It's hard to judge a man by one press conference, but my first impression of new Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was mixed.
Of all the quotes we read and interviews with Duquette that were broadcast on Tuesday, the person who had the most impact on my perception of Duquette at day's end was Buck Showalter. I trust Showalter's judgment a lot based on conversations we've had over the past year and a half. He's spot-on when it comes to evaluating people which is a sign of a good leader. Hearing Showalter's endorsement of, and enthusiasm for Duquette, I felt more confidence in the Orioles' choice for general manager.
In a conversation with MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko, Showalter spoke about the interview process with Duquette: "It's very obvious when he came in that he was very up to speed on the Orioles, and it was fun to watch him make a presentation about how he views the Orioles and whatever, through his eyes and also through the statistics and analysis and see how it corresponded to what was pretty much reality. It was real impressive. I think anybody who doesn't think he's up to speed on the industry is sadly mistaken."
The quote made you realize how involved Showalter was in the search, and how prepared Duquette was for the position. That's a good sign early on.To me, Duquette's hunger and passion for the gig seemed genuine.
On a superficial level, I thought Duquette came across a bit nervous, which is understandable. It's been a decade since he's had a press conference and his relationship with the notorious Boston media was anything but warm. Still, at times, the vibe was that of a fresh divorcee asking out a woman for the first time in 20 years. It might take him a minute to get back in the communications game.
Like I said, that's a superficial observation. If the man can put a winning team on the field in the next few years, I could care less if he has less verbal skills than Sloth from "The Goonies."
It was smart of Duquette to try and connect with the Orioles fan base by leading his press conference with references to his love for the O's teams of the 1960s and 1970s. I'm sure fans appreciated the effort. I did. It was a little P.R.-ish, but I can understand his desire to separate himself from Boston and the perception of being an outsider.
Fans might feel a bit unenthused when realizing Duquette's plan is pretty much the same as Andy MacPhail's
"When you don't have the resources that the top two clubs have, you have to work harder and you have to work smarter. You have to do a better job in scouting and player development," said Duquette.
That sounds like a good idea, but doesn't the old "scouting and player development" line sound familiar? Remember, MacPhail asked us to be patient and give him three to four years to build the farm system and grow the players. Now we're being told the same minor league system that was supposed to be beefing up over the past four years while fans were patient is in need of some major changes?
It's hard to shake the feeling that fans are being asked to "be patient" by an Orioles GM once again.
I would have loved to hear Duquette map out a plan that involves more aggressive free agent pursuits now. The Orioles are better than they were four years ago as far as core players. I don't agree with Duquette that now is not the time for big-name free agents. It's eerily similar to MacPhail's "build the arms now, buy the bats later" mantra. The arms never were built. I don't believe the O's can rely completely on their farm system for pitching talent.
I've said all along, I know it's not easy to get free agents to come to Baltimore, but money talks and with such a solid group of position players, the club could be propelled forward by leaps and bounds by signing one free agent who's a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Over the next few weeks, especially through the Winter Meetings, we'll all have a better grasp on Duquette's plan of attack. Until then, fans will continue to develop their own impressions of Duquette based on his one-day media tour.