Sunday, November 6, 2011

This Still Counts As Looking Back

At this pace, we will never shut down the way we are supposed to.  Although my vacation between this upcoming Friday and the following Wednesday might not coincide with my posting the most important final posts, so it's not necessarily a bad thing.

With Dan Duquette landing a job in Baltimore, it is necessary to look back at his time in Boston, even though it also pre-dates the How Youz Doin era.  Might also be something that we all want to talk about on a Monday.  Especially given that Duquette, one of the more polarizing figures in Boston sports since most of our readers were old enough to follow sports, just got a three-year job as the general manager of the Baltimore Orioles.

I have a couple of interesting connections to Duquette.  A lot of my former co-workers later worked for him, and he's also friends with my godfather.  I'm not interested in protecting people though; as I have been for the last five years, I'm interested in rabblerousing across the internet.  However, being as objective as possible here, I can't hammer Dan Duquette, but on the other end, I'm not part of that camp who is so anti-Theo that they're crediting the 2004 and 2007 World Series to Duquette or protecting Duquette.

The way I see it, Duquette was average, no more, no less.  He's not as good as Theo Epstein.  He's not as good as Andrew Friedman.  He's better than Brian Sabean, Omar Minaya, or Steve Phillips.  The few times I've met him, he did not seem to be the prickly character he's made out to be; just a socially-awkward guy who could very easily rub people the wrong way.  Definitely not the kind of guy who could easily go toe to toe with Scott Boras.  The grown-up version of that ultra-nerd in middle school who knew all those baseball stats, got picked on a lot, but didn't know how to talk to anyone.  You know, but didn't grow up to find a moderate amount of talent in distance running and didn't have the kind of writing acumen or passion to create a 1600-post baseball blog with a classmate from college. 

When we talk about trading for Pedro Martinez and signing Manny Ramirez, the following criticism is something that people criticized Theo Epstein for.  It DOES NOT TAKE ANY SHREWDNESS to look at the guy with the best stats of everyone either on the trade or free agent market and throw the world at him.  There's no skill involved in writing $200 million checks.  Beyond that, his best acquisitions were not in Boston; they were in Montreal.  Finding Ramon Martinez's little brother and trading Delino DeShields was smart, but trading for Ramon's little brother a second time was a little more obvious.  He did turn the Red Sox from their 1992-1993 disaster mode to the 1995 AL East champions pretty quickly, and this high is really something that the Red Sox have not come back down from.  Tim Wakefield and Tom Gordon were good aquisitions; Jose Offerman's on-base percentage was not.  Bringing in Heathcliff Slocumb was good; getting rid of him after riding the hot hand was fantastic because what they got back were two minor leaguers named Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek.  Troy O'Leary wasn't exactly David Ortiz, but you could still argue that his impact was better than Coco Crisp's.

At the same time, the 1996 team was pretty mediocre.  The 1997 team was borderline bad (when Tim C once gave me a quiz of "name the Opening Day rosters," I scored the worst on the 1997 team, but Shane Mack and Bill Haselman might not register as household names).  And the 2000 and 2001 teams were just not compatible with each other, which was a symptom of about 50 years of Boston teams, the mid-2000s Yankees teams, and the 2009-2011 Red Sox as well.

His player development:  Also not stellar.  Obviously you can cite Nomar, Youkilis, Hanley Ramirez, and Freddy Sanchez, and you can also throw in Carl Pavano and Adam Everett.  But to Theo Epstein's credit, he put through more similar-impact players in half the time (and we're yet to see the fruits of his later labor).  But for every Youkilis or Pavano, you have about five Wilton Verases and Brian Roses.  Guys Theo would call "fake prospects."  Although, to his credit, the 1994 Expos, many of which were "his" players, were on top when Donald Fehr and Bud Selig "f***ed everything up" (wow, an NBA strike reference?).

You can't talk about Duquette, however, without mentioning four notable tactical F-ups:  Kevin Kennedy, Roger Clemens, Mo Vaughn, and More Days in First Place.  I actually didn't know about Kennedy until reading the paper this morning, but the GM and manager were at each other's throats.  Clemens being in the "twilight of his career" pissed off the player and killed those negotations.  Sorry, Tom Gordon didn't fill that gap, and Clemens went "closer to home" by crossing a border into the most inconvenient place to play in the American League.  Mo Vaughn was not entirely Duquette's fault (nobody in their right mind would give a big fat guy the money Anaheim gave him), but saying that signing Jose Offerman (who could no longer steal bases) to "replace his on-base percentage" was perhaps the first time the sabermetric school of thinking was used inappropriately and condescendingly.  Saying the Red Sox had more days in first place than the Yankees was glorifying early performance and discounting a full 162, which is what really matters:  Perhaps Dave "Mr. May" Winfield had more days atop the AL leaderboard when playing for New York in the 80s.

