Giants

Giants to pay more funds to event-based workers in coronavirus hiatus

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Giants to pay more funds to event-based workers in coronavirus hiatus

It's unclear when games will return to Oracle Park, but the Giants announced a program Wednesday that will help keep stadium employees afloat while the sport is shut down by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The program, announced by president and CEO Larry Baer and vice president and general counsel Jack Bair, has two tiers and will cover about 2,600 employees who work at Oracle Park during games and events. Baer additionally said all full-time Giants employees will remain employed and have been working from home. 

Major League Baseball had previously announced that all teams would pay $1 million each to help pay ballpark employees, and the Giants' ownership group and executives are chipping in an additional $700,000. It will be distributed in two ways.

The first part of the program covers event-based employees who technically work for a third party, such as the 900 Bon Appetit workers who handle food and catering at Oracle Park. Those employees will get a one-time grant of $500. The Giants expect about 2,000 workers to request this grant. 

The second part covers event-based staffers and will provide an additional $100 to $250 per month depending on length of employment and how many hours were worked during the 2019 season. This primarily benefits people like ushers, security guards and maintenance workers, along with game-day workers like the scoreboard operators and the group that tosses t-shirts into the stands. 

"They are in many ways, in our view, really the backbone of what we're doing," Baer said of the collective group. "They're the people that work hard, work diligently and serve our fans, which is the lifeblood of our sport and our business. Without games, obviously many of them will encounter hardship."

The majority of event-based employees had a second job elsewhere, though many work at places like Chase Center, which also has been shut down. The Giants have encouraged everyone covered by their program to also apply for unemployment benefits. They have confirmed with local and federal government officials that these supplemental payments won't impact unemployment eligibility. 

"The benefits that we're offering, in addition to unemployment, should roughly equate to what people would have made if games were played, and in some cases it could be more," Bair said. 

None of the newly announced funds came from players, but Baer said some have expressed an interest in working on their own programs and he intends to reach out to them. When the players do return to Oracle Park, it should look different. 

Some work continues on the Mission Rock development since it has been included in the "essential work" description given by the city because some of the project is dedicated to affordable housing. Workers in what used to be Lot A are practicing social distancing and wiping down equipment as they work. 

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Baer also said construction on the bullpens and outfield walls has been stopped but will restart when the Giants are given the all-clear by the city. 

"We have timelines available and when we have a game at Oracle Park, we would have enough lead time to perform that work," Baer said. "Much of that work had been done already."

MLB opt-out tracker: Every player who has declined to play 2020 season

MLB opt-out tracker: Every player who has declined to play 2020 season

It's extremely common to hear about a player opting out in baseball. Stars have often had opt-out clauses for the final year of their deals, and in recent years many have given themselves the ability to opt out after just a year or two of a massive contract. At the end of every spring, non-roster invitees opt out to look for a better opportunity elsewhere. 

But this season, those two words take on a different meaning. 

Under a March agreement reached by MLB and the Players Association, high-risk players can opt out of the 2020 because of coronavirus concerns and still get paid. Players who are not deemed to be at a high risk can also opt out while surrendering their 2020 salaries and service time.

On the first day of the week MLB was set to return, four players opted out. Here's a rundown of where the list currently stands:

Mike Leake (Diamondbacks starting pitcher)

The 32-year-old was the first to publicly make his intentions known. Leake's agent told reporters that the right-hander "took countless factors into consideration, many of which are personal to him and his family." There has been some speculation that Leake had family concerns; his father was paralyzed in an accident a few years ago and that's in part why he ended up close to home with the Diamondbacks.

Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals first baseman)

Zimmerman is exactly the type of player you would think of when it comes to guys who had a difficult decision to make in recent weeks. He's 35 and now is a part-time player, and he's set for life financially and got his ring last October. In a statement put out by his agency, he made it clear this is about concerns for his family, which includes a mother with multiple sclerosis:

Joe Ross (Nationals starting pitcher)

Ross, a 27-year-old Bay Area native who is the younger brother of Tyson, also opted out Monday. He did not immediately release a statement. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said Zimmerman and Ross decided "not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. We are 100 percent supportive of their decision to not play this year."

Ian Desmond (Rockies outfielder)

The 34-year-old announced his decision at the end of a series of Instagram posts that examined injustices in baseball and society. It was a powerful statement, and one you should read in full here:

View this post on Instagram

On my mind.

A post shared by Ian Desmond (@i_dez20) on

Tyson Ross (free agent starting pitcher)

It was a bit of a surprise when Ross was released by the Giants last week. As a veteran who could start or come out of the bullpen, he seemed like a good fit for what they were building in March, and an even better fit in a season with no true five-man rotation. But this seems to explain the decision: 

David Price (Dodgers Pitcher)

The biggest name in MLB to this date to withdraw, Price announced his decision to opt out of the 2020 season on social media during the holiday weekend. The southpaw didn't get specific on the reasoning behind it, but said the decision was in the "best interest of my health and my family's health." 


Felix Hernandez (Braves pitcher)

Another former Cy Young award winner has decided not to play during the 2020 MLB season.

Felix Hernandez, who won the 2010 AL Cy Young while with the Seattle Mariners, won't suit up for the Atlanta Braves this season, he agent tweeted Saturday night.

After spending the first 15 seasons of his career with the Mariners, Hernandez signed a minor-league contract with Atlanta this offseason. He will turn 35 next April, when the 2021 MLB season is expected to start.

Giants have 'golden opportunity' in 2020 season, Mike Krukow believes

Giants have 'golden opportunity' in 2020 season, Mike Krukow believes

The Giants aren't expected to contend for an MLB playoff spot this season, but don't tell that to Mike Krukow.

The Giants broadcaster believes the team has a chance to surprise people due to the shortened season.

"It's a golden opportunity," Krukow said during a conversation this week with NBC Sports Bay Area's Kelli Johnson and broadcast partner Duane Kuiper. "If you look at the Giants, they're one of the older teams in baseball. What older teams have learned, especially ones that have been champions, they learn the importance of chemistry, they learn the importance of a good attitude, and I think that is going to be paramount when they gather up."

While the Giants are focused on building for the future, they still have several integral players from their three World Series title teams from the last decade. Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval remain. They are flanked by veterans Evan Longoria, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. And Hunter Pence is back for a second tour of duty in San Francisco.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

But those veterans and the rest of the Giants have to get used to a whole new world. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, players have to adjust their routines.

"There are going to be so many things that are going to be unorthodox, that they're not used to, that are complete breaks of the routine of a normal day that you have in a normal season of Major League Baseball," Krukow said. "It's really going to be important for them to overcome them with a good attitude. Whoever finds chemistry first is going to have the advantage."

Spring training isn't the best indicator of what a team will be for the upcoming season, but the Giants had a 13-16 record before the coronavirus put a stop to activities. Despite that record, Krukow and Kuiper liked what they saw from the club in March.

[RELATED: Giants would support Posey opting out]

"We thought the Giants had a great spring training," Krukow said. "We thought there really was a nice foundation that was being laid of a positive vibe, and I think because of their experience, I think they have an opportunity here. If they get off with a good vibe, if they get off to a good start, it's a sprint. They could be in the playoffs. And once they get into the playoffs, who knows what can happen. So I'm excited about it. I think the players are excited about it. And it's a golden opportunity."

The Giants reportedly are expected to open the 60-game season July 23 in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, who are favorites to win the World Series. It's not the easiest way for the Giants to start the season, but if they can take a couple games from their arch rivals, that could set the tone for a surprising season.