BALTIMORE — Back in the big leagues after a nine-year absence, Dan Duquette has undertaken an incredibly daunting task: rebuilding the dreadful Baltimore Orioles.
Many have tried. None have succeeded. Not recently, anyway. The Orioles have finished in last place four straight years and are mired in a franchise-record run of 14 straight losing seasons.
Armed with a three-year contract, Duquette, the team’s new executive vice president of baseball operations, is confident he can make Baltimore relevant again in the top-heavy AL East.
“That’s the challenge of the job, right? The way that we’re going to be competitive is we’re going to bring in some good players and build our team from the ground up,” Duquette said Tuesday at his introductory news conference. “We’re going to have to work harder. We’re going to work smarter than these teams that have these huge piles of resources. But it can be done.”
Duquette spent eight seasons in the Montreal Expos’ front office from 1987-94 and was general manager of the Boston Red Sox from 1994-2001. The experience he gained with those two teams helped prepare him for his post with Baltimore.
“I learned in a small market, I applied my skills in a small market, to put together a top-quality team,” he said. “I also worked from a major-market perspective.”
After leaving the Red Sox, Duquette spent time coaching both his two boys, founded and built the Dan Duquette Sports Academy in Massachusetts and just relaxed. The 53-year-old has been content to stay on the sidelines, but was intrigued by the challenge of building the Orioles.
“This is right up my alley, turning around a ballclub and building a farm and scouting system,” Duquette said. “This is what I love to do. This is a great opportunity and I’m thankful for it and I’m ready to go to work.”
Asked if his absence from baseball might be a factor, Duquette replied, “Baseball is really in my DNA. My focus is going to be sharper and better from my time being away from the game.”
Duquette replaces Andy MacPhail, who couldn’t pull the Orioles out of their funk during his 4½ years on the job. The Orioles interviewed five other people before settling on Duquette, who impressed club officials with his spirit and optimism.
“It was very obvious when he came in that he was very up to speed on the Orioles,” said manager Buck Showalter, who took part in the hiring process.
Said Duquette: “I’m glad that I’m here. I can use my strengths in building an organization, and my experience with both small and large market clubs is what distinguished me from the other candidates.
“This is the kind of challenge I look for and met successfully in Montreal and Boston, teams I took over that were below .500,” Duquette said. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe I would have an impact to turn this franchise around, to get it to be competitive and then get it to a championship level.”
In explaining his philosophy for success, Duquette said he relies on aggressive scouting nationally and internationally to stock the farm system with talent. He then can decide whether to trade young players for established stars or bring them up to the big league team.
“We will be active in a lot of markets, a lot of talent markets, to field competitive and winning teams,” Duquette said. “The major league free agency market is probably the riskiest one right? I’m much more comfortable operating with less risk.
“The team that has the best farm system is the team that competes year in year out, irrespective of your market size,” he said. “It all starts with signing and developing and bringing them up to your team.”
Duquette will be working closely with Showalter to turn around a team that has lost at least 90 games in six straight seasons.
“Anybody who thinks he’s not up to speed on the industry is sadly mistaken,” Showalter said. “In fact, I think sometimes getting away from it a little bit is a good thing. We’re very fortunate to have somebody like him, with his background and experience and track record of success. I’m excited about it.”
Duquette placed no timetable for success, but stressed he has no intention using all three years of the contract before seeing results.
“My plan is to win every game every day,” he said.