Back in 2013, when the Giants played the Rays in a stirring three-game series that absolutely no one remembers, I asked what would have happened to your team allegiances if the Giants moved to Tampa in 1993. A quarter of you said you would be Tampa Bay Giants fans. A quarter of you would have given up baseball entirely. Half of you would have found another team.
But that assumed that there would be never be baseball again in San Francisco. If the Giants moved to Tampa in '93, they would have missed on the Rockies/Marlins round of expansion, but there still would have been a chance that they could have snuck into the '98 round, especially with Tampa already having a team. But the teams for that round were basically picked before the '94 season, and without the Bonds resurgence of '93, there's no way that San Francisco would have looked like a baseball-friendly environment that soon.
It's possible that the Peter Magowan-led band of regional superheroes would have put all of their energy into an expansion run, but the turnaround was just so short. That would have left them fighting with Washington D.C. for the Expos years later, and we know how much baseball wanted a team back in Washington.
I'll guess that if the Giants move to Tampa, there's no baseball team in San Francisco. Pretty freaking hard to imagine, considering how well things turned out for baseball in San Francisco. I'll bet we'd be all about the Montreal baseball renaissance right now if they weren't Loriaed into dust.
Ah, but the Blue Jays are coming into town, which means we're focusing on the wrong relocation story. In the '70s, the Giants were nearly gone. Labatt's almost acquired 45 percent of the team and moved them to Toronto. Our job is to guess what would have happened to baseball in San Francisco if that went through.
Scenario #1: The A's would have taken over and assimilated the entire area
Possible! It might have even been the likeliest scenario. The Bay Area would have been one of the biggest one-team markets in the country, but it wouldn't have been out of place next to Philadelphia, Boston, or Atlanta. And this was the prevailing wisdom when the Giants were about to move:
"It is very sad. The (Bay) area is just not large enough for two big league teams. There would have been no problem if the American League (Oakland A's) had not moved in."
- Carl Hubbell, 1976
There hasn't been a lot of chatter about putting another team back in Boston or Philadelphia. Or any talk, really. Probably because the owners of the current franchises knife that talk in the gut before it ever really starts. The A's would have had the market all to themselves, and they would have had a lot more influence with the MLB powers than any potential investors would have.
Scenario #2: The Giants would have come back in the 1993 round of expansion
This assumes they would have had a new ballpark in place, which is a dicey assumption. This was before the idea of private financing came into play, and any funding for a new park would have been timed around the Loma Prieta Earthquake, which led to the ballot defeat that led Bob Lurie to sell in the first place.
What did ballpark proposals look like back then? Well, the proposal would have needed to come before Camden Yards opened to rave reviews (1992), so if we check in with this great piece of archival work from Peter Hartlaub ...
Don't worry, though! It was retractable!
Imagine standing on a waterfront site, looking out into the Bay, and thinking, oh, we gotta have a domed stadium right here. At least tickets would be easier to get.
Scenario #3: The Giants are involved in the second round of expansion
Much more likely. The idea of downtown ballparks was back in vogue, and the vision would have been a little more clear. From that same archive:
That looks ... windy. And not too ghastly! But very windy. Home runs would have looked rad sailing into the night, but this isn't the same slice of architectural magic we're used to.
Still, if Washington gets the '77 expansion team spot that Toronto got (which they almost did anyway, with President Gerald Ford getting involved), that still leaves Tampa Bay and Phoenix without a team, and both of them had concrete stadium plans in place (pun not intended, but noticed and left in). The Giants still would have been facing an uphill battle, and it's hard to see the private-financing coordination being in place by '93.
The wild card is if San Francisco voters are upset enough about the loss of the team to start voting for publicly financed stadiums. Still unlikely. Which leaves it all up to ...
Scenario #4: The San Francisco Expos
Bingo. In 2005, the competition would have been Las Vegas, Portland, and San Antonio, mostly. Those locations all have their pros and cons, but San Francisco would have had hella billionaires fighting to bring a team back. While you can't count on people having a fond memory of baseball in the city after nearly 30 years, the memories of Mays and McCovey, not to mention the San Francisco Seals, would have gone a long way.
You might be rooting for Bryce Harper now. Of course, with Barry Bonds on the Yankees after the '92 season, it's possible that he would have stuck around until 2008 and 2009, murdelizing the Orioles enough to give them the first-overall picks in the following seasons.
With Bonds on the Yankees, the Rangers are still trying to get out of Alex Rodriguez's contract. And then all of a sudden, there's a new franchise trying to make a splash in their new home.
So, to recap:
- The Expos would have moved to San Francisco
- They'd probably have a stupid new name, like the Wind Leopards, or something
- They probably wouldn't play in a dome, but I wouldn't be so sure
- They would have Alex Rodriguez
If this doesn't get you fired up and mad at the city of Toronto, nothing will. They almost ruined everything. They almost killed baseball in San Francisco dead, and I'm not sure there ever would have been a team here again.
The Giants should get back at them by striking out each and every ...
/checks pitching probables
The Giants should glower at them, real mean-like, until they get really uncomfortable. Did you see what you almost did, Toronto? Did you see what you almost did?