1. Archive

Is this the week for Giant dreams?

Published Oct. 12, 2005

Maybe in Amarillo, Texas, they have a clear view of what's going on.

Perhaps there, halfway between San Francisco and St. Petersburg, one can sit back, away from the spin doctors, the unnamed sources, the slanted reports and ponder the question:

Are the Giants going or staying?

This week, there may be an answer.

National League President Bill White said on Wednesday he expects to hear from the San Francisco group working to save the team "within a week or so" and expects a purchase offer then.

So by Wednesday, a major, and perhaps the last major, checkpoint will be reached _ either San Francisco will make a competitive offer and baseball officials will need time to review it, or, San Francisco will make an obviously inadequate offer (or no offer at all) and baseball officials will dismiss its case.

Until then, the fans and leaders in both communities are held hostage by the process, and it is an unclearly defined one at that.

In frustration, there is a tendency to grasp at every straw, to analyze every sentence. Consider last Wednesday, when White said the meeting with San Francisco was "very, very, very" positive.

Around Tampa Bay, fans were sitting up counting the "verys."

"People are just hanging on every word," said St. Petersburg assistant city manager Rick Dodge.

With a decision perhaps in sight, there are several points of discussion:

Will San Francisco make an offer?

In California and North Carolina (home of lead investor George Shinn), the answer is yes. San Francisco developer Walter Shorenstein said the group knows what to do and Shinn said he plans to fly west on Monday.

What they haven't said is how much the offer will be for. White has said it must be "competitive" with Tampa Bay's $115-million bid. Some reports say the San Francisco group is considering offering about $90-million. That would not seem to be "competitive."

The word among some baseball owners is San Francisco won't make a legitimate offer. Reportedly, only $6-million has been provided by local San Francisco investors. And there has been no proof of where Shinn's money is coming from. The head of the nationwide concessionaire, SportService, denied rumors that his company was bankrolling the bid.

One owner said Friday that he has heard San Francisco's money is lacking, that "there's nothing there."

What's been the holdup?

Baseball has been, shall we say, methodical in its pace to act.

Some have suggested that baseball officials opposed to the move are helping San Francisco stall to get Tampa Bay leader Vince Naimoli to pull his bid.

Others think the power gap in baseball since the resignation of commissioner Fay Vincent has put the Giants deal in the middle of the political minefield.

Another view, shared by some officials, is that San Francisco is being given all these chances so baseball can protect itself legally. There is almost a guarantee of after-the-fact lawsuits _ White has said so himself _ and baseball doesn't like to be in court.

What signs should fans look for this week?

How about a Tampa Bay Giants billboard near the Florida Suncoast Dome?

Seriously, the remaining steps are likely to be made secretly, and probably denied publicly.

It's possible, though unlikely, that baseball officials could simply hold a telephone meeting, dismiss San Francisco, approve Tampa Bay and issue a brief statement.

More likely is a series of small moves, each done over the course of the next week or two. San Francisco will have to be dealt with first. If there is no counteroffer, the Ownership Committee has to formally recommend the Tampa Bay group for approval (all signs there are positive). And the full ownership has to approve the move.

Here are some road signs:

If Shinn doesn't go to San Francisco, it means either the bid is in trouble or he is no longer part of it.

If the San Francisco group asks for more time, it means it's still scraping to formulate an offer.

If baseball grants them more time, it could mean Tampa Bay's bid may be in big trouble.

If baseball instead issues a definitive deadline to San Francisco, it means Tampa Bay's bid is probably on track.

And if the owners agree to decide on the Tampa Bay offer by conference call, it means it will likely be approved. Baseball usually only does major business by phone when there is little opposition.

Are the votes there?

Once this gets past the business of offers and counter-offers and ownership committee rulings, there still is the matter of the formal vote. The move needs approval from 8 of the 14 AL owners and 10 of the 14 NL owners.

Word is there will be no dissent from the American League. There is still apparently a pocket of opposition in the National League. It could be as small as two teams (Marlins and Astros), or as many as four (add in Dodgers and Padres).

If there are four, one more nay vote could kill the deal.

But present Giants owner Bob Lurie has many friends and is well respected among the owners, and a majority of the teams may simply go along with his wishes.

What can a fan do during these next couple days?

Not much. There may well be some behind-the-scenes maneuvering through the first part of the week. But White made that public statement of giving San Francisco "a week or so," and he'll probably have to stick to that.

The message at this point from baseball officials, from Tampa Bay leaders and from ownership group head Naimoli is two-fold:

Be confident.

And be patient.