The gears have begun shifting on this 60-game season, yet what could have been has not left Jeff Samardzija’s mind.
All the way back on May 11, MLB owners agreed on their first proposal to the union: an 82-game schedule that would begin in early July. The players liked the timing; they did not like the sliding scale of contract cuts that would have left higher-earning players getting hammered.
The negotiations continued, the Players Association offering as lengthy as a 114-game schedule with full prorated contracts, but the two sides never agreed upon a pact. The union held firm in demanding the players get prorated amounts, the league insisting it would lose too much money.
The resolution was not much of one. Without a deal, the two sides resorted back to the late-March agreement that allowed the commissioner to institute an abbreviated season as long as players received their prorated share. The 60-game sprint was born.
“I’d rather have 82 games, 90 games, which we were definitely able to do and had a window to do,” Samardzija said on a Zoom call Friday, as the Giants’ camp at Oracle Park opened. “But if it’s 60 then it’s 60.”
The owners wanted players to take pay cuts because the original agreement did not take into account the fact fans would not be allowed in stadiums, crushing the owners’ bottom lines. San Francisco has announced it will not allow fans this season, but several suits — including Jim Crane of the Astros and Randy Levine of the Yankees — already have signaled they want some revenue through paying customers.
“I wouldn’t put the carriage before the horse there,” Samardzija said when asked about stadiums without fans. “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 of putting anyone at risk if they have the opportunity to, especially if it makes them money.”
Samardzija, entering his 13th season and fifth with the Giants, has been training in Arizona, throwing five or six times a week and awaiting a chance to play that he feels should have come sooner. His experience gives him a voice to speak on behalf of players. His experience also gives him a rare insight into empty stadiums, Samardzija the White Sox’s starter in Baltimore on April 29, 2015, when protests around the city forced gates to close.
“I’ll get a sweet, one-game advantage of already doing this before,” Samardzija said.