Here's the scenario: The San Francisco Giants rip through the National League again in 1986, losing 105 games and drawing 300,000 to Candlestick Park. The build-a-stadium talk that was on hold in February is still on hold in October, and the January cries of "Keep the Giants!" are reduced to November whispers.
Meanwhile, Giants owner Bob Lurie is, like Mayor Dianne Feinstein, getting disgusted. He is losing megabucks. He is being laughed at. What he once thought would be an easy way to get good publicity -- owning a baseball team -- has become a nightmare.
One day, a group from, say, Washington approaches Lurie and offers, say, $45 million to make the old San Francisco Giants the new Washington Senators.
Lurie doesn't want to sell, but he's tired of losing money, and more important, the other Giants stockholders (read: his family) are tired of losing money.
What do you do?
If you're Bob Lurie, you take the money and run.
Welcome to Washington's latest best hope for Baseball in '87, and not a half bad one, either. Expansion may be the most perfect cab ride to RFK Stadium, but expansion is at the mercy of 26 owners, who may go 10 minutes or 10 years without having an inclination to move.
That could change, of course. The D.C. Baseball Commission is going to lobby an owner or two to find someone willing to champion the cause -- Commisioner Peter Ueberroth isn't enough -- but there are no guarantees. Many owners say there'll be no expansion until a half-dozen teams are straightened out, and how soon do you think the Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates will be making money?
Meanwhile in San Francisco, Feinstein's plan for a domed stadium is caught in a political whirlpool. What about public housing, one group is asking? What about Candlestick Park, another wants to know? And should San Francisco be asked to subsidize an owner who has delivered loser after loser, all want to know?
Lurie has made it clear he prefers to keep the Giants in San Francisco, but he also has made it clear he wants a new stadium. We may never know how close the Giants came to leaving town this winter, but they didn't sell a single season ticket until 10 days ago. Lurie had told friends he wouldn't announce any plans until he got his stadium promise. He didn't get that, but a man who knows Lurie well said this week: "He doesn't want to move the team, but I can't believe he's going to give up on wanting a stadium. This is the team worth watching."
Which is what the potential owners in Denver are doing, too. Also Tampa, Phoenix, Indianapolis, etc.
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Alejandro Pena apparently has completed an amazing comeback from a rotator cuff injury that threatened to end his young career last spring. He threw another round of batting practice Wednesday, and the Dodgers say they would be shocked if Pena isn't in their starting rotation Opening Day . . . Meanwhile, Rick Honeycutt (five shoulder operations) is much less certain about his chances of pitching again . . . Reliever Rollie Fingers apparently will accept Cincinnati's invitation to spring training -- and follow the team's no-mustache rule. That's a far cry from two years ago when Fingers would join the Reds only if they'd include a mustache clause in his contract . . .
If you believe baseball's owners have conspired to end free agency, here's more evidence: three catchers headed for arbitration all will have their hearings Feb. 17. Those hearings will take place at about the same time of day. One will be in Los Angeles, one in Chicago and one in New York, effectively preventing a favorable outcome for one player to be used as supporting evidence by another. What's even more damning is that the contract offers have been so similar: the Dodgers have offered Mike Scioscia $650,000, the Cubs have offered Jody Davis $675,000 and the Red Sox have offered Rich Gedman $650,000.
Oops. George Steinbrenner, who traded catcher Ron Hassey to the White Sox last December, is trying to get him back. At the time of the trade, Steinbrenner thought he would complete a trade for Carlton Fisk, and since that fell through, he's left with Butch Wynegar and Scott Bradley behind the plate. Chicago sources indicate the White Sox would part with Hassey if they could get third baseman Mike Pagliarulo . . .
When American League owners recently took a straw poll on the designated-hitter rule, two owners voted against it. One is believed to be Oakland's Roy Eisenhardt. The other owner is Jerry Reinsdorf of the White Sox, who said: "I hate it. I think it's a terrible rule for artistic and financial reasons."
More on free agency's coma. A year ago at this time, 23 of the 33 free agents who'd signed had changed teams. As of Friday, only seven of 63 signees this winter had changed teams -- Al Holland (Yankees), David Palmer (Braves), Tom Paciorek (Rangers), Dane Iorg (Padres), Bill Campbell (Tigers), Darrell Porter (Rangers) and Juan Beniquez (Orioles) . . . Is it a new game? Not one of those free agents got anything close to $1 million, and Porter's salary is plummeting from $700,000 in 1985 to $270,000 in 1986 . . . Campbell's contract isn't even guaranteed, and if he gets cut in spring training, he'll make only $13,000 . . .
Another free agent, pitcher Doug Bair, made $475,000 for the Tigers last year, and his best offer has been a $100,000 unguaranteed deal from the White Sox . . . Padres General Manager Jack McKeon has set up a meeting between outfielder Kevin McReynolds and Manager Dick Williams in the hope the two can settle their differences. McReynolds called Williams "a front runner" last summer, and McReynolds' wife Jackie recently told the Los Angeles Times: "I don't like him (Williams) at all. I think he's a detriment . . . I'd tell him to his face." . . .
Seattle General Manager Dick Balderson has told friends he was ready to accept the pitcher Storm Davis-for-third baseman Jim Presley deal with the Orioles when owner George Argyros vetoed it. At the time, he'd been on the job about a month. Welcome to The Summer Game.