FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A Boston Red Sox fan all his life, Dan
Duquette knows what it's like to have his heart broken by the team.
Choking back tears as he said goodbye to his dream job, the
former Red Sox general manager said he would be back at Fenway Park
cheering on the team he ran for eight years before being fired
"I'm most disappointed that I will not have the opportunity to
realize the goal Red Sox fans and I have shared for too long: a
World Series championship," he said."No one loves the Red Sox
more than I do. No one is more dedicated to the success of this
Showing an emotional side absent from his tenure as GM, Duquette
took a long pause to calm a quivering lip before thanking those in
the organization who supported him.
But those supporters did not include the team's new owners, who
fired him less than 24 hours after closing their $660 million deal
to buy the team, its stadium and its television network. Former
California Angels GM and Duquette assistant Mike Port will be the
interim general manager.
"This decision was not an easy one to make, and we have nothing
but good personal feelings for Dan," said team president Larry
Lucchino, who met with Duquette at his hotel on Thursday morning
along with new owners John Henry and Tom Werner.
"We are also unanimous in our feeling of gratitude for the many
contributions that Dan Duquette has made to the Boston Red Sox,"
Lucchino said."We wish him well in what we're sure will be a long
and successful baseball career."
Duquette will continue to be paid until Jan. 26, 2004, as part
of the $4.5 million, three-year contract extension given to him by
the old owners.
Port, 56, was general manager of the Angels from 1984-91 and
assistant GM in Boston from 1993 until he was appointed vice
president of baseball operations in 1996. He said he wasn't sure if
he would be part of a house-cleaning or the beneficiary of it.
"It comes very much as a surprise," he said."It's an awesome
Lucchino declined to comment on manager Joe Kerrigan's future,
saying only that he would be discussing it with the owners Friday.
The Red Sox went 17-26 under Kerrigan after Jimy Williams was
fired in August. Asked if he felt secure in his job, Kerrigan said:
"I'm the manager of the Boston Red Sox, and until somebody tells
me further, that's what my focus is on."
The Red Sox went 656-574 under Duquette, setting attendance
records but winning the AL East just once. They also earned
wild-card berths in 1998 and 1999, advancing to the second round
only once in three playoff appearances.
But Duquette will be remembered less for building an on-field
failure -- after all, which Red Sox GM of the last 83 years hasn't?
-- than for the team's contentious relationship with the fans, media
and, most importantly, the players.
Duquette miscalculated Roger Clemens' market value, saying in
1996 that the future Hall of Famer was"in the twilight of his
career." Clemens left, winning three more Cy Young Awards and a
World Series ring that Red Sox greats like Ted Williams and Carl
Yastrzemski never got.
Duquette's emphasis on statistics over character left the
clubhouse in constant turmoil and tormented fans who didn't share
his actuarial approach. It may be true, as Duquette said more than
once, that the Red Sox spent more days in first place than the
Yankees last season, but that meant little for fans who have been
starving for a championship since their grandfathers were born.
Duquette grew up in Dalton, Mass., went to college at Amherst
and left the small-market Montreal Expos in 1994 to run his
favorite team. He brought along a reputation as a shrewd evaluator
of talent, and with his first draft pick he chose shortstop Nomar
Garciaparra, who went on to win two AL batting titles.
The Red Sox won the AL East in 1995, but the '96 season
collapsed amid daily complaints about Duquette from players.
Manager Kevin Kennedy took the fall, and Clemens -- the most
accomplished pitcher in Red Sox history -- signed with the Toronto
Blue Jays soon after.
Duquette's greatest coup was acquiring Pedro Martinez from the
salary-dumping Expos and signing him to a longterm deal. But still,
the Yankees increased their World Series titles to 26 since
Boston's last one in 1918, and New York beat Boston 4-1 in the 1999
AL championship series.
"I wish we beat the Yankees in '99," Duquette said when asked
about his regrets."That was a series I always dreamed about,
In the 2000 season, a rift developed when temperamental
outfielder Carl Everett quarreled with Williams and Duquette failed
to back his manager."It's more important how he produces on the
field," he said of Everett.
Other players took that as a green light to gripe.
Last year, in an effort to end baseball's third-longest
championship drought in the last season of Yawkey ownership,
Duquette spent $110 million on player salaries. But the season
again disintegrated in injury and turmoil. The Red Sox went 12-26
under Kerrigan before winning their last five.