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Dodge: S.F. offer too little, too late

So the real debate begins.

For weeks, the struggle over the Giants hinged on whether a San Francisco offer would surface. Now it will focus on a different set of questions, including which city deserves the team more, and why?

Representatives of both cities began to put their own spin on the answers Monday after a newly reorganized San Francisco group announced its $95-million bid for the team.

In Tampa Bay, it was St. Petersburg Assistant City Manager Rick Dodge, who said the San Francisco offer was too little, too short on substance and too late.

His case:

The proposed purchase price was $20-million less than the $115-million offer made by Vincent Naimoli and Tampa Bay's ownership group Aug. 6.

The offer did not address San Francisco's need for a new stadium, which National League president Bill White said last week was a concern.

The offer infringed on the exclusive deal Tampa Bay struck with current Giants owner Bob Lurie.

"I think it's remarkable that it's taken 10 weeks to end up with this kind of incomplete and illegal offer," said Dodge, attacking point-by-point the arguments San Francisco investors made in support of their offer.

While acknowledging their purchase price was less than Naimoli's group, San Francisco officials said the team's perennial losses made the franchise less valuable in Northern California than in Tampa Bay. They likened the team to real estate, which varies in price depending on the location.

"To use their own real estate analogy, we already have a contract," Dodge said. "There's an exclusive contract in place (with Lurie) for this property so there should be no other discussion."

He added: "That argument indicates why baseball has not been successful in San Francisco for many years, and it confirms all of Bob Lurie's statements that the situation there is not workable."

Lurie's main problem in San Francisco was getting a new stadium to replace windswept, 30-year-old Candlestick Park. The new investment group offered no definitive plans for a stadium Monday, but said they wanted to build one by 1997 using a joint public/private partnership.

Jim Lazarus, chief of staff to San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan, said the group is prepared to sign a five-year lease at Candlestick.

The city also has pledged up to $3-million a year in concessions to the investors. But Lazarus conceded that any stadium plan would have to "go to the voters," a strategy that has failed before.

Dodge called the new stadium plan "a joke."

"They've had four failed referendums," Dodge said. "There's no reason to believe any future efforts would result differently."

The San Francisco group came forward after its former lead investor, North Carolina businessman George Shinn, withdrew from the bid on Saturday, citing stadium uncertainties as one of several reasons.

"There were gnawing questions that the risk was greater than the group was willing to take," said Spencer Stolpen, a top aide to Shinn. "As you began to put it together, there was no answer to the stadium. What happens in a year or two if the stadium problem is not solved? Do you go back to baseball then? Do you go back to the city? Why put everyone through all that?"

At least one National League owner, Philadelphia Phillies president Bill Giles, said he would not vote for the San Francisco ownership group without a concrete plan for a new stadium.

Apart from business and financial concerns, the would-be investors in San Francisco said that tradition and emotion were on their side as reasons baseball would not want to move a longstanding franchise. The Giants moved to San Francisco from New York for the 1958 season.

"I would say to them the same thing that (former Giants owner) Horace Stoneham said when he moved the Giants to San Francisco," Dodge said. "They asked him, "What about the kids in New York?' His response was, "Tell the kids I haven't seen their dads lately.'

"There's been a long pattern of non-support for the franchise. It's not like that area is going to be without baseball. I believe there's a team playing now (the Oakland Athletics) that's just a few miles away. That kind of position is no more valid now than it was 35 years ago when the team was moved to San Francisco from New York."

Peter Magowan, managing general partner of the new group, said Monday he was not concerned about the legal threats coming from St. Petersburg.

Dodge reiterated the city's pledge to "vigorously pursue all legal and business remedies" to get the team.

Dodge said it would be "unconscionable" for baseball to reject Tampa Bay's offer and force Lurie to take the lower one from San Francisco.