Texas Rangers second baseman Marcus Semien kept grinding to World Series title
Semien kept to his process and played every day, snapping his postseason slump
Marcus Semien refused to panic while his batting average stayed below .200 for the first 27 days of the baseball playoffs.
He never doubted himself or the routine that helped him lead the American League in hits (182), runs scored (122), and finish third in doubles (40) during the regular season.
The 33-year-old Semien, who signed a seven-year, $175 million contract with the Texas Rangers before last season, kept grinding. Every day.
Semien trusted his process and stopped worrying about the result. Slowly, the hits started to come. He ended the World Series with a seven-game hitting streak, including a two-run homer in the ninth inning Wednesday to end any hope of an Arizona Diamondbacks comeback and help the Rangers to win their first World Series.
He had a critical, run-scoring single that gave Texas a 1-0 lead in Game 3. He added a triple and a homer in a Game 4. Game 5’s home run helped the Rangers to their first championship in the club’s 63-year history, the last 52 in Texas.
“Everything I’ve ever worked for is for this moment. Kind of a crazy game,” Semien said after the game in a TV interview. “We’re getting no-hit through six or whatever it was. [Zac] Gallen was unbelievable tonight, but we came through. Once Corey [Seager] got the first hit, everyone kind of woke up.”
Semien’s prolonged slump had critics wondering if he was fatigued from manager Bruce Bochy writing his name in the leadoff spot for each of the Rangers’ 179 games this season.
Semien had two extra-base hits and three RBIs in his first 72 at-bats in the postseason. In the last two games of the World Series, he had three extra-base hits and seven RBIs.
“It’s really quite a luxury, never to think about who is playing second base,” Bochy said. “It doesn’t happen a lot these days in an age of load management.”
Semien has played 161 games once and 162 games three times in the past four seasons. Since 2018, Semien has played 7,517 ²/₃ innings in the field. No one has played more.
“As a professional, I get to play every day. As a kid, if you had a bad weekend, you had to wait until the next weekend,” he said. “You play 162 games. You know there’s always tomorrow. You just put your head down and go to work if you had a bad day.
“If I’m slumping, I know any given day you can come out of it and help the team win.”
That’s why Semien declined Bochy’s offer for a day off in August when he struggled at the plate. Besides, work is all he knows.
His parents, Tracy and Damien, provided an example. His mom, an insurance agent, rarely, if ever, missed a day of work. Neither did his dad, who worked at a juvenile detention facility for 25 years.
“My parents didn’t have a choice. They had to show up to work just to survive, especially where I grew up,” Semien said. “This isn’t work. This is baseball. This is my dream come true, but I still take that same attitude to show up every day and go to work.”
These days, Semien shows his teammates the importance of consistency and commitment.
“His work ethic is one of the best I’ve ever been around,” Rangers outfielder Robbie Grossman said. “There’s not one single day of the season you can’t come in and see Marcus doing something at the same time he did it yesterday.”
Catcher Jonah Heim said, “Marcus is a true leader. You wanna follow that guy into battle no matter where we’re at.”
Semien battled his way out of a playoff slump because he finally adjusted to how pitchers approached him.
Pitchers attacked Semien with sliders and fastballs away, and he kept trying to pull those pitches instead of hitting them to right field. The result? Weak groundouts, pop-ups, and frustration.
“I never want to get too high or too low, because this game will eat you up. If your emotions take over out there, you won’t be at your best,” Semien said. “You learn from mistakes. There have been times when this game makes you so frustrated.
“You’re up there in a big situation, and everybody expects a huge home run, and sometimes you put a little pressure on yourself. I got caught up in that a little bit.”
In the last three games of the World Series, Semien simplified his approach. He stopped chasing the sliders and waited for the pitchers to make a mistake. Despite the struggles, Semien found comfort in his daily routine, which he calls the foundation of his success, whether staying healthy or being productive.
“Routine takes time to develop. Without it, I wouldn’t be the player I am,” he said. “I was never the first-round pick who had the talent to just show up and hit home runs and do all the things I’ve been able to do in my career.”
Former Rangers manager Ron Washington, then the Oakland A’s third-base coach, helped Semien develop a routine in 2016 with a 15-minute ground ball drill that’s helped him become one of the game’s best defensive second basemen. Then, Semien devised a routine for the hitting, stretching, and every other aspect of the game he wanted to improve.
“When I make things normal, that’s when I perform at my best,” Semien said. “Routine is everything to a lot of us.”
And it helped make Semien and the Texas Rangers champions.