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The Giants? Here's my best guess

I'm guessing Thursday, or maybe even Wednesday. Because of what I'm hearing at every elbow of the baseball pipeline, I'm ready to bet a Florida sand castle that we'll see: (a) official Major League Baseball approval of Tampa Bay's ownership group; (b) a "yea" vote from National League clubs; (c) ditto from the American League; (d) The Big Announcement, and (e) our more-than-deserved celebration of the Tampa Bay Giants.

Let's hear a big "About time!"

National League president Bill White gave San Francisco "another week or so" to produce a legitimate offer to purchase _ and retain _ the Giants. That was last Wednesday, following another offerless MLB caucus with supposed San Francisco investors.

A week (Wednesday) or so (Thursday).

Vince Naimoli refuses to participate in my guessing game, but the managing general partner in Tampa Bay's effort sees no meaningful bid coming from San Francisco's last-hope troupe of North Carolina sports evangelist George Shinn and a few wealthy California confederates with no apparent zeal for taking heavy individual plunges on the Giants.

"I don't have much new to offer," Naimoli told me Monday night, "which is actually pretty good news. I received some strong assurances last week, not from Major League Baseball itself but from key individuals in the game."

Despite his "no news" statement, Naimoli is spending 12 to 16 hours a day on the politics and plans involved with an imminent transplanting of the Giants to a new domed home in St. Petersburg.

He's talking expansion.

Naimoli has a Wednesday meeting with Florida Suncoast Dome architects to discuss adding at least several hundred "great-view seats" and a few more luxury boxes to the 43,000-seat facility.

"We're oversubscribed for luxury boxes," Naimoli said. "There are to be 50 and we've sold around 60, or at least have $5,000 deposits for that many." As for the regular seats the Tampa entrepreneur hopes to add, Naimoli said, "it would be a few hundred or so really terrific low-level locations in areas beyond the dugouts. There is currently far more foul-territory room than is ordinary for a major-league baseball field."

Shinn arrived in San Francisco a couple of hours before my conversation with Naimoli. George is still promising assembly of an offer to buy the Giants. Tampa Bay's man wouldn't comment on San Francisco's man. Naimoli also refused to react to Shinn claims that accused St. Petersburg of running "a sleaze campaign" against the owner of the NBA Charlotte Hornets.

A rumor was afloat in Atlanta on the eve of National League playoffs that San Francisco was asking MLB for a Saturday deadline to make an offer competitive with the $115-million Tampa Bay deal accepted Aug. 6 by Giants owner Bob Lurie.

Naimoli again said "no comment" regarding further delays, but his Tampa Bay group will understandably fight any new extensions. San Francisco has had years to react to Lurie's appeal for a new ballpark. Local voters four times voted down public financing for a replacement for inadequate Candlestick Park.

While it waits for "The Word," the Tampa Bay ownership group _ including general partners Naimoli, Mark Bostick, Rex Farrior and Lance Ringhaver _ is taking on minority partners at $1-million each. Orlando businessman Don Dizney has come aboard. Clearwater businessman Gary Markel told me, "I'm thinking about it."

Naimoli said, "We're looking for a handful of minority investors. Our idea is to have involved partners from all the extended Tampa Bay area, which to me includes everything from Naples to Orlando."

Weeks ago, I suggested Orlando as ideal for Tampa Bay Giants spring training. What a marketing tool for ticket sales and TV viewers in a booming metropolitan area of 1-million.

The Giants have three seasons remaining on a five-year spring deal in Scottsdale, Ariz., but Naimoli said they definitely would eventually train in Florida if _ no, make that when _ Tampa Bay gets the team.

It's fun to talk about, right?

Up next:DID YOU KNOW

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