clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Marcus Semien: Speak Softly And Carry A Big Stick...And Glove?

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Someone famous once said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." I think it might have been Ghandi when he was in one of his moods. I'm not certain, though. Darn it -- if only they had some trick where you could type words into a computer and it would help you figure out where stuff came from. Oh well.

What most stood out to me in my March 8th interview with Marcus Semien is that he is really a soft-spoken young man. I mean that purely in a positive way, in that he was gracious, accommodating, and seemingly unaware of the cavernous gap between our relative importance. He reminded me of Tyson Ross, and to a degree also Addison Russell, both of whose interviews left me thinking, more than anything, "What a good guy." You can't help but root for them to be successful wherever they are.

As for the big stick, the prevailing opinion amongst scouts is that Semien will hit big league pitching and will provide better than average pop for a middle infielder. The big question has been whether or not Semien will stick and/or thrive defensively at shortstop. There is a big difference (though not quite as ginormous as the gap between Semien's importance and my own) between a versatile utility infielder and a solid every day shortstop. Both are useful, but in trading for Semien the A's are banking on an every day shortstop.

Are the A's right?

I began my interview by asking Semien for his own scouting report on what he does really well at shortstop and what he most needs to work on. To my surprise, before answering Semien paused and then said "Wow," as if he had never been asked the question before and/or had not pondered it before.

"I'm pretty athletic," he offered. "My range might be above average, I guess you could say. Good arm, good instincts. For me, it's just about honing all those skills together, putting (them) together to make the routine play every time." I suppose a weakness might have been implied -- that perhaps Semien didn't feel he made the routine play as consistently as he would like -- but in an effort to get both sides I asked, "What is it you would like to get either better at, or show you can do, in order to take that next step in scouts' minds, in the team's mind, in your mind?"

There was another pregnant pause, just long enough for me to have a sudden anxiety attack as I imagined a thought bubble that said, "Who is this $&%#er? I don't even know this yokel's name and he's trying to get me to trash my own skills? I hate this man."

"I'm not trying to make you talk negative," I assured him lied. "Naw, naw," Semien reassured me was nice enough to say. "Whenever I hear that question I think of everything I need to work on. Because when you work at shortstop you get every angle -- you work on your backhand, you work on to your right, to your left, so I'm trying to get better at everything. I don't focus in on one particular thing because there's so much to work on."

From my own scouting report, in the little I saw what looked like it could use the most sharpening was Semien's footwork. I didn't see enough to say whether the problems stemmed from a slow first step (harder to fix) or from imperfect mechanics (easier to fix). The arm looked strong if not always accurate.

Asked about his comfort level at various positions and skill sets, Semien is adamant that "It starts with shortstop. That's my foundation, because in high school I played that, in college I played that. And if you can play shortstop, it's easier to move over to 3B, 2B. So it's good that I started there at shortstop, and I feel like shortstop is the most natural position because you're flowing, you get a lot of balls hit to you from right or lefties because you're in the middle of the diamond."

If the question still persists as to how effectively Semien will handle shortstop, the question has been answered as to whether he will get the chance to prove what he can or cannot do. Stuck behind Alexei Ramirez in Chicago, Semien arrives in Oakland as the de facto every day shortstop, period. The move is not only an important opportunity, but it was not altogether a surprise.

"As an infielder in the White Sox organization we knew anything was possible," Semien says. "I didn't know which angle the White Sox were going to take because it was so early in the off-season, but once (the White Sox) made this trade we saw which direction they were trying to go, trying to get some more bonafide veteran guys." Writing, meet wall. "(The White Sox) had some infielders to work with to give to other teams, so I knew it could be a possibility," he recalls. "When I saw it was Oakland, where I'm from, I thought 'this is pretty cool.'"

Though he was born in San Francisco and initially rooted for some other team, Semien was no stranger to the Coliseum. "I went to a lot of A's games," he explains, "because I grew up in El Cerrito and I would hop BART over there. I enjoyed watching the American League teams...You go to A's games you get to see the Yankees, Red Sox. I liked Derek Jeter so I would try and see those games. So yeah, it's been good so far here -- we haven't gotten to Oakland yet but I'm still working on that goal."

In many ways Semien is like a kid in a candy store right now, being given a chance to start, at his preferred position, for the team he grew up watching. "It's been great," he admits, adding, "I like the way things go here. I like the way people work. Everybody's working together to make us a better team -- the manager, infield coach, hitting coach, all the way to the trainer. We all have one common goal here, to win games, make the playoffs, and go beyond that {oh, Marcus -- they're so cute when they're young!}, and from day one in spring training I'm seeing that's how everybody works."

Fast forward to the end of what A's fans hope is a long and successful career, maybe much of it in the green and gold. What does Semien hope fans will look back on and remember most about him? "I just never want to have any regrets," he emphasizes. "That I didn't work hard enough one day, that I slacked off in March, 2015, because you're trying to be the best player you can be and that takes hard work every day. So I want (fans) to remember me as a hard working, consistent shortstop who swung the bat well and helped the A's win."

One final note: Later that morning, the A's and White Sox took the field against one another. When the White Sox first entered the field, one by one they made a detour to the A's dugout to give a warm and enthusiastic greeting to Semien, leaving no doubt about his popularity with his former club. Time will tell about Semien's footwork and the accuracy of his arm, but pretty much everything else has passed inspection with flying colors.