Because Dan Duquette’s tenure with the Red Sox is judged in through the prism of hindsight and what happened after he left, he casts the shadow of the old school, miserable, paranoid, press-loathing baseball executive who would’ve been better-served to function in the 1970s when few outside an organization even knew who the general managers were.
In reality, the 1994 Expos—well on their way to the World Series when the strike hit—were largely constructed by Duquette; the Red Sox championship teams wouldn’t have been championship teams without the foundation laid by Duquette during his tenure.
Yes, it ended badly.
Yes, he treated the organization as if it was a closed, dictatorial society where even the slightest bit of information being leaked out risked one being fired.
Yes, he epitomized the governmental functionary—a policy wonk—more comfortable away from other humans.
But it was Duquette who had the nerve to let both Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn walk away from the Red Sox—amid media and fan firestorms—and was right in both cases, especially when he said Clemens was in the twilight of his career.
Perhaps it was the perceived slight that sent Clemens on the road to PED use and skidding down to the depths of a questionable career conclusion, perjury and embarrassing personal revelations, but Duquette’s assessment was dead-on target.
Duquette traded Heathcliff Slocumb for Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe; he signed Tim Wakefield for nothing; acquired Pedro Martinez; and put together a team that was highly competitive and unlucky in that they continually ran into the Yankees in the midst of their late 1990s dynasty.
The new age GM who’s handsome, well-spoken and skillful at turning phrases designed to say absolutely nothing is part of a mutually beneficial relationship between the media and the GM. The media writes stories with an “insider” tack, shunning criticism for those who are of like mind and provide information; the GM gets his message out to the masses to frame the story the way he prefers.
Duquette was not good at that.
But there’s nothing wrong with having Duquette do the GM work of finding big league or near big league ready players to fit into the Orioles rebuild. His drafts with the Red Sox were terrible and he’s awful with the media, but installing a draft guru type to handle the draft; letting manager Buck Showalter be the organizational frontman; and Duquette doing what he did with the Red Sox—decide which players are on the downside and to make savvy trades—is a reasonable delegation of duties.
The top-down strategy of a GM being in charge of the entire show is trendy, but that doesn’t make it the singular way to work.
The Orioles have whiffed in trying to go “new school” with Tony LaCava and others who’ve turned them down, but it could be that they’re better off going old school with Duquette because his time as a baseball executive is far better than he’s ever been given credit for.