The Orioles put up their Duke

Dan Duquette has signed a three-year contract to be their executive vice president of baseball operations despite having not worked in a major league front office since 2002 after being the general manager for the Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox. As Boston GM he planted the seeds for Theo Epstein‘s successful tenure.

Dan is the second Duquette to work for the Orioles, XM/Sirius announcer Jim Duquette, Dan’s cousin, had the pleasure before him. Dan will attempt to break the Orioles streak of 14 successive losing seasons. He takes over for Andy MacPhail, who stepped down from the post last month. Pat Gillick, Frank Wren, and Syd Thrift are some besides the Dukes who have attempted to deal with owner Peter Angelos and his troubled O’s.

Duquette has been away from MLB for over nine years and perhaps could be forgiven for not entirely realizing what he will be getting himself into with Angelos and Orioles Buck Showalter. In a great column for ESPNBoston.com, Gordon Edes reminds everyone what Dan Duquette has been up to recently:

This is his résumé since John W. Henry gave him a $3 million golden parachute to go away:
• overseeing his kids’ sports camp in western Massachusetts
• running a team in a college summer league
• directing a baseball league in Israel that folded after one eight-week season
• buying an ownership stake in an independent league team, the American Defenders of New Hampshire, who were sold just more than a year later
• singing “You Gotta Have Heart” as the manager of the Washington Senators in a local production of the musical “Damn Yankees.”

But there’s more from Edes:

But it’s no accident that Duquette has taken an oh-fer in big league employment ever since he called his 2002 poolside news conference to announce that, contrary to his expectations, the incoming ownership group not only had elected not to promote him to the club presidency he thought he deserved but also was cutting all ties to him.

For all his accomplishments, Duquette turned Yawkey Way toxic with his glaring lack of people skills. He alienated the team’s biggest stars, Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn, both of whom departed under bitter circumstances. He failed to back his manager, Jimy Williams, in an ugly falling-out with angry star Carl Everett, then promoted the unqualified Joe Kerrigan to succeed him, leading to Manny Ramirez‘s jumping the team in Anaheim. He hired an off-the-wall statistical analyst who took credit for the team’s personnel moves. His promise to create an assembly line of homegrown talent like he did in Montreal fell woefully short, underscored by the pathetic botching of negotiations with a drafted high school first baseman named Mark Teixeira, who accused the Sox of showing no respect “to me or my family.” His attempts to make inroads in the Asian market were mostly failures and marred by a dubious connection with a talent hunter named Ray Poitevint.

Duquette became notorious for not returning phone calls from his fellow general managers, for fostering an atmosphere of paranoia among his own scouts and minor league staffers. And his idea of media relations was to stonewall and sidestep, which left him with few supporters in the public arena.

Yet, having said all that, if Duquette succeeds with the Orioles and Theo Epstein fails with the Cubs, the entire Epstein-Red Sox era will be viewed under a different light. Because, as Edes points out, it was Duquette who traded for Pedro Martinez twice, once for the Expos, once for the Sox; acquired Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb, signed Tim Wakefield after the Pirates released him; drafted Nomar Garciaparra; and signed Johnny Damon.

Theo acquired from Duquette a much better ballclub than Ben Cherington is acquiring from Theo and after watching the Orioles in September, you have to wonder how far away they might be from being competitive. The AL East is definitely more interesting today.