Athletics

Dave Stewart joins NBC Sports California's A's TV coverage

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AP

Dave Stewart joins NBC Sports California's A's TV coverage

MESA, Ariz. — He’s pitched in the All-Star Game and been a World Series MVP.

He’s served as a pitching coach, a player agent and most recently spent two years running the Arizona Diamondbacks as the general manager.

But in the minds of A’s fans, Dave Stewart will always be the guy standing on the mound in green and gold, staring down a hitter with his menacing glare. Now Stewart is joining NBC Sports California as a studio analyst for A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live, providing insight and commentary on the team he rooted for while growing up in Oakland.

[RELATED: Jose Canseco joins NBC Sports California's A's TV coverage]

“I love talking baseball,” Stewart said. “Baseball has been my life for over 40 years. To share some of my experiences in the game, to be able to give a different point of view to viewers, I can’t think of a better situation. And then to speak about a team that’s been my favorite team since I was a kid is exciting.”

With the A’s pledging to announce this year their plans to build a new ballpark in Oakland, Stewart can bring some timely perspective to the telecast. He was a core member of the powerhouse A’s teams of the late 1980’s that brought packed crowds to the Coliseum during one of the most exciting eras in the franchise’s history.

“It was electric,” he said. “Whenever you went to the ballpark to watch our teams play, you were going to leave with something to talk about. Whether it was Rickey (Henderson) hitting a leadoff home run, or Dave Henderson making a fantastic catch, or Carney Lansford just pounding base hits, or Dennis Eckersley locking down a game with a 1-2-3 inning, we had a lot of ways to beat baseball teams. It was a period of time when you knew as a fan you were gonna be entertained.”

What a collection of experiences Stewart has to draw upon. He won 20-plus games for the A’s four years in a row from 1987-90. He was at his nastiest in the postseason, when he went 10-6 with a 2.77 ERA over 22 games (18 starts). He won both his starts against the Giants in the 1989 World Series and took home MVP honors.

The dominant image from Stewart’s playing career is that of him on the mound, shooting an intimidating glare at opposing hitters as he took the catcher’s signals. Stewart said that intensity was simply a byproduct of all his preparation.

“A lot of the things I put in my head between starts were things I needed to do to be successful,” he said. “It was a build-up from the last start to the next start.”

Stewart has learned the game from every angle one could fathom. He served as pitching coach of the San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays. Running his own sports agency, he represented A’s third baseman Eric Chavez and outfielder Matt Kemp, among others. And most recently, he served as the Diamondbacks’ GM from 2015-16, where his manager was current A’s third base coach Chip Hale.

Stewart believes all of these experiences will help him bring a unique perspective to A’s fans.

“There are little things in this game that people just don’t see, and these are the things I’ll be making note of and those are the lights I’ll be turning on for them,” he said.

Billy Beane opens up on Marcus Semien-A’s contract, Astros scandal

Billy Beane opens up on Marcus Semien-A’s contract, Astros scandal

It's a busy time for Billy Beane and the A's. 

After being eliminated two consecutive seasons in the AL Wild Card Game, Beane and the A's front office are trying to improve a team that won 97 games last year and bridge the gap between them and the Houston Astros. 

The A's executive vice president of baseball operations spoke with NBC Sports California in an exclusive 1-on-1 interview from the MLB Winter Meetings in San Diego on Tuesday, opening up on a range of offseason storylines affecting the green and gold on -- and off -- the field. 

What’s next for Marcus Semien?

On a personal level, it makes all the sense in the world that the A’s want to keep their MVP-caliber shortstop, and that Marcus Semien would want to remain long-term with the MLB franchise right around the corner from where he was born and raised.

If only baseball were that simple.

“I think the first order of a business standpoint is getting through this arbitration season [in 2020],” Beane told NBC Sports California on Tuesday, indicating that a bigger picture agreement is not immediately right around the corner.

“Guys who have years like Marcus usually get significant raises, and that’s the anticipation we’re expecting for him through the arbitration process. Anything beyond that, we’d be better served at discussing after that one year is in place.”

Semien can become an unrestricted free agent in 2021.

Houston’s scandal affecting the A’s

Insiders know MLB’s investigation into the Houston Astros cheating scandal remains active and aggressive. Much as electronically stealing signs would have impacted the playoffs, it also would have greatly affected Oakland, who lost the AL West by six and 10 games, respectively, to the Astros in the last two seasons.

“If true, it certainly would have had a huge impact on us much as anybody,” Beane said.  “It would be extremely disappointing and you’d hope that Major League Baseball would do something to make sure that never happens again.”

Instead of projecting what punishment could rectify the situation, Beane was more introspective about allegations that span back to 2017.

“My first thought, if it did happen, is how good our guys are," Beane said. "When you think of winning 97 games back-to-back years, it’s a compliment to the guys in our room, and how good they are."

A’s biggest targets?

With the exception of roles to be won at second base and a backup catcher, most of the fielding positions seem to be spoken for in Oakland. Add in a historically promising starting rotation on paper, and what exactly are the A’s trying to accomplish before opening day?

“It’s obligatory to say that you’re looking for an extra bullpen arm, and that would probably be the case with us," Beane said.

The story of Oakland’s relief core was Jekyll and Hyde from 2018 to 2019: From one of the most dominant in the majors to last season, where Liam Hendriks unexpectedly became the team's All-Star closer after being designated for assignment in 2018.

“Bullpens, from year to year are probably the most volatile in terms of performance," Beane said. "Last year we struggled with it, and mainly was with the same cast of characters too. Sometimes, it’s hard to figure out.”

While some additions are still necessary, Beane did note that the “makings of a good bullpen” are already in place.

[RELATED: A's stars Semien, Hendriks voted to All-MLB Second Team]

Can Khrush bounce back?

The stats were once scary-consistent for Khris Davis, who hit .247 in four straight seasons and eclipsed 40 homers from 2016 through 2018. But in 2019, the designated hitter's averaged dropped 27 points (.220) and he also hit 25 fewer homers (23). All of this in a year where he signed a big contract, and suffered an abnormal injury playing left field.

“Khris took it really personally too,” Beane said. “He’s got a lot of pride, you could tell it was really bothering him, he feels like it's his responsibility to hit 40 homers every year. And he had done that. For him to struggle last year, I think it kind of snowballed on him.”

It was difficult to know entirely whether Davis’ struggles were mostly physical, mental, or a combination of each. But the confidence is that a reset button will only help the slugger in 2020.

“The hope is, with a long offseason he’s able to forget it, and do what he usually does: hit .247 and hit 40 home runs,” Beane said. 

A's Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks make inaugural All-MLB second team

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USATSI

A's Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks make inaugural All-MLB second team

The A's were well-represented on the inaugural All-MLB Team. 

Shortstop Marcus Semien and closer Liam Hendriks made the second team, MLB announced Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. 

Semien and Hendriks broke out in big ways in 2019, earning their spots in the best seasons of their respective careers.

The shortstop played all 162 games, slashing a career-best .285/.369/.522 to go with 33 home runs and 92 RBI. Semien finished third in AL MVP voting behind Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the 2019 MVP. 

[RELATED: Why Melvin, A's aren't worried about competitors' moves]

Hendriks, meanwhile, emerged as a steadying force in the A's bullpen amid Blake Treinen's struggles. The Australian posted a 1.80 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, both of which were career bests. He also recorded 25 saves and made his first career All-Star Game. 

The All-MLB Team was selected by fan voting (50 percent) and a panel of experts (50 percent).