Following a week in which the defending American League East Champion Baltimore Orioles saw departures of Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Andrew Miller; Baltimore Sports and Life (BSL) O’s Analyst Rob Shields wrote an article asking if Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette could turn the off-season around.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Two days later, the better question appears to be will Duquette remain in Baltimore long-enough to have the opportunity to improve the O’s this Winter? The reason for this question being posed, is that this morning we awoke to ESPN’s Buster Olney, and FOX Sports Ken Rosenthal reporting that Duquette is a top candidate to become the President for the Toronto Blue Jays.
With respect to the players who have left Baltimore, Duquette potentially moving on from the O’s organization is a much larger story.
One of the reasons it would have a profound impact, is the timing. Today is the start of Baseball’s Winter Meetings. All of the Executive leadership throughout the game has convened on San Diego. Since the end of each teams 2014 season, they have each individually gone through organizational meetings, as a form of self-evaluation and reflection their year. They have cast a path forward for 2015. They have collectively met with other organizations at the General Manager Meetings, and set the stage for prospectively larger moves to be made in the Winter Meetings these next few days. As we have seen this past-week, Free Agency is in full swing. Preparation for 2015 is in full swing in every Front Office across the game.
If Duquette leaves now, it’s a huge distraction. You would have to compile a list of possible candidates, and go through an interview process. When that person is hired, who do they bring with them? Are they able to bring talent with them, due to the time of year? Of the existing staff in the O’s Baseball Operation Department, who would possibly follow Duquette North?
While the O’s organization would be going through this, who would be manning the ship in the interim? Your competitors would certainly be capitalizing on this vulnerability. This off-season, the O’s are the ones being hunted in the AL East. Toronto, Boston, and New York have already improved their rosters. They will continue to look to do so. It would be difficult for the O’s to pull of any larger moves (Free Agency, Trade, internal extensions) until they had their new leadership in-place. It would also be unadvised, as you would not want to saddle any new hire with moves they would not have signed off on themselves.
Frankly, even if Duquette does not leave now – this is a distraction. How could it not be? Duquette is weighing a decision to leave the O’s, and up-root to Toronto. I’m sure Duquette is professional enough to compartmentalize and continue to do his job with the O’s as long as he is employed with Baltimore – but if at-least a part of you is thinking about leaving; you are not 100% completely in on the job you have.
How about the staff under him? What are they thinking today? Would Dan take us with him? If not, will a new hire be looking to replace us?
Also, we are talking about a divisional foe here in Toronto. We’re not talking about Duquette potentially leaving, and taking over Colorado. We’re talking about a team the O’s see 19 times a year. Are you going to do everything you can to improve Baltimore, if you know you are possibly leaving for a competitor?
As framed by Rosenthal, this potential position with Toronto would be considered a promotion. As such, it would be difficult for the O’s to stand in his way. From the perspective of not just fans, but those looking at the organization from the outside; you have to wonder about his motivations here though.
Is it cash?
Is it a new challenge?
Is it a sign there were existing difficulties behind the scenes here in Baltimore? Be it a conflict in philosophy with O’s Manager Buck Showalter, or with Ownership above?
Clearly it would be a business decision. If Duquette leaves now, I would not be in love with the timing; but I would not begrudge him on the move. This is his profession. He has the right to find the best opportunity for himself. I don’t think it would be fair to say that the O’s rescued him from ‘Baseball Siberia’, so he owes it to the O’s to stay part of the organization past the time he desires to. I know for a fact that there were highly qualified Executives throughout the game who were interested in joining the O’s when Duquette was hired; but the O’s selection process at that time had Baltimore looking weak throughout the game. It was wildly reported at the time that the O’s and Duquette were settling for each other, because they were the only partners each had available to dance with. While that really was not accurate, that perception did exist. The bottom-line here would be that both parties gained by the relationship. Duquette has taken an organization that had losing years every season from 1998-2011, and given Baltimore three consecutive winning seasons – with two trips to the post-season. His naming as The Sporting News Executive of the Year was deserved. The O’s success during these past three years serving as a healthy repudiation to those who ridiculed and laughed derisively at the hire. In-turn, there should always be a level of appreciation from Duquette that the O’s provided the opportunity.
If Duquette leaves, let’s talk about what comes next.
When Duquette was hired by the O’s, he had met with the hiring committee of Showalter, General Counsel Russell Smouse, and Lou Angelos. Lou spoke with WBAL Radio in September, and was named as an ‘Orioles Ownership Representative’ at the time. Presumably his brother John – who is the Orioles Executive Vice President – would also be part of the committee this time around.
