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Needed: Giant dose of caution

Sorry. I caught you in mid-hurrah, didn't I?

Right about now, you and your family are doing The Wave around the breakfast table, aren't you? You have read that George Shinn, the centerpiece of the San Francisco effort to keep the Giants, is no longer involved. You have read that he looked at the team's books and became the latest to believe that it simply made no sense (or dollars).

I know, I know. After twisting in the wind for two months, news like this brings a temptation to dance around the kitchen and teach the dog to high-five. On the surface, it seems that the opposition is cut and the referee is about to stop the fight.

Still, there is one word you should consider:

Whoa.

No one should have to tell you this. You are, after all, from Tampa Bay, land of the spurned. Every time we think it's D-Day, it turns out to be delay. Put it this way: If the major leagues were involved in World War II, we'd be invading Normandy sometime in early November.

Yes, things look optimistic. But remember, we are dealing with Major League Baseball, which has looked under every rock (where do you think they found Shinn in the first place?) to find some reason other than status quo to keep the team in San Francisco. Logic left this argument about six weeks ago.

So maybe it's wise to continue to look at the Giants with raised eyebrows. Pull in the reins, and hold onto that skepticism, people. Like every bit of news on the Giants in the last two months, it is possible to put a negative slant as well as a positive one on this.

All along, we have believed Shinn to be the worst part of the San Francisco bid, and his presence to be perhaps the best thing going for Tampa Bay. It was obvious to baseball that he was no more than a drum-thumper sitting on a flat wallet. Privately, major-league owners have said that Shinn would not be approved.

So, now that Shinn is out, is it good news for Tampa Bay or for San Francisco?

The answer, of course, lies in what kind of offer San Francisco makes. Face it: To baseball, an offer of, say, $100-million without Shinn is a heck of a lot better than $100-million with him. If the group has the money, losing Shinn would be a perfect example of addition by subtraction.

Want to live Vince Namoli's worst nightmare? Let's play "What if?" That doesn't mean the following scenario is true, or even likely. But it's the kind of paranoia that worked for Oliver Stone in JFK.

On Sept. 29, two weeks ago, National League president Bill White went to San Francisco to check on its bid. Just suppose that during that meeting, the San Francisco group was told that Shinn would not be approved.

On Oct. 5, one week ago, Shinn went to San Francisco to meet with the other prospective owners. Suppose that during that meeting, Shinn was told he was out. It is a fact that he did not speak to reporters afterward (unlike him) and that he has not returned calls to San Francisco media since (also unlike him).

Saturday, Shinn announced he was withdrawing, saying the books showed the situation to be "disastrous." Suppose he was following the old axiom "when you are being run out of town, act as if you are leading a parade." Suppose he didn't jump. Suppose he was pushed.

I mean, why believe Shinn now?

Suppose all of that happened. Then the San Francisco group would have had two weeks, not two days, to make up for Shinn's loss of money. That would have given someone else, Peter Magowan or Walter Shorenstein, time to move into the role of general partner.

Suppose one of them is sitting there holding not a white flag, but an offer to make White's jaw drop?

Is this likely? No. Perhaps it is nothing more than retreating to the safety of paranoia.

The optimism for Tampa Bay is this: As long as the team stays in San Francisco, it is a money pit. The stadium is better here. The ownership is more clear-cut. The area is hungrier. A new general partner would not only have to make up for Shinn's pledged millions, but he would have to assume Shinn's role of guaranteeing the inevitable losses ahead.

The pessimism? As White said Sunday, "maybe they'll offer $120-million."

Take a deep breath, people. That light at the tunnel still could turn out to be a train coming this way.

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