How Semien's quiet leadership helped lift Rangers to World Series

October 27th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- , for all intents and purposes, is the captain of the Texas Rangers. There’s not an official patch or designation, but he’s the guy.

He’s not their most talented hitter -- that’s Corey Seager -- and he’s not the emotional backbone of the club -- that’s Adolis García. But he’s the guy that others follow day in and day out. He is the guy who posts up every day, playing all 162 games plus all 12 games in the postseason and whatever else the World Series brings, and who drives the work ethic of the clubhouse.

“He's a pillar of this organization,” Seager said of Semien on Thursday at Globe Life Field. “It's how we want to go about our business. He goes about it every day, works hard. He doesn't need to be the vocal leader. It's just by watching, you can learn from him and know everything you need to know about him.”

Semien is well known for his remarkably consistent routine. Not only does he try to play all 162 games every year -- a feat he’s accomplished three times now -- but he comes to the ballpark and does the exact same thing every day, from hitting in the cage to taking groundballs to hitting on the field.

It’s something that rubbed off on the rest of the team. Utility man Josh H. Smith, who worked out with Semien in the offseason, pointed to him as somebody who has inspired him to work harder every day to get to where he wants to be.

“He’s everything [to this organization] honestly,” Smith said. “It's day in and day out, the same guy shows up and works his butt off. Literally since last season to now, he does the same thing every day. I always mess with him saying if he ever gets hurt, I'm gonna hop in there, but he never gets hurt. He's a stud.”

Outfielder Robbie Grossman, who was teammates with Semien from 2019-20 in Oakland, said the second baseman always has been that type of guy. He works hard, he’s a competitor, and he’s somebody that wants to lead an organization to the World Series.

Semien is one step, and four games, away from leading the Rangers into a championship.

“It's someone that you idolize, you look up to,” Grossman said. “He does so many things well and he cares so much. He's a big reason why I came here. He's a big reason why the team is where it's at this year. … He brings accountability. He is such a hard worker and his work ethic is one of the best I've ever been around. When you show up for the field, it's just gonna rub off on everyone else. The bar is set so high.”

On the field, Semien is the same, especially as he continues to play every day at the top of the lineup.

“[He brings] stability and consistency,” said offensive coordinator Donnie Ecker. “Every day you know he's gonna be there. There's just an element of grit. I think what Semien stands for is consistent work ethic. It's not showy. It's very much like this low heartbeat. It's quiet.

“But you just know that every moment he's gonna get out. There's nothing about him that's going to be overmatched. He has no fear of anybody. For somebody that's responsible for offense, I'm way better at my job because Marcus Semien is taking at-bats.”

The leadoff man wasn’t exactly hitting on all cylinders in the American League Championship Series against the Astros. Their ptichers perfectly game planned him, and it worked.

Semien slashed .276/.348/.478 in the regular season, but he has hit .192 with a .507 OPS in the postseason. He went 3-for-11 with three walks in the final two games against the Astros, and he seemed to be breaking out of the slump, adjusting to how pitchers were attacking him.

Every day is a new challenge, Semien said. He was slow to make those adjustments, but when he did, he looked like the leadoff hitter Texas had all season long.

“I think he just got some pitches that are a little bit more optimal for him,” Ecker said. “He knows. He's not surprised by how they're going to pitch him. He doesn't need me. He knows exactly how he's going to be pitched. He's been doing this a long time. Houston did a really good job of staying off the plate away to him and it's a tough battle sometimes.”

Semien alone won’t make or break the Rangers’ chances at a World Series championship. But there’s no doubt Texas is a better ballclub when he’s feeling right, and driving the ball to all fields.

When the bottom of the first inning of the World Series rolls around on Friday night, there’s nobody the Rangers would rather lead off than him.

“He's just a good ballplayer,” Grossman said. “He cares so much. I'm so happy for him, because I know how much work he's put into this. He's easy to root for and he's a fun guy to watch play baseball.”