Beeston hints at game changes

Former Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Tony Fernandez shares a laugh with Jays president Paul Beeston...

Former Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Tony Fernandez shares a laugh with Jays president Paul Beeston during the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame golf tournament at the St. Marys Golf and Country Club on Friday, June 17, 2011. (QMI Agency/Mike Savage)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET

ST. MARYS, ONT. - Paul Beeston showed up at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame golf tournament Friday morning sporting a pair of socks.

This is notable because the Toronto Blue Jays president is notorious for never wearing them.

And if he can make a lifestyle change like that, perhaps it's a fashionable indication the normally slow-moving wheel of Major League Baseball can turn a little quicker in the current debate over the game's future direction.

Division realignment would help the Blue Jays. So would extra playoff spots, a balanced schedule and an end to interleague play.

Beeston currently sits on the competition committee looking into such potential changes. That, in itself, has to be seen as a victory for Canada's only big-league franchise.

"I have to plead the fifth on it," the former MLB president said. "All I'll say is I'm on the committee and the discussions we've had are some of the most interesting I've been a part of in baseball.

"It's a blank slate right now. A lot of things are being talked about."

If some Jays-friendly decisions are eventually approved, it would be another sure sign of Beeston's considerable influence in the game. He's also a board member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame along with commissioner Bud Selig.

Two former Jays -- GM Pat Gillick and second baseman Roberto Alomar -- will be inducted into Cooperstown this summer.

"It's obviously a special time with Pat and Robbie going in," Beeston said. "I've been on the board there since 1997 and I've only missed once -- last year because I was sick."

Hall of fames and nostalgia are fine, but Beeston knows glory and great memories are forged by one iron alone.

Winning.

Beeston refuses to give up on this season. He turns 66 on Monday and there is, this time around, urgency in leading the Jays back to the Promised Land sooner than later.

"The goal's still to make the playoffs this year," he said. "I'm here today, aren't I? I know I'm not going to be here forever but we're not going to put a timetable of 2011, '12 or '13 on it. That said, make no mistake -- the ultimate goal is the win a championship.

"That's what we're working towards and I'm lucky, like I was the first time (in the 1980s and '90s) to be surrounded by dedicated people working hard to make it happen."

Like putting on socks, it's a two-step process.

Beeston feels the team is on the right track.

"Putting money back into scouting and development was absolutely the right thing to do," he said. "It had to be done. We've made our commitment and will continue to do so. Now, it's about winning.

"We're happy with the way attendance is going this year. If we win and make the playoffs again, it won't be a problem at all. We all know that."

Beeston has a different relationship with 34-year-old GM Alex Anthopoulos than he did with Pat Gillick.

"Of course, because when Pat and I came up together, we were really the same age going through the same same time," he said. "Alex, I'm here to help him with anything he needs. I believe he has a long career ahead of him in this game. GMs are getting younger . . . it makes sense a younger guy would have the energy and stamina for it.

"Alex shares a lot of the same qualities Pat had. He is very inquisitive about things and he's a tireless worker."

There are limits to genius, of course. Like the riddle over the Jays' historically woeful performance during interleague play.

"If I could figure that one out, I'd have it solved by now," Beeston said. "I don't know why and we have a tough schedule this year with Cincinnati, St. Louis and Atlanta. It won't be easy."

Neither has been finding a closer who can do the job year-after-year. There hasn't been anyone fill the role long term since Canadian ball hall inductee Tom Henke left the Jays.

"There aren't very many Tom Henkes around," Beeston said with a shrug. "He was a special player and those teams he was on, it really was like a family."

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