Giants

Why Giants won't see fans past right-field wall, might in McCovey Cove

Why Giants won't see fans past right-field wall, might in McCovey Cove

The Giants will report to Oracle Park next week with optimism, but they also know they're a few false moves away from the season prematurely ending. MLB is counting on players, coaches and staffers to strictly adhere to new guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and all involved will get a nightly reminder of what's at stake. 

As they take the field every game, the Giants will look around and see ... just about nobody.

Fans are banned from games, at least initially, and you won't find many involved with MLB who believe fans will attend any games this season, despite what some governors in slow-moving states might want you to believe. For the Giants, this means nearly 42,000 empty seats a night. It also means they'll have to shut down a popular feature that has allowed some fans to watch games for free.

The Giants expect that they'll have to keep fans from watching from the portwalk behind the right-field wall this season. In the past, fans could walk up and try to watch up to three innings through the fence, but that area is expected to be closed off to keep fans from cramming in behind the fence and breaking social distancing rules. 

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There is, however, a way to get close to the game  -- if you're particularly adventurous.

McCovey Cove is controlled by the city, and fans will be allowed to gather in kayaks there if they want as far as team officials know. It could be a fruitful season for anyone out there in the cove. Most balls that get hit into the arcade during batting practice are stopped by gloves or hands.

But for 2020, it'll just be a row of empty seats, ready to ricochet the ball backward and into the water. 

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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.

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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.