As the Giants took the field for the first time Friday, most walked through the entrance in the center-field wall, getting a glimpse of the new bullpens on either side. Those bullpens include decks that will give fans a great view of not just the action on the field, but the players getting warmed up.
It's not expected that fans will get to try those decks out this year, or view any baseball in person. But on a Zoom call with reporters, veteran right-hander Jeff Samardzija said he doesn't necessarily believe that, and took a not-so-subtle shot at ownership groups across the league.
"I wouldn't put the carriage before the horse there," Samardzija said. "I think there's going to be fans in the stands. I think we've seen with these owners they're not scared of anything and they're not scared to put anyone at risk if they get the opportunity to, especially if it makes them money."
Regardless of whether teams and local municipalities can figure that out in the midst of a pandemic, Samardzija's pointed remarks were a reminder of another element of the three-month layoff. As players sheltered in place and followed COVID-19 updates, they also watched their union go to battle with owners and the league.
[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]
Ultimately, the sides did not come to an agreement past the March 26 version that allowed commissioner Rob Manfred to impose a 60-game season. Nobody expected either side to forget that long, nasty negotiation, particularly the players. Samardzija confirmed that with a couple of shots Friday. Earlier, he brought up the length of the season.
"I'd rather have 82 games, 90 games, which we were definitely able to do and had a window to do," he said while talking about how players will adapt and adjust.
Samardzija and the rest of the Giants returned to Oracle Park on Friday and all appeared to go well, but movement was extremely limited and security was tight. The organization already has told season-ticket holders that fans will not be at games this year, offering instead to make them into cutouts that can take their place in the stands.
It seems some players are anticipating a change of course. Samardzija is one of the most experienced players on the roster, and he said that while he wants fans to be safe, he can see them being allowed back in this year.
"There's going to be people in the stands, they're going to be socially distanced and rows apart, and that's the way it's going to be," he said. "The owners have already said that that's what they want."
Much of this might come down to city preferences. Politicians in New York and Texas are among those who have stated they want fans back at games this year. San Francisco and the Bay Area have been particularly cautious, and it's hard to see that changing anytime soon. Samardzija said players will adjust if they do play in front of empty seats.
"We're baseball players, that's another hurdle we need to jump over," he said. "But in the end the numbers still count and the wins and losses still count no matter how you got there."