The Toronto Blue Jays are bringing back Paul Beeston as club CEO on an interim basis, the team announced Tuesday.
Beeston replaces Paul Godfrey, who resigned as team president and CEO on Sept. 29.
Beeston, 63, was one of the architects behind the Blue Jays teams that won World Series in 1992 and 1993. He was also the Blue Jays' first employee in 1976, and served as team president from 1989 through 1996.
The Blue Jays said Beeston will assume responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the baseball club and Rogers Centre, effective immediately, with the support of Godfrey.
Until Beeston finds someone to take over as CEO and president, a role Godfrey maintains until the end of the year, the team will move forward without someone to impose a long-term vision, with no one aside from general manager J.P. Ricciardi and the baseball operations staff establishing a clear path toward the future.
"This is one of the reasons we wanted to have Paul Beeston in place, you can't afford in this business to take a hiatus for several months or half a year," said Tony Viner, who is responsible for the Blue Jays as president and CEO of Rogers Media Inc.
"As much as possible, we wanted to ensure a smooth transition. I'll be working closely with Paul Beeston, as I did with Paul Godfrey, on developing a new three-year plan. That generally goes to our board in the middle of December or thereabouts. Paul Godfrey has done a significant amount of background work on it."
Those three-year plans, of course, are far from gospel. Back in 2005, team owner Ted Rogers announced a salary commitment of $210 million US over the next three seasons and then bumped payroll up again after the 2006 season.
Spending on players is now in the $100-million range and is expected to stay there, or perhaps increase slightly. "It's a reasonable one," said Viner, who later added, "Beeston's already lobbying for more money."
Rogers Communications, which owns the team, revealed it has started the search process for a permanent president and CEO, and that Beeston will help identify and recruit Godfrey's full-time successor.
"I have a great deal of respect for the Rogers organization and when I was asked to step in, I couldn't say no. I look forward to this assignment, even though it's short term," Beeston said.
Beeston was honoured by the team in April when he was enshrined in the Jays' Level of Excellence at Rogers Centre before Toronto's home opener.
Other honours bestowed upon Beeston include induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (in 2002) and being named a member of the Order of Canada in 1988.
He plans to meet with Ricciardi and the baseball operations staff to discuss plans for the off-season and will offer them his input before approving any moves.
"His experience and his knowledge is something we definitely welcome and we'll be tapping into his expertise a lot," said Ricciardi. "He's an icon in the game."
Ricciardi's first order of business is retaining starting pitcher A.J. Burnett, who is expected to opt out of the two years left on his contract after the World Series.
Beeston also served as president and CEO of Major League Baseball from 1997-2002 and is the latest member of the club's glory years to recently return to the team.
The Blue Jays finished fourth in the American League East last season at 86-76, recovering under manager Cito Gaston after a 35-39 start that got John Gibbons turfed on June 20.
Ricciardi is 577-576 in seven seasons on the job, with none of his teams ever seriously challenging for a post-season berth.
Viner had little to say when asked to assess Ricciardi's performance.
"The great thing is I don't have to assess it," he said, "that's been Paul Godfrey's responsibility and will be Paul Beeston's going forward," so it's unclear if the club's ownership is pleased with the roster's current state.
The new president and CEO may think things are hunky dory and urge Ricciardi to push onwards. Or the new boss may not and want to switch directions.
Either way, the stopgap nature of things leaves the Blue Jays with a very unsettled feel heading into the winter.
"This is how business works, there's a new three-year plan every year," said Viner. "I'm serious about it. So every year we look at the plan in three-year segments. Certainly now we'll have an opportunity to look ahead and see where we're going to go."