Confused about the Giants situation? Stand in line.
Monday's offer by a San Francisco group to buy the team for $95-million created many more questions than answers. Here's a look at some of those questions, and based on conversations over the past months, weeks and days, the answers as best we know them:
Q Why will baseball even consider the offer from
A Because it is there. All things considered, baseball would prefer to not move a team. From a tradition standpoint, baseball officials are reluctant to move franchises, and they want to exhaust all options. From a legal standpoint, they have to exhaust all options as a defense. From a business standpoint, they have to exhaust all options to make sure the team is not wanted.
Q What is the procedure going to be?
A It appears the Ownership Committee and the Executive Council will consider the two offers first, then recommend one of the offers for consideration by the full ownership.
Q What kind of time frame are we talking about _
sooner or later?
A Best guess for a resolution would be the week of Oct. 26 _ just after the scheduled conclusion of the World Series.
Q What will determine which of the two offers will be selected (stadium, money, legal positioning)?
A For sure, there are at least some owners who feel strongly that a new stadium must be built and will hold that against the San Francisco group. There is also a virtual guarantee that lawsuits will come from the losing community, and baseball is reportedly very concerned about the legal situation. But the bottom line for the owners is money. And if the Giants are worth $115-million, what are the Padres or the Indians worth?
Q Can San Francisco sweeten its offer, in terms of money or firmer stadium plans?
A Indications are they may be allowed to increase their offer over the next few days, but they have said they have no plans to do so. Another scenario is that Shorenstein and friends would lower their offer if baseball owners vote down the move to Tampa Bay. With Tampa Bay out of the way, the team would be worth less and the San Francisco group could negotiate an even lower price.
Q Is there a conspiracy inside baseball to keep a team from coming to Tampa Bay?
A It often seems that way, although National League president Bill White has said he wants to be fair to both areas. It's been said that as long as Tampa Bay remains an option for existing franchises across the country, the value of teams stays up. Tampa Bay says it has played by all of baseball's rules, but then no one invited Tampa Bay to play the game. Besides, baseball's rules keep changing.
Q Why is baseball so against moving franchises?
A For many of the same reasons Tampa Bay wants one. A team makes a city feel major-league, adds to the economy, increases the business base, draws more visitors, creates publicity, and becomes a vital part of the community. That's a lot of reasons for keeping teams where they are. Plus, baseball will be sued by whatever community loses a team.
Q What does Bob Lurie think about all this? Why hasn't he talked?
A Lurie and his spokesmen have said repeatedly they don't want to comment on any San Francisco offers because of the team's exclusive agreement with the Tampa Bay group.
Q How much impact does Bob Lurie have on the outcome?
A The deal may end up hinging on Lurie. At least two owners have said Lurie might be consulted on which offer baseball should accept. If left to deal with San Francisco, he could be forced to take even less than $95-million. Baseball officials are aware of that danger. Another possible scenario: If Tampa Bay is voted down, Lurie spurns the San Francisco offer and moves the team to Tampa Bay himself.
Q Can baseball force Lurie to take less money?
A That could become a raging issue among the National League owners. Some owners are apt to argue they do have a right to tell Lurie which offer to accept. Others disagree. The battle between these two ideologies may eventually determine the outcome of the Giants situation.
Q What might be the procedure whereby Lurie is forced to accept the lesser offer?
A Since no owner can sell a team without baseball's approval, the league could simply throw out Tampa Bay's offer (on the grounds it is against moving the team out of San Francisco), forcing Lurie to either sell to the San Francisco group (at its price) or keep the team and its projected losses.
Q What legal action could the losing city take?
A Maneuvering over the Giants has clearly demonstrated that baseball is a collusive monopoly. Either city could sue for damages on antitrust grounds. True, Congress granted baseball an antitrust exemption that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. But many also think that the exemption has only thin constitutional underpinning and that the courts conceivably could reverse themselves. In addition, San Francisco could try to delay a move by claiming lease violations or by seeking a restraining order. St. Petersburg already has threatened to sue the potential San Francisco ownership group for interfering with a valid contract.
Q Financially, how do the two deals stack up _ both initially and in terms of losses or profits over the next five years?
A Tampa Bay's offer is worth $32.3-million more than San Francisco's. And Peter Magowan, head of the San Francisco partnership, acknowledged Tuesday that the team in Tampa Bay would gross about $15-million more a year than if the team were to stay in California.
Q Who in San Francisco
will cover the losses?
A Magowan said Tuesday any losses suffered by the Giants would be spread among the dozen partners.
Q How important
is the stadium issue?
A As far as the long-term success of the team in San Francisco, it is vital. Magowan said as much and admitted that without a new park, the team would likely have to move. What it may come down to is if the San Francisco group can convince the owners that since they need the stadium so bad, they'll make sure it gets built, but they won't pay for it.
Q Is Tampa Bay
being used again?
A This deal has come too far to take that view. Lurie has agreed to sell the team. But are there some people in baseball who view this latest flirtation with Tampa Bay as just another game to help an existing team? Sure. But that is the price Tampa Bay must pay for being the best area in the country not to have a major-league franchise. As long as there is a stadium, a rabid fan base and a lucrative market, there will be overtures.
Q Why would investors put up millions of dollars for an investment that can't expect to be profitable?
A The San Francisco partnership claims their efforts to keep the Giants are a civic venture. They also say they can improve the financial stability of the team, especially if they get a new stadium built by 1997.
Q If we have to wait for an expansion team, how long will it be before there is another baseball expansion?
A With baseball in poor economic shape _ salaries are up, attendance and revenues are down, more teams lose money than make money _ it is unlikely there will be expansion prior to the end of the century. The only thing that could speed that up would be a massive restructuring of the leagues into three divisions each, thus making the addition of two teams an attractive proposition.
Q Whatever happened to baseball's assertion that the Giants met all the requirements to be considered for relocation?
A What Fay Vincent (remember him?) said in June was that the Giants met his criteria to move and could consider all options. "San Francisco has my permission to look at those options, which is different than saying that San Francisco is going to relocate, or that that option will be approved," Vincent said. "But they have that option because there is no alternative." Some baseball people feel that Lurie went too far in his interpretation of that when he made the deal with the Tampa Bay group and didn't tell any baseball officials.
Q Bill White popped out of nowhere on behalf of San Francisco. Why does he get to call the shots all of a sudden? What is his background?
A Baseball's deposing of Commissioner Fay Vincent forced White to step in as the top baseball official on this matter. There has been a lot of speculation that he is aiding San Francisco, but he says he is just trying to be fair. White is a former player and broadcaster. He is widely perceived to not like the legal and business headaches of his job. His term expires prior to next season and he has said he will not return.
Q If the Giants stay in San Francisco and don't show a profit in the next 2-3 years, could the new San Francisco group turn around and try to sell it to Tampa Bay again?
A Mayor Frank Jordan has discounted that theory, saying the deal is structured to keep the team in San Francisco. There's a proposed lease that would keep the team in San Francisco for at least five years. That's one of the issues baseball is considering. Many owners want to get this issue resolved now. They don't want to have it resurface five years from now, a factor that may work in Tampa Bay's favor.
_ MARC TOPKIN
THOMAS C. TOBIN
and STEVE NOHLGREN