Baseball Won't Get Back on an Even Keel Until MLB Players Feel They Can Trust Owners

John Hickey

When the players and the owners were negotiating for the return of baseball, it was clear that the players didn’t have much trust in the owners.

So much so that both sides at one time or another drew lines in the sand that wouldn’t be crossed.

And that was before a series of intake testing snafus had some teams cancelling workouts, some teams postponing workouts and other teams going on as if nothing was amiss. The Oakland A’s, for example, had its first position player workout scratched Saturday, the full team workout erased Sunday and the Monday workout, while it did finally get going, it was a couple of hours late.

In the F parking lot of the Coliseum Monday afternoon, players gathered; they couldn’t enter the Coliseum under baseball rules until intake test results had been returned after being processed in Utah.

The workout was scheduled for 5 p.m., the clearance came at 6:41 p.m. and players took the field sometime after 7 p.m.

So far, the A’s seem to have been able to take things in stride; they were angry at the onset over the delays, but once they’ve gotten on the field, that’s dissipated some. Still, the level of trust that the owners will go the extra mile to make sure players don’t fall victim to the coronavirus is not great.

Shortstop Marcus Semien, who is the team’s player representative and who had a voice advocating for the players’ position during the negotiations, admitted to having a few doubts about where things were heading Monday afternoon while hanging around the parking lot with his teammates.

“Yeah, man, there was the possibility that we could get sent home,” Semien said. “They didn’t get the results in (Sunday) and I’m so glad they got them in Monday. “We told them, `Oh man, we’ll wait until we hear what the results are.’ For everybody who was negative, we got to get in the building. I’m so glad that we did, because we needed to get that work in.

But even on Tuesday, multiple teams, including the Giants, had to call off workouts because they hadn’t gotten tests. Down in Los Angeles, Mookie Betts, the Dodgers’ big off-season addition, told the Los Angeles Times he wasn’t seeing any clarity from the owners’ side with the daily tests becoming something considerably less than daily.

“It’s kind of tough to be confident in something that hasn’t proved to be foolproof,” Betts said. “It’s kind of out of my control, but it’s in somebody’s control ... and whoever’s control it’s in has to find a way to make it work or this whole operation may not be able to work.”

Semien says trust needs to be built.

“I’m not just thinking about myself,” the veteran shortstop said. “I’m thinking about my teammates, my coaches and my family. It’s still early in the process I knew there would be some hiccups along the way. I think it will get better over time.”

Oakland manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday the trust issue needs to improve.

“I think the timeliness of the results will create that trust,” Melvin said. “And at this point in time, it’s probably no all the way there yet. But MLB is very aware of it. This is unprecedented. So, it’s about getting that trust and getting the results done as so as you know (that will) get guys to buy in a little big more.

“And maybe then you won’t hear as man voices talking about (trust).”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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