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Jays' Beeston Is Just About Set to Operate

June 29, 1997|ROSS NEWHAN

It's virtually certain now that Paul Beeston, resigning as the Toronto Blue Jays' first and only president, will become baseball's chief operating officer in a restructured hierarchy likely to send Bud Selig to New York as commissioner.

"The Beeston part of it is 90% certain," a baseball official said.

"The only question is when the announcement will be made. It could be as soon as the All-Star break or it might be after the season."

Beeston, 51, has two trademarks: He wears no socks and is almost always smoking a cigar.

Beyond that, he is credited with assembling one of baseball's strongest and most successful organizations, on and off the field.

And sources have long maintained that he has the respect of both big- and small-market ownerships, as well as the players' union.

"Paul has a very personal touch," the official said. "He has a way of mediating, bringing factions together."

Beeston has been apartment hunting in New York and officially informed Toronto's front office employees Monday that he will be leaving at some point during the season. A group headed by real-estate investor Murray Frum is expected to be approved soon as the Blue Jays' new owner.

Roger Clemens, attracted to Toronto in part by a visit Beeston made to his home, said Beeston's departure will represent "a sad day for the Blue Jays but a great day for baseball."

Beeston has refused to comment on the chief operating officer position, but his anticipated acceptance is expected to help lure Selig from Milwaukee, where he continues to deny interest in the full-time commissioner's role but probably will acquiesce when the search committee returns a verdict expected from the start, which is that only Selig can win the approval of a sufficient number of owners.

Presumably, he would put the Brewers in trust, turning control over to his daughter, Wendy, now the club's counsel.


Beeston's departure is believed to be an ominous development for Manager Cito Gaston, who led the Blue Jays to consecutive World Series titles but has often seemed on a hot seat--criticized by media and some front-office employees.

Gaston, however, always had Beeston's support, but new owners may look harshly on a team that hasn't significantly improved in the standings despite a payroll escalation from $28 million to $45 million.

And Wednesday, several unnamed players questioned Gaston's decision to let Pat Hentgen deliver 121 pitches and absorb a 13-11 loss to the Boston Red Sox in which he gave up 13 hits and 11 runs in eight innings. Hentgen, the 1996 Cy Young Award winner, has made 137 consecutive starts for Gaston, often pitching with aches and pains, the players pointed out, and should not have been subjected to an eight-inning battering on a night when he simply didn't have his stuff.

Said Gaston: "My bullpen was short. I have 2 1/2 starting pitchers. I can't go to the pen every night."


Double threat: Cleveland first baseman Jim Thome is on pace to draw 138 walks, which would break his team record of 123, set last year. He also is on pace to strike out 159 times, breaking his team record for a left-handed hitter and threatening Cory Snyder's overall club record of 166.

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