary number for “resource allocation.” He appears to be looking to get one more short-term veteran answer for the starting five pitchers – to buy just a little more time before the youngsters arrive. And yes, this is what sorta did in MacPhail. His young pitchers faltered over and over, and veterans like Derrek Lee and Vladamir Guerrero simply did not come through for him.
I thought MacPhail did a largely good job during his era, and it seems to me that Duquette is doing what he can right now. I don’t agree with everything. I believed they should have spent the money to get Koji Uehara back, and I believe Duquette and company are undervaluing Henry Urrutia and Caleb Joseph.
But I cannot fault the big picture. Beyond that, having been in leadership positions all my life, I know this: There is more that you know that drives your decisions than is seen by the masses or can be told to the crowds. If you could tell them everything you know, they would settle down. But, you can’t do that; and sometimes you just have to take the arrows that come your way. And Duquette is a human archery target right now.