Saturday, March 10, 2012
30 Jays in 30 Days Off-Field Edition: Roast Beest
Photo credit: the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, who somehow made a photo of the most powerful person in the Blue Jays organization look like a yearbook shot of your high school physics teacher
Who: Paul McGill Beeston, President and CEO, Toronto Blue Jays
Nickname: “Beest”, spawning such lovable and not-at-all-tiresome spinoffs as “Beestmode”.
Key characteristics: Socklessness. Beeston told Morgan Campbell of the Toronto Star in 2010 that he picked up the habit of rarely wearing socks from Buffalo teenagers around with whom he used to hang as a youngster.
History: According to Wikipedia and other assorted folklore, Beeston was the very first employee of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1976, which makes me wonder if he just had to wander the halls to find the pisser that first day, since nobody else was around to tell him where it was. From 1991 to 1997, he had the same job he has now as President and CEO of the organization. He was President and CEO of Major League Baseball from 1997 to 2002, returning to the Jays fold six years later to re-assume his duties, initially in an interim capacity and then under the terms of a three-year contract signed in 2009.
What Does He Do?: I ask this question mostly rhetorically, because obviously, Beeston has a lot of influence over the operations of the team, including some influence over the on-field product itself. I don’t know the inner workings of the Jays front office any better than you do (unless you happen to be Alex Anthopoulos or Paul Beeston and you’re reading this for yourself. Hi fellas!) But I gather the President and CEO is the big swingin’ dick in charge of the business side of running a major league baseball team. Marketing and promotions; ticket sales; merchandising; broadcasting agreements – all that stuff is in Beeston’s bailiwick. In terms of putting the team together, he surely has some kind of role as well, whether it’s playing an active part in contract negotiations or setting budgets for other parts of the baseball operation, like scouting or draft bonuses. All of which means Beeston matters to this organization.
Does He Do It Well?: Yes, I think so. When he was named interim President in 2008, it was under the pretense that his primary job would be to find a permanent replacement, Rogers Communications kept coming back to him as the best man for the job until he finally agreed (to the surprise of few). Beeston is pretty much universally loved by Jays fans for his work in helping to cement the team as an AL East Contender through the 80s and early 1990s, culminating in back-to-back World Series titles. He worked hand-in-glove with GM Pat Gillick, and there are shades of the same interpersonal dynamics at play between him and Anthopoulos today. If you like the general direction of the team, you probably like Beeston. If not, not.
Notable Screwups: Okay, maybe that overstates things, but Beeston has received plenty of grief over some musings he’s made about the team’s payroll potentially reaching a lofty $120 million. A certain segment of the fan base is now, shall we say, impatient for this. The past offseason was a veritable orgy of demands for this expensive acquisition or that, which I just relived in my own mind while typing this and now I’m having an aneurysm. Summing up: Beeston probably didn’t need to say what he said. People probably didn’t need to read as much into it as they did. Now everybody stop, m‘kay? Let’s have ice cream.
Looking Ahead: Beeston’s contract is set to expire at the end of the 2012 season. There have been bits of speculation here and there about whether he’ll be replaced, and by whom. At the “State of the Franchise” event earlier this year, when asked about whether his successor might be seated with him on the dugout, Beeston replied, “It’s not my choice, but it’s easy to recognize talent.” This prompted Bob Elliott to ask whether Beeston was referring to Buck Martinez, which I think would be a fun choice, if only for the revenue possibilities that would exist as Rogers spun the whole scenario off as a sitcom.
2012 Expectations: Ummm… more of the same? Really, I think most of the heavy lifting that Beeston does is behind the scenes. If his face is front and centre during the course of the season, I expect it would be because something bad has happened. If the Jays continue to progress and inch closer to a playoff spot, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Beeston asked to stay at least another year.