Look, the Baltimore Orioles have some problems:  Being in the AL East, having an idiot as an owner, having a power-hungry manager.  The idiot owner, however, is willing to spend a couple of bucks.  He also has a good core of players, though they're starting to near those arbitration and free-agency years.  Duquette is a few moves and a little bit of player development away from making the O's respectable.  Even in their previous configuration, they were in the right direction.  It's up to him to not drive them off the road.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

DV

It's easy to say that signing the best free agent by throwing a ton of money at him doesn't take much, but then again---look at Theo's track record with free agents. At least Duquette knew a stud when he saw one and didn't mess around with the Drews/Lugos/Renterias/Clements/Lackeys of the world. Duquette also deserves credit for letting Mo go when he did. Mo Vaughn had, without a doubt, his best years in Boston. His best power years. His best batting years. He hit over .300 each of his last five years in Boston. He never did it again. The Duke got out while the gettin' was good.

As for Clemens--I think we can all agree that he left Boston and hit the juice. Look at his last four years in Boston. Do those look like numbers you want to sink franchise money into, especially with a guy who was 34? No way. Had he not hit steroids as hard as he did you can bet he wouldn't have been nearly the player he was with Toronto, New York, and Houston.

Duquette struggled where Theo excelled--player development. If you can only name five or six guys that were developed over an eight year tenure, that's not awesome.

All that said, I think Duquette can do a good job in Baltimore. He knows what a good free agent looks like. He knows how to swing a trade. I know I'm interested in seeing how this plays out.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

I think in terms of his Boston years you guys hit the nail pretty much squarely on the head, obviously one issue with him is that he was in the pre-2004 climate of the Boston media and this no doubt has an impact on how the most average Red Sox fan remembers his time.

From Baltimore's perspective, I am not entirely sure how inking a GM that does not have the track record of patience and player development that is needed to build a competitor in this division is a savvy hire. Nothing against the duke but as Gunn said his record is not quite awesome. Perhaps the hire is indicative of the ownership problems DV mentioned but this smells like a move from a team that is lacking patience.

TimC

Ross Kaplan said...

We also can't forget one of Duquette's most significant contributions, co-founding the Israel Baseball League which unfortunately no longer exists. Plus he is the Duquette who did not trade Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano so he's got that going for him too.

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

Thumbs up to your point regarding Duquette going big or going home. Although I think it's rose-colored glasses by saying he didn't go after the Drews and Lugos: Carl Everett (trade), Canseco (I think), and Offerman were all pretty big acquisitions that didn't really pan out for this guy. Look, it happens to all GMs, but we cannot forget the bad when we look at the good. That's why I'm saying he's just average.

Letting go of Clemens and Vaughn were both good baseball moves. My problem was the way he went about doing it. "Twilight of his career" is alongside "more days in first place" when it comes to thinking before you say things. For better or for worse, you have to be a tactician and people guy as much as a baseball guy when you're a GM.

Tim, obviously winning a World Series would have seriously altered the public's view of everyone. Duquette was like all those before him: He was just another average GM who failed to get the job done.

Some legitimate media outlets are offering the opinion that Duquette might have next to no power with a powerful ownership entity and a powerful manager.

Tank,

Mets fans cannot cry about Kazmir anymore because that guy's arm already ran out of bullets.

Anonymous said...

I really agree with pieces of what everyone is saying here. Duquette was neither a great nor bad GM in Boston, he was better in free agency than he was at developing players (and related Duquette should get credit for a solid free agency track record in Boston, both in terms of who he brought in and who he let walk when he did - as Gunn points out even when you have loads of money to throw at guys it doesn't mean you'll pick the right guys, and Duquette largely did), and I'm not sure if this type of GM is best suited for Baltimore. Though, perhaps they feel like they have the player development side of things under control down there (they are producing some excellent talent of late) and are looking for a guy with a strong track record of evaluating and attracting Major League talent, as they perhaps look to become more significant players for big name free agents. Let's remember they've been in the bidding for multiple big name players, they've just failed to really land one in his prime since Tejada. Maybe they are trying to reverse the tide on that front.

Regardless, from a Boston perspective one thing matters above all else when it comes to the job Duquette did there: he is respnsible for Pedro, Manny, Lowe, Varitek, and Damon. Significant pieces were undoubtedly added by Theo, but you are talking about 5 core players to the 2004 Championship effort. That gets overlooked far too often.

PF

Anonymous said...

DV

Canseco was one of Duquette's guys, but go check out his numbers--his OPS+ was 137 in 1995 and 146 in 1996. He hit more homers and drove in more runs in 96 games in 1996 than JD Drew did in ANY season he had in Boston. Canseco may have been a cheater and an idiot, but he was an excellent run producer in Boston and he didn't cost Boston the farm (two years in Boston cost the Sox less than 12 million dollars).

Offerman was a bust. Undeniably. Carl Everett was awesome in 2000. Then he was a complete stain. In the worst possible way. However, in the game where Pedro nearly threw a no-hitter against Tampa Bay (the Ice Williams game) Everett came to the plate late needing a triple for the cycle. Instead he hit another homer.


--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

With Canseco, I remember more than anything else his inability to stay on the field. When you have a DH with constant injury problems and a 1B who was eating himself into a DH, you have a problem.

You stats, however, are more solid than my memories. Good research.

One word that sticks out from the rest of your comment, however, is "Ice." I'm pretty sure that Joe Castiglione is the one and only person on God's green earth, INCLUDING Gerald Williams, who ever referred to this player as "Ice." That was a damn amazing game, but your reference was even better.