Giants

Rob Manfred's statements bring dark day for players, Giants employees

Rob Manfred's statements bring dark day for players, Giants employees

MLB has done a horrible job of marketing the game in recent years, sticking to a harmful and antiquated blackout policy for broadcasts, cracking down on the use of highlights on social media, discouraging individual expression from players and then repeatedly talking publicly of how games are too long for fans and the rules need to be changed.

Even with all that as the standard, the optics Monday were stunningly bad. 

ESPN aired a special called "The Return of Sports," and commissioner Rob Manfred for some reason felt that was the perfect platform to renege on his words from just a few days earlier and express doubt about the season. 

"I'm not confident," Manfred said while kicking off the show. "I think there's real risk, and as long as there's no dialogue, that real risk is going to continue."

There is real risk, that's true. But it's not the type Manfred is talking about.

This seems a good time to step back and remember that the two sides are in this situation because COVID-19 shut down the sport, and as much as society has focused on reopening, that threat has not gone away. The Associated Press reported Monday that several MLB players and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, and while that was suspiciously timed, it wasn't a surprise to people within the game. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

For weeks, sources have said that the original return plan was incomplete and didn't adequately prepare players, coaches and staffers for the reality of dealing with a virus while sharing fields, clubhouses, buses and flights. The original document, for instance, did not provide nearly enough answers for how to safely take a road trip, or what to do if a player starts showing symptoms on a flight or while away from home.

People within the game have continued to express concerns about the safety of all this, and that has ramped up in recent days, as Arizona has seen an explosion in positive COVID-19 tests. The Giants at one point were 50-50 on whether to hold a potential second spring training in San Francisco or Scottsdale. It's now a lock that they return home, with serious concerns from high-ranking members of the organization about how the virus has been handled in the Phoenix area, where masks aren't part of the daily routine for most. 

It is with this backdrop that Manfred struck the latest blow in a three-month back and forth between MLB and the MLBPA. In the hours before last week's draft, Manfred said he was 100 percent certain there would be a season, which led many around the league to believe he would impose one somewhere in the 50-game range. Players over the weekend told the league to provide the time and the place, but on Monday that all changed. 

The Los Angeles Times reported that MLB has shifted the conversation, telling the MLBPA there will be no 2020 season unless players waive any legal claims against the league. In essence, MLB would like to avoid a grievance that now looks like it would favor the players, and it's clear that Manfred is hoping to run out the clock a bit, as Trevor Bauer summed up well in a Twitter thread.

NBC Sports Bay Area reached out to players, team employees and agents, and most predicted that there still ultimately will be something close to a 54-game season once MLB delays a bit longer, allowing the calendar to line up and a short season to lead into a normal postseason. There was more general pessimism than at any point in the last couple months, though. 

Multiple people said that for the first time they could now see a summer without baseball, with some concern that this could last through 2021. People within the league described the latest developments as sad, depressing, messed up and embarrassing. "Just a shame," one player said. "I really hope something gets worked out."

[RELATED: Giants' 2020 draft picks enter pro ball with uncertain future]

There was little optimism Monday, and serious concerns about the short- and long-term future of the sport. Even if MLB returns this season, the concerns about the coronavirus will remain, and the financial issues still will linger. This is a sport that currently is fighting over every dollar, and that has left a lot of people out in the dark. 

Behind the scenes, team employees -- and there are hundreds of them just with the Giants alone -- fear a wave of furloughs. While the Giants recently agreed to extend pay for minor leaguers, many teams still have not done so, and the minor league season has been unofficially canceled. Minor leaguers are watching a full year of their career disappear, perhaps missing out on a life-changing payday:

The big leaguers are sticking together, pushing back on a league that's only negotiating tactic right now seems to be to wait. Manfred on Monday had no answers about how any of this gets solved, but at least he seems to have a good view of how most view the sport right now. 

"It's just a disaster for our game," he said. "Absolutely no question about it."

Giants vs. Rockies live stream: How to watch MLB games online, on TV

Giants vs. Rockies live stream: How to watch MLB games online, on TV

The Giants are set to begin a daunting 10-game road trip Monday that could dramatically alter their 2020 season, as they will square off against the Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros away from home over the next week and a half.

The Giants (5-5) start their trip at Coors Field against the surprising Rockies (6-2). The Giants are coming off a series win against the Texas Rangers, while the Rockies most recently took two out of three from the San Diego Padres.

Here's how you can watch the Giants play the Rockies online (download the MyTeams app here!) and on TV:

Monday, Aug. 3

When: Giants Pregame Live at 5 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 5:40 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Bay Area
Stream: MyTeams app

Tuesday, Aug. 4

When: Giants Pregame Live at 5 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 5:40 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Bay Area
Stream: MyTeams app

Wednesday, Aug. 5

When: Giants Pregame Live at 5 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 5:40 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Bay Area
Stream: MyTeams app

Thursday, Aug. 6

When: Giants Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m. PT -- First pitch at 12:10 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Bay Area
Stream: MyTeams app

Why Gabe Kapler sees signs of life with Pablo Sandoval's latest swings

Why Gabe Kapler sees signs of life with Pablo Sandoval's latest swings

It was just a single, and Pablo Sandoval ended up standing on first and watching three straight teammates strike out. But his hit in the second inning Tuesday might have been one of the more well-timed ones of his second stint with the Giants. 

All MLB teams have to cut from 30 to 28 players on Thursday morning, and with that deadline looming, it was not hard to look at Sandoval's stat line and see a potentially tough decision coming for the front office. Sandoval still has just three hits in 26 at-bats, and he's not being used in a versatile role. Regardless, manager Gabe Kapler stuck him right back in the lineup, noting that there were signs of life in Tuesday's loss. 

"Last night was a really good signal with respect to his swing," Kapler said on a Zoom call Wednesday morning. "He really crushed some balls, crushed them on the ground, and ultimately in a perfect world you're able to elevate the balls that you hit hardest, and when he's at his best that's exactly what he's doing. What we've seen with Pablo has been a slow progression towards his good swing."

Sandoval is working with the new staff to get his legs more involved, and on Tuesday he certainly looked more like his old self. In that first at-bat he pulled a 95 mph pitch from German Marquez into right field at 109 mph. He flied out to deep left in the fourth, and then grounded out twice, including a double play. But those two grounders left the bat at 104.7 mph and 108.7. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

It's hard to tell what the Giants will do with Thursday's moves, especially since their need for 15 pitchers is still there, but it can't be a comfortable time for players who are slumping or pigeonholed, as Sandoval has been. He has not played third base yet, with Donovan Solano a preferred option as Evan Longoria's backup. He also has just five plate appearances against left-handed pitchers. 

"We have a lot of options to hit lefties, from Solano to (Wilmer) Flores to Darin Ruf to (Austin) Slater to (Mauricio) Dubon," Kapler said. "We've got a lot of guys who are really equipped to take down at-bats against lefties. It's a little bit thinner when we're facing a right-handed pitcher."

[RELATED: Nolan Arenado continues to crush Giants]

Kapler still believes Sandoval is one of his best late-game options against tough righties, and on Wednesday he should get three or four more at-bats to prove if his swing is coming back. He is the DH against hard-throwing righty Jon Gray, and Kapler sounded confident in the choice. 

"We kind of evaluate Pablo very similarly to the way we evaluated him when we came out of our secondary camp," Kapler said.