San Francisco's bid to keep the Giants from moving to Tampa Bay swerved abruptly down another confusing path Wednesday.
National League officials said in Atlanta that, contrary to reports, they had not scheduled any meetings with representatives of the San Francisco group.
Their statements contrasted sharply with Tuesday's announcement by San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan that a group of investors from his city would submit their offer for the Giants in person Friday to league president Bill White in Pittsburgh.
But White said Wednesday, "I haven't talked to the mayor about any meeting."
Later in San Francisco, Jordan's office revised its position, saying the offer would be made "in the immediate future" at a secret location and time.
But league vice president Katy Feeney, contacted after the mayor's office issued its statement, responded in Atlanta, saying: "I don't know of any meeting that has been scheduled right now."
It was unclear what the conflicting statements meant, but with each day, the timing of the offer becomes more important because it has been delayed so often and baseball officials have said they are not prepared to wait much longer.
Also Wednesday, the San Francisco Examiner reported the investor group's strategy is to enter into a "bargaining session" with baseball officials rather than submit a fixed bid.
They would first offer a low figure _ perhaps $90- or $95-million _ then work up to higher amounts if necessary. Their aim: to ensure the group does not overpay for the team, the newspaper said, quoting sources close to the deal.
That didn't sit well in Tampa Bay, where a group headed by Tampa businessman Vincent Naimoli says it has an exclusive offer to buy the team from Giants owner Bob Lurie for $115-million.
"I certainly can't imagine any circumstance that a barter arrangement would get any attention (from baseball) at all," said St. Petersburg Assistant City Manager Rick Dodge, working with Naimoli to bring the team to the Florida Suncoast Dome.
"A desire to negotiate is not an offer," Dodge said. "It's very surprising to think they could barter with baseball over a franchise that's owned by an individual."
Richard Goldman, one of the San Francisco investors, told the St. Petersburg Times Wednesday the offer would be "based on reality" and noted "money doesn't grow on trees."
He indicated it had been difficult to put a value on the team and said the $95-million figure was "a goal."
"It all depends on how much is committed" by the investors, said Goldman, an insurance executive whose wife is an heir to the Levi Strauss fortune.
Even White acknowledged that the Giants situation has become one of confusion. "We have a problem," White said. "I'm going to try and straighten it out. It's that simple."
White also said that not much information about the Giants situation will be made public at this point. "I don't believe in letting people know what's going on inside baseball," White said. "I'm doing the best I can to straighten this out. I consider what's going on in baseball internal matters, especially something this sensitive."
The San Francisco group announced Sept. 4 it was prepared to make an offer. On Sept. 30, White gave the group "another week or so" to come through.
The group is led by North Carolina millionaire George Shinn and San Francisco real estate developer Walter Shorenstein, neither of whom returned calls from Tampa Bay reporters.
White said Tuesday that the issue of where the Giants will play next season would be settled in "a week or so" and that "there's a big day coming this week."
That would indicate the offer could come as soon as today. But White, who would accept the offer, is scheduled to be in Chicago today on non-baseball business and plans to fly to Pittsburgh late in the day for Friday's Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.
If no meeting occurs Thursday or Friday, then the "immediate future" could mean the weekend or some time early next week.
Jordan insisted Tuesday that the offer would come by the end of the week. But by Wednesday afternoon his office wasn't offering any more timetables.
In Tampa, meanwhile, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner told the St. Petersburg Times he is "beginning to be optimistic" about Tampa Bay's chances to get the Giants. "I was a pessimist," he said, "but I'm feeling good about it now."
Steinbrenner said he believes White is trying to make sure baseball gives San Francisco every chance to keep the Giants before moving the team.
_ Staff writer Kim Norris contributed to this report.