I’ve been in this business long enough to know I shouldn’t dismiss anything.
Oftentimes in professional sports, where there is smoke there is fire.
I’ve been told in November that the Orioles had no interest at all in a certain free agent only to watch him to sign with the club a few months later.
I once was told that the Orioles absolutely, positively were not trading for Sammy Sosa. A few days later there was a news conference announcing the deal.
So every time there is a report on anything involving the Orioles I pay attention, especially when it comes from a source I know and respect.
Keep that in mind as I step on the most recent smoldering around this club.
This morning, Mike Berardino, of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweeted the following: “Orioles GM Dan Duquette, a Blue Jays target in 2014-15, could be in play again. Nationals are pursuing him as team president, per source.”
So here we go again.
Duquette offered the following text of denial: “I don’t know anything about this nor has anyone contacted me.”
And, through a spokesman, the Nationals issued this statement: “We are not in discussions with Dan Duquette nor are we in the market for a team president.”
OK, cold water from both. And notice, Duquette, unlike his dalliance with Toronto in December 2014, immediately said there is no truth here.
So what should you believe?
Here’s my take: This is such an awful fit for so many reasons that I’m not buying it.
The Nationals already have a team president in Mike Rizzo, who is signed through this season, and the club has a two-year option to keep him through 2018.
Duquette is signed through 2018 and, although his title says vice president, he is essentially on par with Rizzo. You can’t make the argument it truly would be an advancement in position, just title.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos wouldn’t allow Duquette to leave for the Toronto president gig, which is a much weightier position. That one – now held by Baltimore native Mark Shapiro — is basically in charge of the full organization, including its communications/broadcasting arm, business marking entity, etc. There are very few positions like it in all of sports, which is why it appealed so much to Duquette and Shapiro, formerly the president of the Cleveland Indians.
The Orioles, under Angelos, wanted two top prospects from the division rival Blue Jays to allow Duquette out of his contract. What would Angelos want from the Nationals, the franchise he is currently in court with over MASN money? My guess is it probably would start with Bryce Harper, top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito and at least one of the racing presidents – and I’m only sort of joking. Astronomical isn’t a strong enough word.
No way would Angelos do a favor for the Nationals. And I can’t imagine Nationals’ ownership would want to tangle again with their neighbors to the north. Not a good scenario for anyone.
Some believe that if the Orioles just made Duquette their president, all of this would go away. But that’s just a title. If teams want to court Duquette, they’ll come after him regardless. And if the Orioles allow him to get out of his contract, it only would be for a position that is a significant upgrade in responsibility and not just title. So I think that argument is moot.
Sure, the Orioles could just want to get rid of Duquette and let someone take him. But why? If you haven’t noticed, the team is winning again. And that’s what teams do under Duquette. It may not always be smooth, but, as a whole, the man has had undeniable success in this game.
I guess the question everyone wonders is if there is no truth to this, how come a respected journalist got wind of it and was confident enough to put it out there?
Obviously, I don’t know the answer there and I would never ask a friend and colleague who his source was. It could have come from the Orioles, the Nationals or someone else within Major League Baseball.
But I do know this: Duquette and manager Buck Showalter are different men. They are never going to be best buddies. They have different approaches, different styles and they also have the usual tug-of-war about personnel moves that most similar relationships create.
And that means there are Buck people and Dan people within the organization. It’s the way it is, and it is not unique to the Orioles; many manager-general manager situations are like that.
So long as the Orioles are winning — and they are — there likely won’t be any public issues. But when everyone is not on the same page, and it is tough to achieve in that fully in any organization, there are going to be whispers. And the whispers will grow louder, especially when a team struggles or a power relationship becomes more frayed.
The bottom line is that I don’t think Dan Duquette will end up with the Nationals. There are so many reasons why that just doesn’t make sense.
But the report today again makes everyone wonder whether Duquette and Showalter will finish their contracts together. Regardless of personality, they’ve been able to work together so far – and rather successfully.
There are, however, almost three full seasons left on those contracts. And I guess you never know when smoke can burst into fire.