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September 5, 2007 at 11:50 pm ET
The Search For A CEO: Dan Duquette

The Search for a CEO

This off-season, the Pirates will hire a new CEO to replace Kevin McClatchy, who has held the position since purchasing the team prior to the 1996 season. It’s one of the most important decisions in the team’s recent history, and one that will ultimately determine whether the franchise finally emerges from a decade and a half long cycle of losing or remains mired in futility. Although no clear favorite for the position has emerged, a long list of rumored candidates has. In order to get to know some of these contenders, I’ve asked a slew of bloggers and writers familiar with them to offer some thoughts. Today’s subject: Dan Duquette.

Dan Duquette was the general manager of the Boston Red Sox from 1994-2002, a position he previously held with the Montreal Expos. He is currently the executive director of the Dan Duquette Sports Academy, and an executive with the Israeli Baseball League.

– Dan Tobin,
Bugs and Cranks. “Ah, Dan Duquette. He has a horrible rep for running Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn out of town… but Roger was done with the Sox, and Mo was just plain done. Sure, he obtained zeros like Dante Bichette and dinosaur-haters like Carl Everett. But he also brought Pedro to Boston for his ungodly years, hoodwinked the Mariners into giving up Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb, and made sure Manny goes to the Hall of Fame with a B on his hat. Theo gets all the credit for 2004, but good soup starts with good stock, and half that team was cooked up in Dan Duquette’s kitchen. He could never build a truly great team, and his farm system was a dog… and yet, you could probably do worse.

-Seth Mnookin, SethMnookin.com, Author: Feeding the Monster. “Dan Duquette was, in some ways, an uniquely bad GM while with the Red Sox: it’s asinine to let personal conflicts with a manager effect how a team is run, and it’s equally dumb, in a city like Boston, to pick a fight with the press: all that’s going to do is leech your time and energy. Duquette’s other big failing in Boston was going for the big-name talent while ignoring the need to surround them with an above average (or at least average) supporting cast. You look at some of the raw talent he had and it’s amazing the Sox didn’t do better.

That said, Duquette’s many skills — and the many good deals he pulled off — have been pretty much ignored because of the way in which he left the team. If you look back at all of the insane free-agent signings of the 00/01 offseason — Mussina, Kevin Appier, Mike Hampton, Darren Dreifort, etc (a full breakdown of that class is HERE), Manny and A-Rod are pretty much the only ones who’ve played at a level consistent with their contracts. That wasn’t just dumb luck. Duquette’s trade for Pedro — in which he sent Carl Pavano and a PTBNL (which ended up being Tony Armas Jr) to Montreal — was derided at the team; who’d want a fragile starter who was going to demand a lot of money instead of a young stud who was considered a top-of-the-rotation guy? Obviously, that worked out pretty well, also. And the $90 mil contract Petey eventually signed with the Sox ended up being one of those rare deals that was pretty fair for both the team and the player. Finally, Duquette orchestrated the best trade in Red Sox history (and one of the best trades ever) when he got Varitek and Derek Lowe in return for Heathcliff ‘I’m now the answer to a trivia question’ Slocumb.

All of which is to say I’d think Duquette would have a decent chance to succeed in Pittsburgh. He’s shown he can evaluate talent, and I’d guess that in a market that’s not as over-oxygenated as Boston’s, he wouldn’t have the pressure to always succeed that seemed to both distract him and drive him a little batty. The one big question I’d have is how he’d do without a big payroll to play with; in any case, it’d be fun to watch.”

Ian Bethune, Sox and Dawgs. “Dan Duquette is the man who thought Roger Clemens was done and past his prime in 1996. Folks it’s 2007 and the Rocket is still pitching strong. Save yourself the trouble, hire someone else.”

- Dan Lamothe, Red Sox Monster. “The moral of the story? Even in Boston, where Duquette is rarely recognized for his best decisions, Dealin’ Dan had a mixed bag at worst. When you consider that the Pittsburgh Pirates have a mission statement that would appear much more closely to the former Montreal Expos, whom Duquette managed to great success before joining the Red Sox, it’s hard not take the man as a serious candidate. Whether he’s the best man for the job? That remains to be seen.” (Read Dan’s entire thoughts on Dan Duquette HERE).

- Red, Surviving Grady, Fanhouse. “I can tell you this: Dan Duquette is most infamously remembered in Boston for such inane comments as “we spent more days in first place than any other team in the AL East” and for shuffling Roger Clemens out of town before the Rocket won another 153 Cy Young Awards. But I prefer to remember him for two majestic maneuvers we’re still reaping the benefits of: trading Heathcliff Slocumb to the Mariners for Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe, and turning Pirates cast-off Tim Wakefield into one of baseball’s greatest comeback stories. Also, his sneakers-with-power-suit combo helped elevate “white guy nerd cool” when it was still underground.”

- Kristin Cook
, Drunken Bleachers. “Yikes! Dan Duquette. While I have to give “The Duke” credit for acquiring key members of the Red Sox 2004 championship team – Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon – his aloof personality detracted from the positive baseball moves that he made. Duquette was a poor communicator. During his tenure as GM, he agitated players, managers, media and the fans and contributed to poor chemistry within the organization. To be honest, I get queasy and turn little bit green when I think about the Red Sox during the “Duquette Era.”

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2 Responses to “The Search For A CEO: Dan Duquette”
  1. letsgetreal says:

    Let’s not forget what he did at Montreal, which is a much closer comparison than what he did at Boston (which was basically turn around a forgotten franchise).

    Would the Red Sox have Josh Beckett right now if it weren’t for Dan Duquette’s minor league system that produced Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez? What would Pirates fans give to have Vladimir Guerrero on their team?

    Vlad was signed during Duquette’s tenure at Montreal. Oh, and lets not forget he was voted GM of the year TWICE!

    There is no question that he is qualified for any CEO of GM position. The only question is whether the Pirates brass have the good sense to hire him. They’ve lost for 15 years in a row.

    Theo Epstein should send a dozen roses to Dan Duquette for stockpiling the team that eventually won the World Series. And if it weren’t for the strike the Montreal team that Dan Duquette built were the odds on favorite to win the World Series in 94.

    That 94 Expos team was an all star team! You have to wonder what might have been if Duquette stayed in Montreal. Holy smokes… Vlad, Pedro, etc. Maybe his only mistake was following his heart and becoming the GM of the Red Sox?

    He’s among the top 5 minds in baseball ladies and gentlemen. Whether you like him or not.

    From wikipedia:

    As a baseball executive, Dan Duquette successfully oversaw quick turnarounds during his tenure as GM of the Expos and Red Sox, expanding fan interest in both markets to record-breaking levels. As farm system director of the Expos from 1987 to 1991, Duquette helped build one of the most productive player development operations in the industry. After joining the Red Sox, he rebuilt the scouting staff and farm system from what was one of the least productive in the industry to one that has been the foundation of an elite franchise ever since.

    Dan was twice honored as the Major League Baseball Executive of the Year, first by The Sporting News in 1992 with the Expos, and later by the Boston Baseball Writers Association in 1995 with the Red Sox.

  2. Billy says:

    If Dan will deal Littlefield, Creech, and Graham I vote yes for Dan…..

    Then we fire him.

    I would tip my hat to him if he fired the above Three Stooges.

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