SAN FRANCISCO — Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija thinks he has an advantage on most of his Major League peers, and he’s looking to press it. But he’s not sure Major League Baseball’s owners will give him the opportunity. You see, Samardzija has played in front of empty stands before. And we’re not talking about a…Giants’ Jeff Samardzija calls out MLB owners over fan safety — Times-Standard
But he’s not sure Major League Baseball’s owners will give him the opportunity.
You see, Samardzija has played in front of empty stands before. And we’re not talking about a two-bad-teams-on-a-cold-Tuesday-in-September kind of empty — no, we’re talking about 100 percent unfilled seats.
It happened back in 2015, when Samardzija started a game for the Chicago White Sox against the Orioles in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray while he was in police custody and the violent protests that followed in that city. The game was ordered to be played behind closed doors. Attendance: zero.
Of course, the current expectation is that because of the COVID-19 pandemic baseball fans won’t be allowed into the ballpark for the 60-game regular season that will start in a few weeks.
But when Samardzija was asked about his experience in 2015 and what he could carry from that into the 2020 season at the Giants’ first day of “Summer Camp” at Oracle Park Friday, the veteran righty took the opportunity to take a shot at Major League Baseball’s owners.
“I wouldn’t put the cart 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… They’re not scared to put anyone at risk if they get the opportunity to, especially if it makes them money.”
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Samardzija might have been placing his tongue in his cheek a bit, his comment highlighted the fact that, despite the fact that the season has re-started following weeks of contentious labor negotiations, tensions between the players and owners are still high.
His prediction of fans being in the stands isn’t off-base, either. While such a scenario seems unlikely in California, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane said last month that he expects to allow fans into home games this year in an effort to counter some of the revenue losses brought on by the pandemic-shorted season.
“That’s the way it’s going to be. The owners have already said that’s what they want,” Samardzija said. “But to the fans: I just want them to be safe, too. If that means they have to watch us from home, so be it.”
As for his experience pitching in front of an empty ballpark:
“For one game of the season, I’m gonna have a huge advantage of playing in front of no fans before,” Samardzija said. “So I’m excited about that. And we’ll take full advantage of that.”
Samardzija should hope that history helps him the second time around. In that fan-free game in Baltimore, he allowed seven earned runs in five innings pitched.