Athletics

How Marcus Semien's behind-the-scenes work turned him into A's ironman

How Marcus Semien's behind-the-scenes work turned him into A's ironman

The A's batting cage at Oakland Coliseum doubled as the Raiders press conference room when the football team played there. There was typically no rush to revert the space after baseball season ends, with a podium and chairs remaining well after the Silver and Black played a game.

That wasn’t the case following the Raiders' final home game in 2019 and, well, ever. The netting was down, the turf reset and the pitching machine back in place within hours of that final Raiders whistle.

Turns out there’s a good reason for that. One never knows when Marcus Semien might drop by.

The A's shortstop lives in nearby Alameda full time and uses the stadium as a training center, even in the dead of winter.

“The Coliseum has everything I need,” Semien said. “I use the weight room there and the cage and the field to run.”

Sometimes it’s just him, working quietly on his craft with games that matter far, far away. All this training away from view, whether it’s during quiet periods on the baseball calendar or behind closed doors during the season is aimed toward being an ironman.

“162 is always in the back of my mind,” Semien said. “If I’m healthy and available, I want to play every game. It’s as simple as that. I think a lot of us have that attitude, but you have to be smart and understand there’s a bigger and better goal out there of winning the World Series. Whatever it takes to play your best, do it. Some guys need a day off to recalibrate or adjust or take a breath. I think I’m better if I play every single day.”

This isn’t an ego thing. This isn’t a Cal Ripken chase. It’s the way Semien believes he can best help the A's. It used to be a point of mild contention with manager Bob Melvin, who would face resistance when trying to give his stellar shortstop a breather. That hasn’t happened much recently. The Bay Area native's nearly impossible keep off the lineup card.

Semien played 162 games in 2019 and 159 the year before that, accumulating 1,450 plate appearances over his past two seasons. A fractured wrist in 2017 is the only reason why he has played fewer than 155 games since joining the A’s in 2015.

“I’d try to give him a day and he wouldn’t want it,” Melvin said. “In years past it had something to do with performance, and that really spurred him to play better the day and stay consistent and eliminate reasons to take him out.”

Keeping Semien in the leadoff slot proved essential last year especially, when he set career highs in most every important offensive category, including batting average (.285), OBP (.369), slugging (.522), home runs (33) and RBI (92). His 8.1 WAR was better than everyone save Cody Bellinger, Alex Bregman and Mike Trout.

Semien believes those numbers come from quiet days at the Coliseum and a strict pregame itinerary that properly locks him in.

“I had a really good routine last year so when I got to the game I felt ready and able to focus on competing and not thinking because I had done the groundwork in days leading up to it,” Semien said. “You have to use your time wisely before the game. Getting there at 1 o’clock before a 7 o’clock game with a plan is essential. You check off everything you need to do to get to the point where you can just compete when the first pitch is thrown. I found that last year.

“That’s my foundation. The goal this year is to make it even better.”

Consistently quality performance isn’t all about routines. It’s also about the ability to work through trouble on the job, a somewhat rare trait Semien has in spades. Melvin called him a “great self-evaluator,” another reason why he’s more comfortable leaving Semien in when he might pull others.

Semien has the experience and knowledge base to know what works and great feel for when something’s off. He can make quick corrections, with the mental fortitude to not go chasing when times get tough.

“His pitch selection has become excellent,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “When you add that to a quality approach and mechanics, good things happen.

“…When you’re in there every day, especially that many days, you don’t get caught up in the ups and downs. You know you’re going to be out there the next day. He’s the same every day. He puts in the same work. He’s consistent with his pregame routine and a consistent presence in the lineup. Good things happen when you work hard for the results.”

[RELATED: How Olson developed refined swing that A's]

Semien always believed he could reach these heights, even when he struggled defensively and with offensive consistency. He doesn’t spend time looking backward these days, knowing full well that he’s a completely different player. His swing is different. So is his approach and his defensive acumen. Semien has found an excellent groove now with a routine and diet and use of data available to him with the Athletics.

Everything he does is designed to help him produce and play well every single day.

“Marcus keeps himself in great shape,” Melvin said. “He’s very disciplined in that. He eats right and works out hard. He doesn’t everything required to play a game, so when I try to take him out of the lineup, it’s tough to make a case for why he needs a day off. He never looks run down. He’s always ready because he works hard to be ready. That’s a real badge of honor for him.”

MLB rumors: Astros coach insulted Ramon Laureano's mom to spark brawl

MLB rumors: Astros coach insulted Ramon Laureano's mom to spark brawl

Don't you dare talk about someone's mom.

Apparently, that was the spark that set off the fiery benches-clearing brawl between the A's and Houston Astros on Sunday at the Coliseum.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, A's center fielder Ramon Laureano was hit by a pitch from Astros reliever Humberto Castellanos. It was the third time in the series, and second time in the game, that Laureano had been plunked, so he wasn't thrilled.

When Laureano reached first base, he could be seen screaming in the direction of the Astros dugout along the first base line. His ire was directed mainly at Houston hitting coach Alex Cintron.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Something was said that caused Laureano to charge the Astros dugout and set off a brawl that surely will have severe consequences.

According to former Astros beat writer Jose de Jesus Ortiz, we now have an idea of what set Laureano off.

Sounds like this is a little more serious than a "Yo Mama" joke.

A's manager Bob Melvin was convinced someone said something offensive, and claimed Laureano wouldn't have charged the Astros dugout if nothing bad was said.

Astros manager Dusty Baker was asked after the game if Cintron made a remark to Laureano about his mother, and Baker said he wasn't sure. But he also said he understands why Latino players get upset when someone references their mother.

[RELATED: Why Laureano was tackled by Astros catcher Garneau]

With no fans in attendance at the Coliseum and TV microphones picking up just about every word uttered on the field, MLB likely will be able to find out exactly what was said between Cintron and Laureano.

Regardless of what was said, expect the league to hand down a hefty suspension for Laureano. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly was suspended eight games for throwing at Astros stars Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa, which led to benches clearing between the two teams.

Dustin Garneau explains tackling Ramón Laureano during A's-Astros brawl

Dustin Garneau explains tackling Ramón Laureano during A's-Astros brawl

The A’s won 7-2 against the Houston Astros on Sunday to sweep the three-game series, but not without some drama.

The teams cleared the benches after Ramón Laureano charged at Astros hitting coach Alex Cintrón for saying something to him. Laureano had just been hit by a pitch for the second time of the day and was walking toward first base.

This was the result:

Former A’s catcher Dustin Garneau could be seen on the NBC Sports California broadcast appearing to grab Laureano and tackle him down to the ground, jumping in between the A's outfielder and several Astros players and coaches including Cintron.

Garneau later told reporters it was a preventative move.

“I was trying to stop the situation before punches were thrown and things got out of hand. That's really my whole goal for that incident,” Garneau said after Sunday’s game.

Garneau, who was standing to the side of Cintrón while the verbal exchange began, said he wasn’t sure what was said between the two.

“My whole point was, he charged our dugout and I was trying to tackle him so nothing would happen and then I held him down there for whenever it was over for the same reason,” Garneau added.

[RELATED: Projection has A's nearly playoff locks]

A’s manager Bob Melvin was asked after the game what was said by Cintrón and was directed toward Laureano.

“I can't tell you that,” he said. 

Both Laureano and A’s catcher Austin Allen were ejected immediately following the scuffle. Nobody from the Astros' dugout was. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]