Athletics

Why A's signing Marcus Semien to long-term contract would energize fans

Why A's signing Marcus Semien to long-term contract would energize fans

Though reaching the postseason and succeeding might seem of the highest priority for the A’s, and let’s assume it is in the immediate, two issues with considerably further reach cannot go unaddressed.

One of them is a ballpark that could sustain the A’s for decades to come. Yeah, it’s needed.

The other is shortstop Marcus Semien. Yeah, he’s needed.

Both matters are related to putting more fans in the seats.

Getting Semien’s signature on a long-term contract, preferably this winter, is of greater urgency than another ballpark study. Why? Because as long as the A’s continue their practice of cycling out popular talent, they may never generate any momentum to help sell such a project.

We understand that money is of utmost importance for a ballpark; without it, there is nothing new in Oakland or anyplace else. But momentum means broad engagement. Ask the Warriors.

That Semien, 29, has spent this season punishing opponents makes him the latest test case for the slogan, “rooted” in Oakland. Insofar as he faces only one more year of arbitration before he can become a free agent after the 2020 season, Semien’s future is being monitored by fans coming to the Coliseum and, moreover, those wondering if it is safe to reconnect.

Trade him this offseason -- his market value is astronomical -- or any time after and the A’s, a quality club light on attendance, can expect yet another dip in season-ticket renewals.

A long-term deal, however, sends a signal that the A’s are investing in themselves at the top, which is what so many local fans are waiting to see, rather than facing another December with the man running the show, Billy Beane, spinning golden tripe in an attempt to explain moving today’s asset for tomorrow’s potential.

“That’s a first-world problem when your shortstop is pricing himself out of your market,” Beane told NBC Sports Bay Area last week.

Oh, yes, Semien, making $5.9 million on a one-year contract, will cost a bundle. Wielding an impact bat at a premium position, he could command a contract around $15 million per year. Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, for example, in Year 4 of a six-year pact worth $75 million, will make $15 million in each of the next two seasons, according to Spotrac.

Semien is closing out a season plucked from a rookie’s fantasy and a veteran’s wish as he blows out the candles on the cake. He’s hitting for power, with 32 home runs. He’s reaching base 37 percent of the time. He’s crossing the plate, with 120 runs. Semien is the A’s MVP. By most significant offensive metrics trails, he's only behind a guy named Mike Trout.

“I don’t know that anybody’s been more important to a team than Marcus has,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said the other day.

As if his numbers are not enough, Semien has played in all 156 games and is a solid clubhouse presence.

One more thing, and it should be of influence to the A’s: Semien is local, born in San Francisco, growing up in El Cerrito, graduating high school in Berkeley (Saint Mary’s) and spending three years at Cal.

For those who tend to examine boxes, they are checked. All of them.

Semien came to the A’s from the White Sox nearly five years ago, along with pitcher Chris Bassitt and catcher Josh Phegley, for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Michael Ynoa. The deal was about potential, and for a while the A’s were unsure of Semien’s.

“He was the headliner in the deal,” Beane said. “We were going to make it work at short because we thought he had a chance to be a pretty special player.”

Noting Semien’s poor fielding, Beane lured longtime A’s coach Ron Washington back to the team and gave him a project. Four years later, Semien is a top-five all-around shortstop and gives no reason to question his work ethic.

“The only thing we’ll take credit for is having absolute belief in him and not wavering from that,” Beane said. “He did it all himself. At no point did we panic and give in to the narrative that, ‘Hey, this guy can’t play short.’ And, look, he’s a Gold Glove candidate, one of the best players in the league.”

[Exclusive: Ball-of-emotion Beane vows to enjoy A’s playoffs]

Heavy decisions on Oakland’s fabulous corner infielders, Matt Olson (first base) and Matt Chapman (third), are years away because they can’t see free agency until 2024. DH Khris Davis signed a two-year extension in April and will make $33.5 million over the next two seasons.

Sure, the A’s could throw a one-year contract worth, say, $13 million at Semien and maybe he’ll sign another one-year deal to return in 2020. Maybe.

But if the franchise wants a few cheers from the clubhouse while scoring points among its fans, a long-term contract is the way to go.

The smartest way. Maybe the only way.

A's spoil historic nine-game winning streak with wild loss vs. Angels

A's spoil historic nine-game winning streak with wild loss vs. Angels

The A’s magical month of August finally fell back to earth on Monday night.

Riding a nine-game win streak entering the first game of their series against the Los Angeles Angels, the A’s blew a four-run lead and lost 10-9.

A win for the A’s would have given Oakland a 10-game win streak, which when prorated over a standard 162-game season, would have been the equivalent of a 27-game win streak. The MLB record was set by the 1916 New York Giants at 26, while the 2017 Cleveland Indians own the AL’s best-ever win streak at 22 games.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

The Angels jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but Oakland roared back on the strength of two home runs by Matt Chapman, as the A’s led 9-4 after the top of the fourth inning. Chapman also cleared the bases in that inning with a triple, producing six RBI overall in the losing effort.

But three-time AL MVP Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani brought some power of their own, as a Trout homer in the fourth and an Ohtani bomb in the sixth brought the Angels even at nine.

The A’s bats went quiet down the stretch of the game after a strong start, and Trout gave the Angels the lead with a towering solo home run off Yusmeiro Petit in the bottom of the eighth.

[RELATED: Melvin pins blame for A's-Astros brawl on Houston coach]

Southpaw Sean Manaea struggled mightily against the potent Angels lineup, surrendering four runs on seven hits in just two and two-thirds of an inning before manager Bob Melvin went to the bullpen.

"I didn't think his stuff was bad, I think he's just got to fight through this right now," Melvin told reporters after the loss.

After an emotional weekend series against the rival Houston Astros, including a benches-clearing brawl Sunday that likely will be resulting in some discipline for outfielder Ramón Laureano, the A's couldn't sustain a strong start and see their winning streak end at nine games.

Oakland still leads the AL West by 4.5 games over the Astros, who've won the division in each of the past two seasons.

Mike Fiers will be on the bump Tuesday against Angels pitcher Dylan Bundy as Oakland looks to get back in the win column. 

Watch A's red-hot slugger Matt Chapman crush two home runs vs. Angels

Watch A's red-hot slugger Matt Chapman crush two home runs vs. Angels

Matt Chapman is on a tear.

After the Los Angeles Angels took an early 3-0 lead in the first inning of Monday's game against the A's, the third baseman turned on a pitch from starter Julio Teheran to put the A's on the board with a solo home run to lead off the second inning.

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

It was Chapman's third consecutive game with a home run. But the star wasn't done there, as he absolutely crushed a pitch from Teheran in his next at-bat that flew well over center fielder Mike Trout's head.

His second blast gave the A's a 5-3 lead in the third inning.

Chapman still wasn't done. In the top of the fourth inning, he came up with the bases loaded and drove in all three runners with a triple to right-center to give the A's an 8-4 lead.

Chapman so far Monday night is 3-for-3 with two homers, a triple and six RBI.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]