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Duquette benefiting from inheritance in Baltimore

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  August 14, 2012 10:48 AM

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With the Red Sox playing the Orioles in Baltimore get ready for a round of paeans about the renaissance of former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette and his resurrection of the previously awful O's, possessors of the second wild card and poised for their first winning season since 1997.

These stories may mention what has become popular and pervasive revisionist history -- that former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein won the 2004 World Series largely with and because of what Duquette left behind. They may also mention that Duquette built the Zakim Bridge, spurred development in the South Boston Seaport and solved the MBTA's budge crunch.

Not only is crediting Duquette for '04 ignoring the fact Epstein was responsible for the acquisitions of David Ortiz, Keith Foulke, Curt Schilling, Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar and made the most significant trade in franchise history this side of Babe Ruth to New York to set the stage for Red Sox Nation's deliverance. It also stands in direction contradiction to the idea that Duquette deserves plaudits for rebooting baseball in Baltimore right now.

If Epstein, who became Sox GM in 2003, won with Duquette's players in '04 then Duquette is definitely benefiting from a hefty inheritance now.

I've always found this winning with somebody's else's players argument to be a selective and insidious debate. Why should a GM be penalized for talent that is already on the roster? Rarely do people mention that Patriots coach Bill Belichick inherited Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law and Troy Brown, but Epstein is supposed to share co-billing with Duquette for the two World Series wins on his watch?

The Duke devotees can't have it both ways. You can't say Epstein only won because he was bequeathed Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe from Duquette, and then turn around and say Duquette is the best thing to happen to baseball in Baltimore since Camden Yards.

Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Chris Davis, Jim Johnson, even wunderkind Manny Machado all belong to previous Orioles regimes.

Duquette has made some significant moves to bolster the Baltimore pitching staff, trading Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado for Jason Hammel and reliever Matt Lindstrom, importing Taiwanese lefthander Wei-Yin Chen, who has emerged as the Orioles' ace, from the Japanese Central League, and in classic Duke fashion picking righthander Miguel Gonzalez off the minor-league scrap heap. (Gonzalez was in the Red Sox organization last year and went a combined 0-7 with a 5.40 ERA.)

I always thought this was Duquette's greatest strength -- taking baseball's lost souls and turning them into talent found. Duquette was into sustainability long before it became a corporate buzz word. He would recycle players discarded or discounted by other teams. Nobody could spot a baseball bargain like the Duke, who put the defibrillator paddles to the career of Tim Wakefield and unearthed finds like Troy O'Leary, Brian Daubach and Rich Garces during his Red Sox days.

Duquette was also the original stolid, laconic, unsentimental organizational leader around here. He was stonewalling the media long before a certain hooded football coach made it a managerial meme. Whether it was to placate then-manager Jimy Williams or not, it was Duquette who ordered Johnny Pesky out of the Sox dugout in 1997.

It is possible for a general manager to come into an organization and effect change by overhauling the culture and not necessarily the roster. Duquette has done that with the Orioles, although manager Buck Showalter began the attitude transplant by challenging and in some cases insulting the big boys of the American League East.

Duquette deserves consideration for Executive of the Year for what he's done with a previously feckless franchise, but he might not even be the best executive in the Beltway, never mind all of baseball. Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo has turned the Nats from a national laughingstock into the team with the best record in baseball.

He might not even be the most deserving Amherst College alumnus of the award. Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington, an Amherst graduate like Duquette, has the Pirates holding down the second wild card slot in the National League and on the verge of their first winning season since 1992, an act of personnel prestidigitation so miraculous it should draw the interest of the Vatican.

Don't forget the guy who was the original choice to succeed Duquette in Boston, Billy Beane.

Beane has the Moneyball mojo working again. The A's, baseball's perpetual paupers, are nipping at the heels of the Orioles for the second wild card slot, despite dealing their top two starters, Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill, and All-Star closer, Andrew Bailey, in the off-season in cost-cutting moves; not getting a single inning from established starters Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden; and seeing Opening Day starter Brandon McCarthy miss a month and a half with shoulder soreness.

Duquette's best argument for Executive of the Year is that he's upgraded the Orioles starting staff. Still, Baltimore ranks 24th in the majors in starters' ERA. The Nationals lead the majors at 3.22. The A's are seventh at 3.84 and the Pirates are 14th at 4.08.

Duquette didn't deserve to be exiled from baseball after guiding the Red Sox into the modern era and three playoff berths during his nine-year tenure. He's too shrewd an evaluator. Like so many of the reclamation projects he plucked, Duquette never gave up on his dream of returning to the big leagues. Bravo.

His perseverance has paid off for the Orioles, and he has done an excellent job with the O's. But hailing him as the architect of the baseball revival in Baltimore while lavishing him with retroactive primary credit for the Red Sox' World Series wins is hypocritical.

Like Duquette's infamous "More days in first place" line, it simply doesn't compute.

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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