When Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter were fired by the Orioles 13 months ago, there was doubt that either one of them would work again in baseball.
Showalter was recently interviewed for the Los Angeles Angels and Philadelphia Phillies managerial positions that went to Joe Maddon and Joe Girardi but still hopes to manage again.
He spent some of the second half of the season as a commentator on the YES Network, analyzing New York Yankees games, mostly on their pre- and postgame broadcasts.
Duquette had been quiet since the Orioles dismissed him, but last week word surfaced that he’s a candidate for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ general manager’s job.
At 61, two years younger than Showalter, Duquette is older than most of today’s general managers. Like Showalter, who became Yankees manager at 35, Duquette was only 33 when he became the Montreal Expos GM in 1991.
Now, both want another shot to show that they can succeed in their 60s like they did in their 30s. Interestingly, Duquette’s background is not dissimilar to his successor with the Orioles, Mike Elias.
Duquette and Elias went to academically rigorous colleges — Duquette to Amherst and Elias to Yale. Both played college baseball and began their careers as scouts before ascending to GM jobs by their mid-30s.
When Duquette became the Orioles’ GM eight years ago this week, he’d been out of baseball for nine years. The Boston Red Sox fired him in 2002 after eight years.
Although managers are often recycled, it’s not as common for GMs. If Duquette does resurface in Pittsburgh, it will be his fourth time running a franchise.
Besides the Yankees and Orioles, Showalter has managed Arizona and Texas. Another job would be his fifth, which isn’t unheard of, even for excellent managers. Joe Torre managed five teams.
The Pirates’ situation looks more difficult than what Duquette encountered with the Orioles. In Baltimore, Duquette took over a team on the rise, though it had just experienced its 14th straight losing season.
He inherited a solid core of J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters. An underachieving slugger, Chris Davis, had recently come over in a trade.
The Orioles had three postseason teams in Duquette’s first five years before imploding in the last two.
Duquette did many good things in his early years, extending Jones to a six-year contract, acquiring relative unknowns such as Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez to bolster a poor starting rotation.
But there were many mistakes, too. After the team won the AL East in 2014, Duquette didn’t want to sign Markakis and Nelson Cruz to four-year contracts. Both were still producing five years later.
Many blame him for a poor trade in sending Jake Arrieta to the Chicago Cubs, but others with the Orioles thought that Arrieta needed to get away from the AL East to excel.
Trying to replace Markakis in right field, Duquette sent pitchers Steven Brault and Stephen Tarpley to Pittsburgh for underperforming outfielder Travis Snider. When that didn’t work, he doubled down and traded minor league starter Zach Davies to Milwaukee for Gerardo Parra, long before “Baby Shark.”
Brault, Davies and Tarpley all became useful major league pitchers.
Duquette had to work under restrictions with the Orioles. Ownership didn’t want to participate in the international market, a stance that was changed in his final months with the team, and the costly extension for Davis was negotiated over his head.
The Pirates are a team in tumult, having recently lost longtime president Frank Coonelly, GM Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle. They have a new president, Travis Williams, who ran the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, and are searching for a GM and manager.
Having survived in Baltimore for seven seasons, Duquette is used to uncertainty. Should he get the job in Pittsburgh, he’d be allowed to hire his own manager, which he wasn’t allowed to do with the Orioles.
He’s most proud of the young pitchers acquired in trades, drafts and signings over his last three seasons.
Michael Baumann, DL Hall, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Grayson Rodriguez, Drew Rom, Cody Sedlock, Alex Wells and Bruce Zimmermann were brought into the Orioles’ organization by Duquette.
Recently, Duquette took a trip to the Arizona Fall League and was impressed by the improvement he saw from Kremer, who was included the deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers that sent Manny Machado there, and Wells, whom he signed out of Australia.
Machado, who is now with San Diego will be reunited next season with two coaches he had a close relationship with in Baltimore. Bobby Dickerson, who tutored Machado on playing third base in 2012, will be the Padres’ bench coach. Dickerson, who was an infield coach with Philadelphia, reportedly received a three-year contract in San Diego.
Kirby, who was the first base and outfield coach with the Orioles from 2011-2018, also joins the Padres. Machado raved about Kirby’s cooking and regularly played chess with him during their Orioles days.
It will be interesting if San Diego also finds a place for Jonathan Schoop, who will be a free agent for the second straight offseason. Schoop, who badly unperformed with the Brewers after his July 2018 trade, had a decent season with Minnesota but was supplanted at second base by rookie Luis Arraez.
Machado and Schoop maintain a close friendship while Dickerson was especially close with Schoop, who often joined Kirby and Machado for chess matches.