Dontrelle Willis Q&A: MLB vet 'really proud of' A's star Marcus Semien

Dontrelle Willis Q&A: MLB vet 'really proud of' A's star Marcus Semien

Alameda native Dontrelle Willis is nine years removed from his playing days, but he hasn’t ever really left the realm of professional baseball.

The former pitcher is connected as ever, having recently found a second career in the game as a studio analyst for Fox Sports' MLB coverage.

He recently took a few minutes away from his wife and three daughters during isolation to FaceTime with NBC Sports California about the current state of the majors, the minors and the A’s.

Perspectives on enduring the current pandemic:
“The one thing I have seen around here, just interacting from a distance -- people have been good to each other for the most part. Being courteous to each other, and it’s really nice to see. This is totally surreal, you wake up every day thinking that it’s going to be different, but you’re kind of feeling like a ‘Groundhog Day’ situation. It’s been tough from the mental aspect of it.”

On a potential all-Arizona season for MLB:
“I know a lot of people are getting antsy. But first and foremost, people need to be safe. I think it’s a hell of a plan, and idea, but is it really going to work out once the wheels start turning? Are you going to have all the teams at one site? If it’s one state, is the state going to be okay with that? As a fan and as a former player, I want to see things get going again. But at the same time, I want to see players and their families be safe, as well.”

On the importance of Minor League Baseball, while facing severe downsizing:
“I think the Minor Leagues are critical because there’s no season like the Major Leagues where we play so many games over and over again. That’s a great institute to train -- not just physically, but mentally. The grinding and being on bus rides, and camaraderie as well.  And, for a lot of these towns and cities, the minor league team is everything to them. A lot of these teams are in downtowns, [games are] a night out for the fans. And some of my fondest memories are in the minor leagues.”

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On the A’s chances in 2020, should a shortened season get played:
“If they’re able to throw strikes and defend with the two Matts [Chapman and Olson] at the corners, they’re going to be in the thick of things. They’ll be able to face Houston and win ballgames. Able to face New York and win ballgames. And those are the teams you’ll have to go through if you want to win a title.”

On a fellow Bay Area native to watch this season:
“The one guy I’m really proud of is Marcus Semien, (as) far as his development. Once his glove got confident, you saw the bat come with it. You see his poise.”

Benches clear in A's-Astros game after Ramon Laureano hit by pitch

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Benches clear in A's-Astros game after Ramon Laureano hit by pitch

Ramon Laureano had enough with the Houston Astros' antics

The A's center fielder was hit by a pitch for the second time Sunday, and he took exception, which ended up causing a benches clearing brawl between the two AL West rivals

This story will be updated.

Why A's already are nearly locked for playoffs, according to FanGraphs

Why A's already are nearly locked for playoffs, according to FanGraphs

It’s never too early to talk about the MLB playoffs, especially in a 60-game season. So, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

The A’s appear already locked-in for the playoffs, and not just because of the new format.

Entering Sunday, according to FanGraphs, the A’s have a 97.7 percent chance of making the playoffs. To break it down more precisely, Oakland also has a 71.8 percent chance to win the AL West. 

Oakland sits pretty in first place with an 11-4 record, and the Houston Astros are 4.5 games behind them.

The new playoff format, which MLB and the Player’s Association agreed upon, only helps the A’s chances. The expanded playoffs have second-place teams in each of the divisions qualified for the playoffs. So, unless something crazy happens, the A’s still have a huge chance. Plus, compared to the rest of the division, their strength of schedule for the remainder of the season only is a boost for the team.

FanGraphs does have the Astros slightly higher (8 percent) than the A’s (7.2 percent) to win the World Series, but that’s to be expected from a perennial contender.

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The new playoff format was brought forth to create a competitive pennant race, as MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said in a statement.

The playoffs are scheduled for Sept. 29-Oct. 2, which will come much faster than it might feel like.

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