And so the circle comes full. The key man in the San Francisco Giants sale, finally, is the man it should have been all along.
At times, the focus of this story has shifted like suspects in a game of Clue. For a while, it was Fay Vincent. Then it was Bill White. Then George Shinn, or Wayne Huizenga, or Peter Magowan.
Today, the key in this tug-of-war is none of those.
Today, it is Bob Lurie. Again.
More than anyone, Lurie is the best hope for this community. Which is why it is time for him to leave the shadows and say if he will honor his commitment to sell his baseball team to Tampa Bay.
It is time for him to raise his voice and to slam his fist on the table. It is time for his eyes to narrow and his jaw to set.
Come on, Bob. Get mad.
Throughout these past two months, this entire transaction has been a game of Who Do You Trust? White? No. Vincent? No. Huizenga? No.
In case you are wondering, Assistant City Manager Rick Dodge says he trusts Lurie implicitly. "People who have worked with him say his word is his bond, and I haven't seen anything to make me think otherwise," Dodge says. Dodge says Lurie has been passionate in his quest to get Tampa Bay approved.
Lurie, of course, is the man Tampa Bay wants most to trust. It would be easier, of course, if he were public with his thoughts. Throughout this saga, he has been in the background, speaking only in brief statements, or through letters to this community.
Those who know Lurie call him a man of honor. Today, Tampa Bay finds itself counting on that honor. For if Lurie is forceful, this sale will go through. But if he is passive, if he has been beaten down by those in his native San Francisco, if he is simply ready for this ordeal to conclude, our best chance will be gone.
Sometime soon, Lurie will walk into a room full of major-league owners, and he will have his say. Tampa Bay needs for his words to be from the heart.
Lurie needs to look White in the eye and say, "Look, Bill. This is my team to sell. If there is something wrong with the Tampa Bay group, that's one thing. If there isn't, it should be my decision. Where were you, after all, during those months there was no offer from San Francisco, those years when we lost money?"
He then needs to say to the other owners, "Lady and gentlemen, we are not talking about two equal offers. We are talking about a difference of $20-million, which is like winning Lotto every week for a month. Which of you are going to make up that money to me? Which of you can afford to lose it if you sell your own team? Remember, we are talking about establishing a new market price."
He needs to look at Pirates chairman Doug Danforth, who said that he thought a new stadium was "desirable but not a requirement." He needs to remind Danforth that a new stadium is what began this odyssey, that baseball in San Francisco will not work without it. "Four times," he needs to say. "Four times they bounced me when I tried to get a new stadium built." He needs to remind them that the rhetoric that a stadium will be built is as familiar as it is empty.
He needs to look at Peter O'Malley, owner of the Dodgers, who speaks of the Giants staying because of "tradition." He needs to remind him that if tradition were so important, neither of those teams would be in California to begin with.
He needs to look at Huizenga and remind him that two teams in Florida was always a possibility.
He needs to look around the room, and he needs to shake his head. He needs to remind them that he has been an honorable owner, and that they should treat him with honor. "How," he should ask, "can you even consider forcing a decision down my throat? Especially one so short of being equal?"
He needs to talk about the future of baseball, although he will not be a part of it. He needs to point out that even the San Francisco group agrees the franchise is worth more here, that more fans will see games here. He needs to stress that Tampa Bay did everything it was asked, and that it deserves better treatment than being used. He needs to remind them that if not for him, baseball would have left San Francisco long ago.
If he does this, if he wants this, it is impossible to imagine that the owners will turn on one of their own.
If he doesn't?
Then we messed up. We trusted him.