MINNEAPOLIS -- What Marcus Semien has done in 2021 is beginning to go beyond personal bests. Toronto's star second baseman is now chasing baseball history.
With his 43rd home run in Saturday’s 6-1 win over the Twins, Semien tied Davey Johnson (1973, Braves) for the most homers by a second baseman in a single season in AL/NL history. His timing couldn't be any better, given the Blue Jays are two games back of the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL Wild Card race.
“It’s great. I still see myself as a shortstop since I’ve been playing the position for so long, but I moved over there to second and I’m hitting more home runs, so it’s all good," Semien said. "I’ve never had my name in any record books or anything like that, so it’s really cool.”
When Semien joined the Blue Jays on a one-year, $18 million deal, he made the move from shortstop to second, allowing Bo Bichette to stay put at short. The two immediately formed chemistry, with Semien’s defense being very strong despite the move -- but his bat is the star of the show.
Semien now has 99 RBIs, so he’s right in line to hit another major benchmark over the final seven games of the season. Shohei Ohtani and teammate Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are expected to finish 1-2 in AL MVP voting, but Semien should earn a spot in the top five of voting with the campaign he’s put together.
“That’s pretty cool. To break a record of any kind, for a second baseman in his first year playing second base, he’s a candidate for MVP,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “I think he should be mentioned when it comes to the MVP, too. What a great season he’s had.”
Talk to any Blue Jays coach or player, and the first thing they’ll mention is Semien’s work ethic. He shows up early, stays late and does the same thing every day. It’s a model for young Blue Jays players looking to develop routines of their own, and Semien’s rise from an average player to a legitimate star is a blueprint for players who don’t come up as a top prospect.
His pitchers have taken notice, too, including Robbie Ray, who gave the Blue Jays six innings of one-run ball in Saturday’s win, making one of his final cases for the AL Cy Young Award.
“Forty-three homers for a second baseman is almost unheard of in today’s game, and it’s just a credit to the work that he puts in every single day,” Ray said. “The guy doesn’t take any time off and it’s really impressive to watch. He’s earned it. He’s earned the credit. He’s earned every bit of the acknowledgement that he’s getting.”
Now fourth in the home run race, Semien has seven games remaining to take this record for his own. There are bigger team goals at hand, too, as the Blue Jays look to make one last surge towards the postseason.