The press conference to introduce Dan Duquette as the Orioles’ new executive vice president was held last Nov. 8. As the one-year anniversary of that date approaches, Duquette likely has much more support among O’s fans now than he had then.
There were some reasons to be skeptical last November, chief among them his time away from the game at the highest level. Others felt that the Orioles settled for a man that was not their first choice.
Now, almost 12 months later, I’m sure most Orioles fans are fine with the man hired and the job he has done. Duquette inherited a strong and talented manager and a good base of talent from Andy MacPhail. He has clearly made his own impact with so many moves for the better.
What have we learned about Duquette in his first year on the job and does that give us a glimpse of how he might run the club’s baseball operations in the future? Here are a few thoughts.
* The steady flow of roster moves showed aggression. Duquette’s actions let the players at Triple-A and Double-A know they could make their way to the big club with performance. The players on the Orioles, meanwhile, found out their roster positions were not secure.
Just before the All-Star break, the Orioles optioned out young pitchers Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz and called up Chris Tillman. They showed some patience with the young hurlers, but only to a point. I have heard from some in the organization that believe Duquette ran out of patience with some of the young hurlers in early July and was in favor of a starting rotation overhaul at that point.
The revolving-door rotation, in the end, proved to be productive. Late in the year, Duquette acquired Joe Saunders and Randy Wolf for the stretch run. Was that a message to the young pitchers or was he just looking to add some lefty veterans for the postseason?
* This year proved to me that Duquette and director of pitching development Rick Peterson are strong believers that a young pitcher needs a good fastball-changeup combination to succeed. In separate interviews with both this season, that message came through loud and clear. A good breaking pitch is important, but the duo believe in a foundation that begins with the fastball-changeup combo.
After watching Kevin Gausman pitch and seeing what he offers with those pitches, it was clear to me why he was the pitcher the O’s selected in round one in June. Few young pitchers feature a fastball-changeup combo like Gausman and it’s easy to see now what the Orioles saw in him on draft day.
* The Orioles’ international efforts sure looked to improve on Duquette’s watch. He added Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada and later signed Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia. His failed attempt to sign Korean high school pitcher Seong-Min Kim got the club in some hot water, but was another indication that Duquette won’t leave many stones unturned in the pursuit of talent for the Orioles. I find this refreshing and very needed by the Orioles. They were lacking on the international front for too long.
* As with any general manager, we found with Duquette that you can’t take everything he says to the bank. Take the case of Adam Jones. Duquette insisted he wanted to keep and not trade Jones and that did prove true. But he also indicated that pursuing contract extension talks in season would be a distraction and then he signed Jones to a new six-year deal in late May. It was a decisive move though and he didn’t let a good young talent get away.
* Duquette was aggressive with the club’s top prospects in Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy. Some felt Manny would return to Single-A Frederick on opening day 2012. Not only did he start at Double-A Bowie, he finished in Baltimore and helped the Orioles win games. It was a gutsy move to call him up in August, but the move worked.
The Orioles handled Bundy brilliantly. They moved him up three minor league levels, all while helping him develop his off-speed pitches and stay within his season innings limit. He even had innings left over to pitch in Baltimore in September, which he did. The Orioles’ handling of Bundy got criticism early in the year, but no one had much to say in September. The Orioles, under Duquette, were very aggressive with these two elite young talents and the duo proved they could handle everything the organization put in front of them.
So what is your take?: How do you feel about Duquette’s first year? What are his biggest strengths? In what areas do you have concerns? How did you feel his relationship was with manager Buck Showalter? What will be some key moves he may make in the next 12 months?