How did Dan Duquette not receive a single vote for the Executive of the Year award?
Rather than list all of the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations personnel moves one by one, let’s look at the big picture highlights.
* Took steps towards improving the Organization’s scouting and player development areas by adding Fred Ferreira (Executive Director, International Recruiting), Gary Rajsich (Director, Scouting) and Rick Peterson (Director, Pitching Development) to the front office. All three men, along with many others, paid immediate dividends to the Orioles. Ferreira played varying roles in bringing Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, and Henry Urritia into the fold. Peterson implemented an organization-wide biomechanics-based pitching system that has drawn rave reviews from both inside and outside the Orioles organization. Much of Chris Tillman’s marked improvement is credited to Peterson’s system. Others Duquette hires – including Special Assistant Brady Anderson – had a direct impact on the 2012 club and will likely yield future results as well.
* Built depth through low risk trades, minor league signings, and low risk Major League acquisitions during the off season. Over the winter of 2011/2012, Duquette acquired the following players through these means: Taylor Teagarden, Dana Eveland, Luis Ayala, Wilson Betemit, Nick Johnson, Pat Nesheck, Jai Miller, Matt Antonelli, Steve Tolleson, Willie Eyre, Stu Pomeranz, and Endy Chavez, among others.
* Continued to build depth through those same means – including waiver wire claims – during the season. In-Season acquisitions included Lew Ford, Steve Pearce, Luis Exposito, Nate McLouth, Omar Quintanilla, Joe Saunders, Jim Thome, Bill Hall, Jamie Moyer, and Miguel Tejada.
* Not all of those players contributed at the Major League level but Duquette and his staff appeared to be on point with their evaluations nearly every time. Of the players listed above, perhaps only Hall, Exposito, and Pomeranz played on the Major League squad but failed to significantly contribute. In Hall and Exposito’s case, it was due to limited playing time. An injury limited Pomeranz’ ability to contribute. All three players, however, remained in the organization all season. Only Pat Nesheck in that group never made the Major League team but managed to contribute elsewhere in the Majors in 2012.
* Signed Miguel Gonzalez to a Minor League contract during Spring Training, recognized his strong performance as a reliever at Norfolk, and had the foresight to convert Gonzalez to a starter mid-season when it was clear that the Baltimore rotation needed reinforcements.
* Duquette’s only major trade was the February deal that sent Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom. Guthrie struggled for the Rockies while Hammel was an All-Star caliber pitcher for the first half of the season until injury his knee. Lindstrom was a solid part of the bullpen until being traded to Arizona for Joe Saunders in August. Duquette might have only pulled off one significant trade, but it was a big one.
* Showed a willingness to shift around and/or cut players when they were not contributing. By July, 3/5’s of the O’s opening day rotation was pitching in the Minors. Veterans like Tejada and Moyer were brought in for a looksee, were not given any preferential treatment, and were discarded without reaching the Majors when it became evident that they would not improve the big league club. Another example is JC Romero, who was brought in as left-handed relief help, opted out of his minor league contract, and then was shrewdly resigned after Troy Patton went on the DL. After some rocky outings, Romero was let go and the Orioles’ pursued other left-handed relief options. Duquette never became complacent in this regard and truly did always look for the best available player for a roster spot.
* Handled first year players with the appropriate level of care. Xaiver Avery might have been rushed to the Majors, but was given an opportunity while there and was immediately sent back to Norfolk to continue his development when it became clear he was not ready. Manny Machado’s unexpected promotion in August proved to be a work of genius and Dylan Bundy’s innings were well-managed which allowed him to get his feet wet in Baltimore in September.
* 52 players saw game action for the Orioles in 2012. Duquette was masterful in his ability to move around players and constantly update the team, rather than ever settling for the current hand he was dealt. When players did not perform, they were sent down or released regardless of status or expectations. All players – regardless of how they were acquired – were a given a fair shake and an opportunity to succeed. Despite underperformances and injuries, the team that competed in August and September was a far better team than the one that started the season. Duquette obliterated the widely held theory that a winning team is made (or not) during the off season. I think that is his greatest accomplishment. He took a team that nobody thought had a chance, weathered set back after set back, continued to work, and built a 93-win team out of 52 players.
The fact that Duquette did not receive a single vote with that resume is head scratching. One might even call it suspicious. Fifty-seven executives from around Major League Baseball vote on the award. We don’t know the individual reasons why none of these executives were compelled to give a single vote to Duquette. It is ultimately not worthwhile to speculate, but I would like to make one point. It is reasonable to assume that the executives who voted for the award identified attributes and qualities that make a good executive and to a man decided that Dan Duquette did not display those attributes to the extent or warranting a vote. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Billy Beane was a deserving candidate. He displayed many of the qualities I listed above for Duquette – the ability to acquire under the radar talent, the ability to supplement a team with cheap veteran alternatives, and the skill of adding to a budget-strapped team during a season when the inevitable injuries and underperformances occur. I am less sure about Mike Rizzo. I just don’t see the same portfolio of solid signings and additions nor the ability or need to adapt to change midseason. The Nationals added Gio Gonzalez this off season, did little else, and largely road their young, talented team to 1st place in the NL East. If nothing else, the way the organization handled Stephen Strassburg is reason enough to question Rizzo’s placement.
Regardless, it is baffling that Duquette did not receive a vote. Ultimately, these awards matter next to nothing. I just wonder if it doesn’t speak to a bigger picture issue on the way baseball at large views Duquette and the somewhat unorthodox way he managed the organization during the 2012 season. Hopefully Duquette and the Orioles are equally as successful in 2013 so that we can revisit this debate next November when the 2103 version of the award is announced.