Athletics

MLB 2020 schedule release: Stacked A's squad shouldn't fear Dodgers

MLB 2020 schedule release: Stacked A's squad shouldn't fear Dodgers

Major League Baseball officially announced the 2020 season schedule on Monday, and as expected, it will look different than previous seasons. 

The A’s won’t reach the Eastern Time Zone unless they reach the playoffs. That’s because of the new scheduling rule where baseball teams remain in their own region and play teams in that area regardless of league.

They’ll play teams within their division 10 times. They’ll play each NL West at least three times, including six matchups against the Giants.

You’ll notice that start times are generally earlier, with some weekday games during the afternoon.

Here’s what really matters: The A’s are good. Like, really good.

They have a stacked rotation and an awesome starting lineup.

They won’t have to deal with teams from the east, so the travel will be shorter. They’ll have to deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers more than normal, but they’ve got the Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Diego Padres -- and they should be easy to handle.

The A’s finish the season with ease, with 11 of 14 games against teams not named the Dodgers or the Houston Astros. That’s a cakewalk, and they’re capable of making a run if they have to. The A’s have been closers in their recent past, so they can push for a division title and avoid the Astros when trying to stay away from the wild-card games that have plagued them so.

Those games against the Astros will be pivotal, though slightly less impactful without fans ready to jeer Mike Fiers for his part in the Houston cheating scandal. It’s not ideal to finish with the Dodgers and then the Seattle Mariners, but it could be worse.

[RELATED: Amanda Diekman appreciative of Bob Melvin's attitude toward husband]

The A’s are stacked. Other teams should be scared of them. The schedule ultimately doesn’t matter. If the A’s come out strong, they’ll be fine. That’s even the case with every game magnified by the fact there aren’t 162 to battle over.

Here’s a look at the entire 60-game schedule:

Mark Canha fills Ramón Laureano void with impressive catch vs. Giants

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Mark Canha fills Ramón Laureano void with impressive catch vs. Giants

It’s not impossible, but it’ll be difficult to replace Ramón Laureano as he serves his four-game suspension for his role in the benches clearing brawl between the A's and Astros on Sunday.

However, between Chad Pinder and Mark Canha, at least defensively, the A’s should be OK.

Watch this catch by Canha on a deep fly ball hit by Evan Longoria in the bottom of the sixth of Friday night’s game against the Giants:

Canha was on the ground for a while, but appeared to be fine and was back in the game hitting moments later.

The catch was very Laureano-esque if you ask me.

Canha also has been pretty productive at the plate, collecting15 hits in 18 games this season, and he has proven he’s a diverse option in the outfield. He can even be used as the designated hitter if needed.

If that doesn’t work, there’s always Pinder who showed off his own defensive skills against the Los Angeles Angels earlier this week.

A’s manager Bob Melvin has always appreciated versatility, so knowing he has a couple options to fill that void helps.

[RELATED: Why A's will miss Laureano greatly upon suspension]

Laureano reportedly won the appealed on his original six-game suspension after he had an on-field confrontation with Astros’ hitting coach Alex Cintrón who, as Laureano admitted, made a comment about the A’s centerfielder’s mother. He served the first of his four-game suspension Friday.

Cintrón is serving his 20-game suspension for his role in the incident.

Dontrelle Willis joins A's broadcast team on NBC Sports California

Dontrelle Willis joins A's broadcast team on NBC Sports California

Editor's note: This story originally was published on July 20.

NBC Sports California is adding a high-energy and charismatic presence to their studio crew for the 2020 season with former MLB pitcher-turned-analyst Dontrelle Willis joining the team.

Willis, a two-time MLB All-Star, spent nine seasons playing in the big leagues, and found himself with a knack for an on-air presence.

“As far as the staff, you, Brodie [Brazil], Dallas [Braden], [Dave Stewart] -- it’s a well-rounded cast that just truly enjoys covering the team,” Willis told NBC Sports California. 

“So, I think it shows in your guys’ work so I just want to be the big-little brother and go out there and showcase my talents and my joy as well, but I’ve always been a fan of the way you’ve covered the team and I think fans love the way you cover the team so I’m just trying to get on board and hop on and get a title like everybody else.”

Willis, 38, is a Bay Area native who attended Encinal High School in Alameda. He looked up to Stewart and looks forward to working with him. He's also excited to see some of the young stars the A’s have with a bit of a closer eye.

“Obviously Frankie Montas and Jesús Luzardo is a kid that come to find out, I was one of his favorite players growing up,” Willis said.

“It’s really cool to hear those stories because you never know how far what you do reaches, but I heard at Fan Fest someone asked him who was his favorite player and he said ‘Dontrelle Willis,’ and I’m like, ‘Well hell, I’m more of a fan of him than anything,’ you know what I mean?”

“You can’t be a fan of mine when you throw harder than me,” Willis said.

For Willis, this job of covering the A’s is more than just commentating on the game. 

“I’m truly honored, I mean the whole ball club -- the Oakland A’s saved my life, so I’m truly honored to be a part of this staff and continue to watch them play baseball because they’re one of the better teams in baseball,” Willis said.

Willis spent some time beginning in 2015 working with FOX Sports as a regular studio analyst on the network’s “MLB Whiparound” where he brought his energy and knowledge with an infectious smile.  

[RELATED: Montas revels in opportunity to be A's Opening Day starter]

For his work covering the A's this season, Willis sees all the positives the team has to offer in addition to their pitching. He complimented their hitting and mentioned Marcus Semien, but wanted to give a warning.

“I tell you this much: If you don’t respect the A’s, they’re going to roll over on you," Willis said.