Sometimes being stubborn pays off. Other times, being stubborn can be detrimental. The Oakland A’s insistence on making Marcus Semien the everyday shortstop has been an enormous flop. I don’t blame them for trying, but to continue on would be foolhardy. The experiment has concluded, and it has failed. The jury is in, and the verdict is guilty. Feel free to throw in your own metaphor.
Some have suggested a position switch to second base. Are they crazy? That position requires all the same skills and is perhaps even more difficult because many times you turn your back to first base. That would be like switching a wide receiver who dropped too many passes to flanker. There is only one answer in my mind, and that is left field. Marcus Semien has left field written all over him.
When I spoke with Bob Melvin before a spring game in Las Vegas in March, he told me that one of Semien’s problems was that he was jerked around by the White Sox, who played him in several different positions, stunting his growth at shortstop. Therefore the A’s were committed to run him out there every day and were expecting the results to get better. Well, Semien in now on pace for over 50 errors this season. Bringing in Ron Washington seemed to help a little bit at first, but you can’t make lemonade out of a lime. If you have played shortstop your whole life (like Semien has for his Little League teams, St. Mary’s High, Cal, Kannapolis, Winston-Salem, Birmingham, Charlotte, Glendale, White Sox and A’s), and haven’t figured it out by now, you’re not going to magically figure it out from a training manual or fielding guru.
But Semien has a lot to offer. He’s a good young man with a great attitude, perfect teammate, and most importantly, can hit a little bit. He is also a much better athlete than Mark Canha, a guy who stumbles around in left field now and then. Why not take advantage of Semien’s athletic ability and make him a left fielder? The A’s are known for changing their minds: former first round pick Grant Green played shortstop, second base and center field in three consecutive Arizona Fall Leagues. Experts will tell you that it would take a long time to get Semien proficient in left field, mostly through winter ball and AFL time. I’m not trying to say playing any baseball position is easy, but I think Semien has his best chance to stick in the big leagues by making the switch to left field. He would be a much greater asset to the team as a nice-hitting outfielder than by being the present Sieve-ien that he is at short.
I think that because Semien is directly linked to the Addison Russell trade (via the return on Jeff Samardzija), he has received more than his fair share off opportunities in the 6-hole. I also believe stubbornness by Beane (‘I’ll prove you all wrong!’) is another reason why A’s pitchers have to suffer with the unearned runs Semien leaks almost nightly. I heard someone say that his errors haven’t really hurt the team that much, pointing out the results of every miscue. That’s like saying bombs which miss their target really aren’t so bad. Maybe the most telling instance of where Semien’s future lay is in the fact that the A’s drafted college shortstops with their first two picks last month, Richie Martin of Florida and Mikey White of Alabama.
Move Semien to left field now. Keeping him at shortstop is hurting the fans, the team, and the player, too.