There would first have to be an evaluation of the internal staff, and determine if there were candidates from within The Warehouse that you wanted to consider.
Brady Anderson’s Front-Office ascent has been impressive. Currently Vice President of Baseball Operations, he is putting in time and gaining experience. We know he has a good relationship with Showalter and O’s players. We know he has worked with the Minor League Operations and Player Development. Is ready to oversee Scouting? Be involved with contract negotiations? Be a regular voice for the organization?
In 2011, there was discussion of Showalter himself taking over as EVP of Baseball Operations (or General Manager). I did not like the idea of that then, and I’m not fond of that possibility now. One change in my thinking from then, is that I’m more open to Showalter being part of the hiring process. You want Showalter to have a strong working relationship with the EVP of Baseball Ops. My question then was I thought it was a bit strange for the Manager to effectively be interviewing his Boss. I still question that a bit, but the results of the past three years speaks for itself.
I don’t see many others internally who should even be considered for an interview. Special Asst. to the GM Lee Thomas is 78 years old. Scouting Director Gary Rajsich appears to be generally well regarded, but he is 60 years old and has never sat in the big chair. Additionally, I don’t know that he has done enough as the O’s Scouting Director (to be sure, his hands have been partly tied) for him to have earned the opportunity to be considered. Director of Player Personnel John Stockstill interviewed in 2011, but that was a reach then, and would be considered as much now.
Whomever is hired, it should be a priority of the organization to develop the brain-trust underneath the hire. One of the main tenants of leadership is to have a logical succession plan in-place.
If the hiring committee looks outside the organization, what external talent should be considered?
In 2011, Tony LaCava turned down the position after being interviewed more than once. Scott Proefrock, and Jerry Dipoto, and Dejean Watson also interviewed. LaCava made his decision to stay with Toronto, and it would be surprising to see him considered once more. Proefrock remains the Assistant General Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Dipoto is of course the GM of the LA Angels. Watson was recently named SVP of Baseball Operations for the Arizona Diamondbacks, joining Tony LaRussa and Dave Stewart.
Of that group, Proefrock is the only one I could see emerging once more. In 2005, Will Carroll had listed Proefrock 8th in his listing of up-and-coming Executives. In 2010, Caroll had updated his list, and again included Proefrock. Over the past three seasons, the Phillies have been regularly questioned for their decision making. Would that prevent Proefrock from being considered this time around?
How about Dipoto’s Asst. General Manager Matt Klentak? He knows the Orioles organization, having previously been Baltimore’s Director of Baseball Operations. He has previously been lauded for his abilities with contract logistics. Having spent the past three years in the Asst. GM role has to have only increased his readiness.
Another former O’s Executive is Logan White. White, who served as the O’s West Coast Scouting Supervisor, has recently joined the Padres as a Senior Advisor to GM AJ Preller, and their Pro Scouting Director.
The Dodgers have an assortment of riches in their Front Office with Andrew Friedman as their President of Baseball Operations, and Farhan Zaidi as their GM. Josh Byrnes is their SVP of Baseball Operations. He has previously been the GM of the Padres, and Diamondbacks. Might that Washington DC native be interested in again running an organization himself, and coming back East?
Boston’s Director of Amateur Scouting Amiel Sawdaye is a Baltimore native. Pittsburgh’s Director of Player Personnel Tyrone Brooks is extremely well connected. He is also a Maryland native.
Will Paul DePodesta – currently with the Mets – ever get the opportunity to again lead a team?
Kim Ng is currently working with Major League Baseball as the Senior VP of Baseball Operations. She has interviewed for GM positions with Seattle, San Diego (two different times), and the LA Angels.
In June, Baseball Prospectus compiled a listing of their top 10 GM candidates, which can be found here. At the top of the list was Atlanta’s John Coppolella. While he was not hired to replace Frank Wren with the Braves, that should not be held against him as a prospective candidate for the Orioles. The BP accolades for Coppolella match the comments of many analysts across the game.
Lastly, any list of possible candidates would not be complete without some mention of Cal Ripken. When there were rumors in the Fall of 2013 that the Nationals could possibly be interested in Ripken as their Manager; I was excited. It seemed ideal for all parties. Ripken could get back into the game, without uprooting his family. The O’s could avoid being placed into the position of hiring Ripken, and having to deal with an eventual departure. Cal has made it clear he would be interested in a leadership position with an MLB organization at some point. Should Duquette’s leave become official, Ripken can likely become a candidate if he so desires. Is the timing right? Is this natural fit, the best decision for all?
Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director.