A New Pitch Famed hurler Dave Stewart has gone from ace to agent

April 25, 2004

Shortly before a game in 1989, the Oakland A's told Billy Beane
that he was being sent back to the minors. Beane, a weak-hitting
outfielder nearing the end of his nondescript career, didn't
expect the move to stir much emotion in the clubhouse, but the
reaction of one veteran--Dave Stewart, the ace righthander known
for his diving forkball and a fierce glare that hitters called
the Death Stare--surprised him. "He kept saying, 'This isn't
right, this isn't right,'" recalls Beane, now Oakland's general
manager. He had to talk Stewart out of storming the front office
on his behalf.

So it was no surprise to Beane that the 47-year-old Stewart, in
his first major contract negotiation since becoming certified as
a player agent last fall, would come out swinging for his client,
A's All-Star third baseman Eric Chavez, when talks began in
January. Two months later Beane and Stewart hammered out a
six-year, $66 million extension for Chavez, the richest contract
in franchise history.

Stewart's handling of the Chavez deal suggests he's a natural
agent, but he had, in fact, spent most of the last eight years
hoping to be sitting on the management side of the table. After
retiring in 1996 with four straight 20-win seasons, three playoff
MVP trophies and two World Series rings to his credit, Stewart
worked as a special assistant to general managers in Oakland
(Sandy Alderson) and San Diego (Kevin Towers). In '98 he was the
pitching coach for a Padres team that went to the World Series,
and then he spent three years as assistant G.M. and director of
player personnel for the Toronto Blue Jays.

In the latter role Stewart negotiated contracts and prepared
arbitration cases, and thus assumed he was next in line to
succeed G.M. Gord Ash. But after Ash was fired in 2001, Blue Jays
owner Paul Godfrey passed over Stewart in favor of Beane's young
Oakland assistant, J.P. Ricciardi. Stewart resigned immediately
and lashed out at baseball's poor minority hiring record for
top-level front-office positions. (Ken Williams of the Chicago
White Sox was and still is the majors' only black G.M.)
"[Godfrey] said the best guy for the job was J.P. Ricciardi,"
Stewart says. "I say the best guy for the job--me--doesn't have
it."

Stewart abandoned his front-office ambitions, worked for a season
as the Milwaukee Brewers' pitching coach and then went into a
self-imposed baseball exile. He spent a year puttering around his
San Diego home, sailing his 65-foot yacht and purging the sour
taste the Toronto experience had left. "I don't have any
bitterness today about not becoming a general manager or about
the fact that baseball has problems with minority hiring," he
says. "That's baseball's problem, not mine."

By last spring Stewart was mulling a career as an agent, a notion
he had initially rejected when Ash suggested it three years ago.
Negotiating contracts would bring him close to the game again and
satisfy the competitive juices that were revived during his year
off. While visiting the A's clubhouse in April 2003, he mentioned
the possible career switch to Chavez, whom he's known since
Chavez was a San Diego high school standout. "If you get
certified," said Chavez, who was represented by Beverly Hills
Sports Council at the time, "we need to talk."

To be certified by the major league players' union, agents must
pass a test on the collective bargaining agreement and have a
client on a team's 40-man roster. Stewart got his feet wet
cutting minor league deals for several players drafted last
summer, and in November he was approved by the union. This year
he and former Canadian Football League player Doran Major opened
an agency, Sports Management Partners, based in San Diego.

Though Stewart has only Chavez as a big league client at the
moment, he has six other players on 40-man rosters plus 15 minor
leaguers. He won praise from the A's for his preparedness--he did
his own statistical research--and his levelheaded, nonthreatening
approach. "Dealing with him was a pleasure," Beane says. "He's
just starting out, but I told him he won't be able to get out of
this business. A lot of people are going to be looking for his
services."

There are other players turned agents, such as Keith Miller,
formerly of the Kansas City Royals, but none can match Stewart's
All-Star pedigree or his front-office experience. "I was
negotiating for management, and now it's for the player--either
way I'm doing what I was trained to do," he says. And if
negotiations ever do get testy, a bargaining-table Death Stare
might be very persuasive.

COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON CHANGEUP After intimidating hitters with his baleful glare,Stewart has been lauded for his straightforward negotiatingstyle. COLOR PHOTO: MAX MORSE [See caption above]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)