PHOENIX – Marcus Semien’s journey was long, but his path to exultation was short: just a few feet, the distance between shortstop and second base on a diamond.
Josh Sborz had just thrown a curveball that caught Ketel Marte looking for the final out of the World Series, securing the first championship in Texas Rangers history, and Semien knew where he had to go: in the air and into Corey’s arms. Seager.
It’s been nearly two years since the two All-Stars took a leap of faith, aided by $500 million in salary from Rangers owner Ray Davis, and decided they could win here, they wanted to win here. And every day since then, the middle infielders were everything:
The silent observers who saw how a losing culture could be repaired. The Grinders who insisted on being in the lineup every day they could. And the superstars who could attract other top talent like them.
In the end, they stood out when it mattered most: their rare displays of emotion in this era of extravagance indicated that something special was afoot.
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On Wednesday night at Chase Field, it was Semien who finally let his guard down, destroying a Paul Sewald fastball to deliver the final blow, a two-run homer in the ninth inning, in the Rangers’ 5-0 victory. about the Arizona Diamondbacks. .
When the ball went over the left field wall, Semien turned and exhorted his teammates in the dugout. He let out a roar as he approached second base. And he uttered indescribable joy after crossing the plate.
Minutes later, after Sborz posted his 11th scoreless inning this postseason to finish off the victory, Semien collapsed.
“I ran right up to Corey,” Semien says in the middle of the celebration in the Rangers clubhouse, “I had some emotion, I shed some tears. This is my first. This isn’t his first, so I probably had more tears than him.
“But that’s why we play.”
Seager was undoubtedly the winner of a second World Series MVP, with a game-tying ninth-inning home run in the Game 1 victory, three home runs in total, and crucial contributions as the opposite-field dribbler who broke Zac Gallen’s streak. He hit bid in the seventh inning and led to the first run of the game.
He also earned Series MVP honors in 2020, when the Los Angeles Dodgers won it all during the COVID-19 bubble that would become Seager’s future home: Globe Life Field in Arlington.
Semien, meanwhile, worked for six years in Oakland, not far from his East Bay home, before finding mediocre free agent offers for the 2021 season. A bridge year in Toronto produced 46 home runs and a much more lucrative trip to the agency free.
Seager was also on the market. The Rangers needed a reset after the $1.2 billion Globe Life opened and miserable teams followed, including 102 losses in 2021.
Cue the bulb above the head.
“We were excited to be somewhere new,” Semien says. “Obviously he had earned a lot more than me. I did it well. But we knew it was something new. We were both at our best.
“Why not get the W and the ring?”
Seager signed for $325 million over 10 years, Semien for $175 million over seven years. Pitcher Jon Gray joined them, for four years and $56 million, and the team lost 94 more games.
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But the beachhead was already established.
“Corey and Marcus believed in us at a time when they didn’t have to,” says general manager Chris Young. “I am very happy that they have been rewarded.
“It was just the beginning. We couldn’t stop. We were tired of losing. “Our players were tired of losing.”
They didn’t stop spending (two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom was guaranteed $185 million before this year) and they did stop losing. Lost in the haze of megabucks was the $34 million signing of Nathan Eovaldi, always underrated but a force in October: he worked six scoreless innings of Game 5 to earn the victory, the first pitcher to start and win five games postseason in history.
Eovaldi knew the foundation was there, with $500 million promised for a stellar central team.
“Ownership is committed to having those guys here long term,” Eovaldi said Thursday of Seager and Semien. “When you have two high-caliber guys like those two, leaders, you build championship organizations around them.”
Catcher Jonah Heim added: “They are the backbone that keeps us going. When they go, we go and we knew that all year. You see what Corey did in the playoffs, he was the MVP all year.
“And Semien uploaded it the last few days and it was special to see.”
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Seager will find out later this month whether he will add the first MVP award to his postseason team, after a season of 33 home runs, 42 doubles and a 1.013 OPS despite two stints on the disabled list. Semien hit 29 home runs and drove in 100 from the leadoff spot, every day.
Semien’s preparation is legendary, his commitment to conserving energy and being available almost as valuable as his baseball skills. For the third time in the last four full seasons, he played in all 162 games, and in the other he played 161.
With the Rangers’ 90-win season relegating them to the wild card series, he added 17 more playoff games, a 179-game grind that sent him into the record books.
His five plate appearances in Game 5 gave him 835 in a single year, regular and postseason, breaking Lenny Dykstra’s record set in 1993.
Perhaps the wear was noticeable at times. Semien had two extra-base hits and no home runs in his 66 at-bats in the playoffs, hitting .197 in 15 games.
But it ended with a flourish.
Semien drove in five runs with a triple and a home run in Game 4 and had a single and a home run in Game 5.
“Baseball. We don’t play football or basketball. We’re playing baseball,” he says. “You get to go out and do something special every day.”
Nothing more special than Game 179 and seeing a dream come true with your partner in crime.
“There was a lot of trust,” Seager says. “A lot of trust from them in me and from me in them, and a lot of trust for Marcus to come, all these guys who came here and had the same vision.
“It’s great to see it through to the end.”
Says Semien: “Everyone in the room, we all play for this. We don’t play for any other accolade.
“We play for this.”