Athletics

Marcus Semien embraces leadership role to keep A's safe amid coronavirus

Marcus Semien embraces leadership role to keep A's safe amid coronavirus

Marcus Semien reached out to general manager David Forst before the A’s started their three-week training camp at Oakland Coliseum.

The shortstop told his GM that he’s going to take a leadership role in making sure A's players are staying as safe as possible during baseball’s return to work.

Semien is a Bay Area native and a full-time resident here. He sees how seriously people are taking the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and wants to make sure the A’s act the same way. It’s not just about keeping 42 finely tuned athletes healthy. It’s about more vulnerable parts of the A’s staff still going about their business.

Forst came away thoroughly impressed. Semien talked about setting a good example, and at times being a traffic cop.

“There are a lot of ways you can do it., especially amongst the group,” Semien said in a Tuesday video conference. “We talked today about it, reminding people that if you see someone not following the protocols, I have no problem reminding someone to put a mask on. It’s not me trying to be a stickler. Everybody understands why it’s important. With the testing system that we have, it’s known that we don’t get results right away. That means you have to do everything you can to be safe at all times.”

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Major League Baseball’s testing system has already caused some hiccups. The A’s full squad couldn’t get on the field Sunday because they’re intake results got delayed over the Fourth of July holiday. They had to wait until Monday night to take the field while results were processed. There were a bunch of elite ball players waiting in the parking lot for the green light to start work

“There was a possibility that we could get sent home if we didn’t get the results in, but we told [A”s manager Bob Melvin] that we would wait to hear what they were,” Semien said. “For everybody who is negative, we were able to get in the building. It was a little later than we wanted to do it, but I’m glad we got the work in last night so we could have a good day today.”

The A’s played a simulated game Tuesday afternoon, and Semien had a groundout, a double off the wall and a single up the middle. It was clear he enjoyed just talking baseball as MLB tries to return to work while trying to keep infections to a minimum.

The game should be the same between the foul lines, though Semien gladly accepts the additional responsibility. He’ll try to match the career-year of 2019 on the field while increasing his leadership role at a time when he needs it most.

“It’s a tough one, and it’s why I’m going to be as safe as I can be. I’m not just going to be thinking about myself,” Semien said. “I’m thinking about teammates, coaches, my family. That’s something that we have to live with off the field anyway. We get to do what we love and go back to work. We’re all in good spirits because of that. The testing thing, I’m hearing it could get better. It’s still early in the process and I knew there would be some hiccups along the way. As long as we can minimize the positive tests, it’ll get better over time.”

[RELATED: Diekman says MLB coronavirus testing delays 'just can't happen']

Forst is thankful to have someone like that in the clubhouse to make sure everyone’s adhering as closely as possible to the safety protocols.

“Everybody is in this together,” Forst said. “That was something that Marcus relayed to me unsolicited and I really appreciated that, and I trust that he'll lead those conversations with teammates and that we'll have other guys step up and do the same thing."

MLB rumors: Ramon Laureano, Astros coach expected to be suspended

MLB rumors: Ramon Laureano, Astros coach expected to be suspended

Punishments will be handed down for the A's-Houston Astros brawl that took place Sunday in Oakland. And they're expected to be long.

It also is expected that A's outfielder Ramon Laureano won't be the only one serving a suspension. USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Monday that Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron also will be suspended as well. 

Laureano, after being hit by a pitch for the second time Sunday and third time in Oakland's series against Houston, charged after the Astros' dugout when Cintron provoked him and instigated what turned into a benches-clearing brawl

According to former Astros beat writer Jose de Jesus Ortiz, what sparked Laureano's anger was Cintron mentioning the A's outfielder's mother in a negative way. A's manager Bob Melvin also placed blame on Cintron for causing the fight. 

“I think the league will know who it is, and that person should get suspended,” Melvin told reporters after the game. “Hopefully that’s the case, and nowadays without fans in the stands, and mics everywhere, my guess is they know who he is.” 

Melvin also doesn't know why there weren't any Astros ejected. A's catcher Austin Allen, along with Laureano, was ejected from the game. But Cintron was not. Neither was former A's catcher Dustin Garneau, who tackled Laureano when the outfielder charged the dugout.

[RELATED: Why Astros analyst blames Laureano for Coliseum kerfuffle]

“I don’t know how we ended up getting a couple guys kicked out and it kind of came out of their dugout and I don’t understand it, it’s just how it worked out,” Melvin said.

Losing Laureano will be a big blow. The A's have won nine games in a row, and Laureano is hitting .278 with three homers this season. It doesn't fix everything, not at all, but A's fans will be happy to see Cintron also punished.

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Astros broadcaster says Ramón Laureano should've kept his 'mouth shut'

Astros broadcaster says Ramón Laureano should've kept his 'mouth shut'

Once the dust settled on Sunday's benches-clearing brawl between the A's and Houston Astros, the blame game began with a typically territorial tinge.

A's manager Bob Melvin said Ramón Laureano wouldn't have charged the Astros dugout and started a Coliseum kerfuffle had 'Stros hitting coach Alex Cintrón not said something insulting. Cintrón reportedly said something about Laureano's mother, thus beginning the brouhaha.

AT&T Sportsnet Southwest analyst Mike Stanton didn't see it that way. The 19-year MLB veteran and native Houstonian criticized Laureano, arguing the outfielder should've shut up and run to first base after Astros pitcher Humberto Castellanos hit Laureano with a pitch. 

"You're a first-place team, and you have a four-game lead," Stanton said Sunday on AT&T Sportsnet Southwest's post-game show. "You're about to sweep your biggest rivals. The last thing you want to do is poke the bear. Now, they ended up finishing off the sweep but like I said, there's just no room for this. This was something that was completely uncalled for. It was a rookie pitcher that threw a breaking ball that hit you in the back. Go to first base, keep your mouth shut and finish off the sweep."

Stanton doesn't mention, as NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil did in the tweet above, that Castellanos hit Laureano twice. Brandon Bailey, who was sent the other way when the Astros traded Laureano to the A's in 2017, also hit Laureano once.  NBC Sports California analyst Dave Stewart jokingly thanked Houston on "A's Postgame Live" last week and, as Jimmy O'Brien noted in a video, Bailey liked Ben Ross' tweet quoting Stewart. It's not clear if that's the reason O'Brien hit Laureano, but another hit-by-pitch certainly didn't lower any tensions.

No matter the root causes of Sunday's scuffle, both the A's and Astros are likely to face discipline for the not-so-socially-distanced donnybrook. "[Fighting] and instigating fights are strictly prohibited" under MLB's coronavirus protocols, and violators who are disciplined won't have their punishments "reduced or prorated based on the length of the (60-game) season."

[RELATED: This projection nearly guarantees A's will make the playoffs]

The A's and Astros play again in a three-game series beginning on Aug. 29. Depending on the weight of the book MLB throws at each team, you shouldn't necessarily expect a Friday-night fracas.

Then again, considering the teams did just fight in the middle of a global pandemic, maybe a Houston hootenanny won't be off the table at the end of the month.

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