Dan Duquette had been out of a major league front office since 2002, the year he was fired by the Boston Red Sox after eight seasons as the team's general manager. The Orioles had been rejected by one candidate — and possibly more — in the team's month-long search to replace Andy MacPhail as the club's top baseball executive.
On Sunday, Duquette found his way back to the big leagues and the Orioles found what they hoped was the man who would lead the team out of its 14-season abyss. A team official with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed the hiring and said that Duquette would likely be introduced at a news conference Tuesday.
Duquette, 53, could not be reached for comment and Orioles owner Peter Angelos, when reached by telephone, declined comment.
Two sources with knowledge of the negotiations said Duquette agreed to a three-year deal.
Respected for his ability to turn the Red Sox from contenders into a championship team — Boston won the first of two World Series titles in 2004, ending an 86-year drought and bringing to an end the "Curse of the Bambino" — as well as his connections to Latin American talent as the farm director of the Montreal Expos in the early 1990s, Duquette will have a formidable task in trying to turn around the Orioles.
MacPhail had appeared to get things turned in the right direction when he hired Buck Showalter as manager after the All-Star break in 2010 and the team finished with a 34-23 record in their last 57 games. But the corps of young pitching hopefuls, in particular Brian Matusz, regressed last season.
Following the promising finish in 2010 and a fast — if brief — positive start last season, the Orioles plummeted in the standings for most of the summer before another late-season surge culminated with them knocking the Red Sox out of the playoffs in the final game of the season.
The hiring of Duquette came after the Orioles were turned down by at least one other candidate, Toronto Blue Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava.
According to his cousin Jim Duquette, who was vice president of baseball operations with the Orioles in 2005 and 2006 alongside the late Mike Flanagan, Dan Duquette was a candidate for the Los Angeles Angels general manager's job and had tried to get back into a major league position with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the past couple of years.
Jim Duquette, who still lives in the area and does a local talk radio show, said that he has had "plenty of conversations" with his cousin in recent years and again as Dan Duquette's name surfaced for the job with the Orioles. Jim Duquette said that there was a time when Dan Duquette "wanted to get away" from the grind of running a team to concentrate on his family.
Dan Duquette had been running a baseball academy in Massachusetts since he left major league baseball in 2002. He has also been credited with starting a baseball league in Israel in 2007. In the past couple of years, Duquette had interviewed for a few jobs at the major league level.
"He's had a couple of interviews that haven't been the right fit," Jim Duquette said. "When you look at his track record, it's a pretty impressive track record. There's always things that you can do better in those situations, [but] he's always had the desire to get back into it. When he first left the Red Sox, his hope was that he'd end up being president of a club some day.
"Once he realized that wasn't going to happen, and then he had some personal things he had to take care of in his life. The kids are out of college and it makes sense to get back in the game. A lot of different factors as why now."
Jim Duquette said he believes that the Orioles had trouble attracting a long list of qualified candidates because of the perception of the team — particularly when it comes to Angelos and his spending habits — that it could not compete with the rest of the American League East.
"I think it's happened with some of the candidates. It's [thought to be] not a desirable job," Jim Duquette said. "There are some positive qualities to running the organization. They really feel like they have some interesting pieces with some of the young pitching. There's not a level of faith right now with your fan base because you're hearing this for a long time. It's not dissimilar to what the Pirates front office have had to deal with up in Pittsburgh."
Jim Duquette, who spoke Sunday morning while his cousin was finalizing the deal during a meeting with Angelos, said that it might be worth following the blueprint the Pirates did in making strides last season.
"They had to make some tough decisions and they had to really build from player development and scouting, and there's a whole bunch of trust with their fan base and [the fans] didn't buy into it until this year," Jim Duquette said. "There's a lot of reasons in this sport why it goes in that direction and it takes a while in this sport to get it going in that direction. I think Andy got it started there and … it'll be the next challenge. But it can be done."
There has also been speculation that the Orioles would not hire a strong personality that could conflict with Showalter. Dan Duquette has been known for being a confident, if sometimes abrasive, executive.
"I don't have any concern about he and Buck working together," Jim Duquette said. "Sometimes that [ego] gets mistaken for having conviction, but you can't work successfully in any of these big jobs without being able to work with the general manager or the manager. Even though they know each other a long time, their relationship takes time to build and grow. I think they're both in it for the right reasons. They've had some time away, they appreciate the game. To me, I think it's a terrific marriage. I think they're both bright baseball minds."