• Dec

    HHP: My Lunch with Dan Duquette

    by Tony Soprano


    Today, Stan "the Fan" Charles and Press Box sponsored a luncheon with Dan Duquette at Padonia Station in Cockeysville.  Yours truly was there, and I'll try to recap the event as best as possible. I didn't bring an audio recorder, so what I can give you is from my notes. Some of this you may have heard before.

    Dan mentioned that he used Harry Dalton's blueprint for the Orioles. Specifically, pitching, pitching, pitching and......pitching. He quoted former O's pitching coach, George Bamberger's definition of tendinitis, "the pitcher got smoked the last time out."

    Pitching is a "perishable commodity." Dan brought in some of the best pitching people available. Billy Castro, played for Bamberger; Rick Adair is very good with the veterans and developed Felix Hernandez in the minors.

    Earl Weaver was the "Godfather of Sabermetrics." He didn't want the other team's hitters letting him know if his pitcher was tired. Earl had a guy in the stands with a speed gun to keep track of his pitchers.

    Some teams are relying heavily on sabermetrics, while others, namely Atlanta's John Schuerholz (the best GM he has ever known) relies totally on his scouts. Dan likes to rely on both; it's a powerful combination.

    The difference in 2012 was the bullpen pitching. Buck had 5 or so pitchers he could go to in the bullpen with confidence. "We haven't traded any young pitching because we like them. I could have traded Dylan Bundy 15 times in the last week alone." Moving Tommy Hunter to the bullpen was another Bamberger type move. Back in the day pitchers got their start in the bullpen and worked their way to the bullpen. The whole bullpen is coming back.

    In the 1966 series, Davey had just faced Sandy Koufax and one of the batters after him asked him what kind of stuff Koufax had. Davey responded, "I don't know; I didn't see it. If I did, I know you couldn't hit it anyway."

    We have a core of guys up the middle. Wieters' RBI total has gone up the last three years and calls a fantastic game. AJ Hardy led all infielders in chances and is very dependable. Jones is a terrific 5 tool player. He does everything on offense, and everything on defense. Dan hopes one of the them will be the first Oriole in a while to have a 100 RBI season.

    They got lucky finding Miguel Gonzalez; "he stabilized the team." That was thanks to Fred Ferriera. He listed several players Fred found in his career including Vlad Guerrero. Tillman made adjustments in his pitching and did a great job. We still have Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman on the horizon.

    Chris Davis had a breakout year. During the famous Boston extra inning game, Chris Davis missed on his first two pitches, so Wieters went out to talk to him. Davis said he was having trouble with his two-seamer, and Wieters jokes he thought it was his four-seamer. Buck remembered Davis from the scouting reports when he was with Texas. He thinks Chris Davis can handle 1B in 2013. Dan also likes Betemit as a RH DH and Valencia as DH versus LHP. Valencia was in the running for rookie of the year in 2010. Alexi Casilla has better range than any other second baseman in the league and that includes that guy from NY (Cano). Machado really turned the interior defense from a liability to an asset. 

    Next year, we'll have the core back and hope to resign Joe Saunders. The ballclub is pretty well set but they would like to add a middle of the order bat. One person asked him about Jones' continued lack of plate discipline and his role as clean-up hitter. Dan feels AJ is a number three hitter with Wieters as the #4 versus LHP. Dan feels that Buck will find a way to use both McLouth and Reimold in LF.

    Dan modeled his work in Boston from watching Buck with the Yankees. He credited Andy MacPhail with the Jones-Tillman trade for Bedard. Andy put a lot of the core elements in place. Dan called Andy to thank him and invite him to the playoffs, but Andy declined.

    Asked about LJ Hoes in 2013, Dan simply noted he's a local kid who did a great job in 2012. How about Adam LaRoche? Dan said he's Washington's isn't he. When the crowd told him he's a free agent, Dan joked that there's no such thing as a free agent.

    Everyone wants to see the team make a splash in December but he's wants a team to make a big splash in October. 

    The best part? Well for me anyway, I was able to ask Dan a question about payroll. As you might expect, I noted how we should see at least another $10M from MASN depending on the negotiations with the Nationals, MLB is giving us an additional $25 million in 2014, and we just had a 20% increase in attendance. I continued, "the spin in the media is that Reynolds was in part a financial decision." Now if money is tight for 2013, when does he anticipate being able to spend more and maybe get payroll to $100 million?

    "So what's your question? When can we spend more money?" Yes, we have more money from operations and also from the industry coming in. He didn't see the benefit in discussing payroll in public. We need to be cost effective and one way to do that is through our farm system. Also, we have more than enough resources to have a competitive team year after year.

    On the way out, a man at the bar stopped me and thanked me for asking that question. He then said, "you had him, you should have gone for the jugular." I didn't want to do that, particularly in such a public meet and greet forum. The man, somewhat agitated by the team, insisted over and over that he would have hit him a lot harder, a lot harder.

    I was glad I went. You can't beat $15 for such an opportunity. Dan was very nice, very pleasant and approachable. I was able to get a picture with him, and have him sign a 2012 Camden Yards commemorative baseball. I told him I was impressed that before he decided to take the job, I read he went to pray about it. He mentioned that he went to the Shrine of St. Jude, close to the ballpark in Baltimore. We both know that St. Jude is the Catholic saint of lost causes. He smiled when I told him I think some of his prayers may have been answered. Finally, I told him I thought it was a bold move to bring up Machado, considering other GMs may have wanted to preserve his service time. "He was ready," Dan said.

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