Letters of Intent
By Andrew Hendriks
In a scene similar to that of both the Blue Jays staff Christmas reception last December, and the Vancouver Canadians Luncheon held earlier this year, those in attendance at Toronto’s annual State of the Franchise event greeted Paul Beeston with a standing ovation as the clubs president was announced over the personal address system at Rogers Center,Thursday night.
The event, which served as an unofficial kick off to a new year of Blue Jays baseball, also marked the first time in which Beeston met publicly with fans since being offered a contract for the 2015 season, ending an ugly couple of months that consisted of countless rumors and general unrest between the Jays’ front office staff and those who pull the stings under the Rogers Communications umbrella.
In short, at various points between the end of the 2014 regular season and the start of the winter meetings in San Diego, a group of Rogers employees from outside of the Jays front office had approached a handful of teams, including the Yankees, Orioles and White Sox with the intentions of finding a suitable replacement for Beeston, who’s contract with Toronto expired last fall.
From a business standpoint, this seems like common practice. Right?
Well, considering what Beeston means to the Toronto Blue Jays, having been a part of this ball club since the formative days of its existence, common practice should be an after thought.
The fact of the matter is that Rogers had conducted their search secretively, approaching rival clubs in a manner that was unbeknownst to anyone within the Jays’ front offices, including Beeston who, contract-less, remained with the team and was left waiting in the wings.
In turn, Rogers decision to not include team executives in the replacement process appeared to have caused a rift between club officials and team ownership, thus creating a confluence of events that sent shock waves through not only the team’s fan base, but also the baseball community as a whole.
“It was well above my pay grade” said general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, who met with the media prior to Thursdays event. “When I landed in San Diego, my phone blew up just like everyone else.”
When the dust had settled following a well documented period of unrest within the organization, Rogers had failed to acquire either Chicago’s Kenny Williams or Baltimore’s Dan Duquette, the pair of executives who, in addition to being under contract with rival clubs, had been linked to talks with Blue Jays ownership over the course of a three month period that ended in late January.
Having struck out in the attempts to find a viable replacement for their teams president, ownership then proceeded to refocus their efforts on to Beeston, issuing the 69 year-old executive a new one-year contract for the 2015 season.
Although Beeston accepted the proposal and will remain at the helm of the Jays’ for the remainder of the upcoming campaign, most would agree that this wasn’t the way to treat an employee who has essentially been with the club (in various capacities) for nearly 40 years.
“I think one of the things that has kind of been lost in our culture is respect” said Pat Gillick, president of the Philadelphia Phillies and former colleague of Beeston’s in Toronto. “Respect for other people. Respect for their feelings and for the way they should be treated.”
Gillick, who joined Sportsnet 590 the Fan’s Bob McCowan on Prime Time Sports earlier this week, worked side by side with Beeston from 1977 until his departure from the club in 1994 and combined, the duo played an integral role in shaping the Toronto Blue Jays from a 54-107 ball club in the teams inaugural season, to back to back World Series champions by 1993.
Needless to say, he remains in close contact with his old confidant, and when asked how he felt about the situation regarding the president’s unpleasant off-season and, more specifically, how it unfolded under a spotlight over the past few months, the 2011 Cooperstown inductee spoke honestly about the matter.
“I certainly thought this situation, that went on without any appeared communication for over seven weeks, didn’t show very much respect to an employee that had been with the ball club, off and on other than the five years he was in New York, for 39 years”.
Those in attendance at Thursdays event shared in Gillick’s sentiments.
“I think it’s unfair to Beeston, going behind his back and not actually talk to him at first” said Craig Chapman, season ticket holder and loyal supporter of the club. “Maybe he would have had some thoughts about how to go about it in a more professional way. There are certain things about the league, like tampering issues and all kinds of things that, after what happened earlier this off-season, could come back and bite the Jays later on.”
Despite the development of a seemingly uncomfortable situation between himself and club ownership, Beeston remained positive when asked about the events earlier this week. Having worked in Major League Baseball for the majority of his long standing professional career, the Welland, ON native understands that this type of situation, and the subsequent attention it received throughout the media, can be par for the course.
“I don’t think anyone likes to see their careers played out in the papers” explained the Jays’ president during an interview with PTS last Tuesday. ” However, we’re in sports and thing’s like this will get played out in the media because it’s a story”.
Regardless of the optics created by this winters events, Beeston’s mandate of bringing a world series championship back to Canada remains intact, and in his final year at the helm of the Blue Jays, the club president is focused on making this season a memorable one for fans of this franchise.
“We’re going to dedicate 2015 towards playing in October” said Beeston during his closing remarks on Thursday.
I’m going to be here until October 31st” added the long time Blue Jays luminary, pausing for dramatic effect. “I know it’s scheduled that the World Series ends on November third… So maybe (Gibbons and Anthopoulos) can put me on their guest pass list.”
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