TORONTO - Blue Jays president Paul Beeston took the high road in his first public availability since reports surfaced that the franchise was looking for his replacement.
Beeston, who recently signed to return for one last season before retirement, attended a State of the Franchise gathering at Rogers Centre on Thursday night with general manager Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons. Beeston wasn't asked about the reports or his contract talks during a question-and-answer session with season-ticket holders, but the subjects came up in a brief media scrum afterwards.
"We've moved forward and we did what we had to do," Beeston said. "I'm not going to get into what happened. I'm just happy to be here and happy to be here for the year."
In early December, a number of media outlets reported that the Blue Jays had made overtures to Baltimore Orioles president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and Chicago White Sox executive vice-president Kenny Williams. Duquette acknowledged last week at his team's winter convention that "there was substance" to reports that he was pursued.
Duquette guided the Orioles to a 96-win season last year and is under contract through 2018. The Blue Jays would have had to offer a significant compensation package to complete a deal.
Beeston, 69, was the first employee hired by the Blue Jays in May 1976 and saw the team through its glory years over two decades ago. He was named team president in 1989, three years before Toronto won the first of two straight World Series titles.
He left the team in 1997 to serve as chief operating officer in Major League Baseball's commissioner's office. He later returned to the Blue Jays and was named president and CEO in October 2009.
The team has been mediocre at best in recent years and settled for an 83-79 record last season, good for a third-place finish in the AL East.
Anthopoulos made some big moves early in the off-season by signing catcher Russell Martin and acquiring third baseman Josh Donaldson and outfielder Michael Saunders via trades. But Beeston's position has been a talking point over the last two months.
Anthopoulos said he reached out to his boss when he first heard about the reports.
"His instructions to me were just, 'Do your job, worry about what you can control and don't concern yourself with that.' And that was fair," Anthopoulos said. "So I really didn't try to pay any attention to it. Stability is always a good thing. I think that goes without saying.
"But I'm glad it's all behind us and we can move forward."
The Blue Jays announced Beeston's extension on Jan. 26. In a news release, chairman Edward Rogers said that the team had been in discussions about Beeston's future since his contract ended and that it would have been inappropriate to comment on rumours.
"Make no mistake — we are elated to have Paul continue to lead the team for this season," Rogers said in the statement.
Beeston appeared to be in great spirits during Thursday night's address. He chatted with fans, posed for photos and signed autographs.
"Knowing that this is going to be his last year, we'd love to send him out on top," Gibbons said. "That would be the dream, (the) ideal way to send him off. I'm glad all that's settled. We need him, we need him to lead this team this year, that's for sure."
"I'm just glad it's over with — for his sake and for everybody's sake."
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With files from The Associated Press.