Baltimore Orioles: Different View of Dan Duquette in 2014


Jun 15, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (left) talks to executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette (right) during batting practice prior to a game against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette certainly has a different reputation with the fanbase entering the 2014 offseason than he had a year ago. Over most of the winter last year, he was so unpopular that he couldn’t have won an election for garbage man at Oriole Park.

Although the poster boy for the change would be the 40-home run steal at $8 million named Nelson Cruz, there were more than a few lesser moves that contributed a great deal in getting the Orioles to a 96-win season. This would include longer-term guys like Steve Pearce and Miguel Gonzalez, short-term acquisitions like Alejandro De Aza, Andrew Miller, Nick Hundley and Delmon Young, along with rising players such as Jonathan Schoop and Caleb Joseph.

Remaining detractors might still point to Ubaldo Jimenez as a terribly bad deal, and one-quarter of the way into it, it does appear so. But overall, Duquette has indeed earned the change of attitude through cumulative successes that have brought to him the Executive of the Year Award.

The humorous element in all of this is to see Baltimore fans in comment boards speak now of Duquette with similar reverential terms as with Ozzie Newsome. We don’t quite yet have a Wizard of Oz moniker for DD, but the old “Dumpster Dan” aspersion has been melted away by the success of the team.

MASN columnist Roch Kubatko had a great article yesterday that looked back to the offseason a year ago and reflected on the names of players rumored to be, or who were indeed, sought by the Orioles. The purpose of the article was not to say anything about Duquette, but going through some of these names of deals NOT consummated had me at the end seeing it as a vindication of DD.

I will mention some of these here and add a few others as well, beginning with the Jim Johnson deal. The outrage and angst this produced was amazing – trading away a reliever who had 101 saves in two years with no idea as to who could fill the role!!  Crazy! Or was it? Not at all. Johnson totally blew up in Oakland, beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Bullet dodged.

Next came the search for an experienced closer from outside the organization. And the Grant Balfour circus began. You know the story. After being signed for two years at $15 million pending a physical, which he flunked for some reason, Duquette and the Orioles’ organization were excoriated by writers and pundits around the baseball world. Balfour’s numbers for 2014: 2-6 with a 4.91 ERA and WHIP of 1.444. Bullet dodged.

A lot of talk then centered about John Axford. Why, I don’t know; his numbers were simply not great at all, other than a fine 2011 season with the Brewers. Between the Indians and Pirates he was 2-4 with a 3.95 ERA and WHIP of 1.445. Bullet dodged.

In the search for starting pitching, the name of A.J. Burnett came to the forefront. The news of yesterday is that he is returning to Pittsburg, and why not? The 2014 season in Philadelphia was a very rough experience, though he did give them 34 starts. However, he was 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA and WHIP of 1.409 – fueled by a MLB leading number of 96 walks. Bullet dodged.

The seasons turned in by Burnett and Arroyo make Ubaldo look like a bargain!

Another starting pitcher promoted by many was Bronson Arroyo, and though the Orioles made an offer, he took a deal from Arizona for two years at $23.5 million – ostensibly to avoid the AL East. Only making 14 starts, he had to undergo elbow reconstruction surgery. At that point he was 7-4 with a 4.08 ERA and WHIP of 1.219. After a string of nine years averaging well over 200 innings per season, he pitched 86 in 2014. Bullet dodged.  

As the Orioles were indeed pursuing a free agent bat, many wanted Duquette to skip Cruz the druggie, and go with Kendrys Morales instead. Morales would not get a deal until June with the Twins, and he was traded back to the Mariners at the end of July. Combined he hit .218.  Bullet dodged.

That’s a lot of bullets, and we could name more. A general manager can’t win them all, as sometimes a player comes in and just stinks up the place for no discernable reason – like Derrick Lee in 2011. But Duquette is building a pretty substantial winning percentage in his choices and moves. FanFest might be a more comfortable place for him this year.