From Miggy to Marcus: Athletics' Success Begins with a Star Shortstop in the Lineup Every Day

John Hickey

There’s no baseball law that says if you have a reliable shortstop who is both an offensive threat and a defensive plus, you’re a playoff team.

But as the Oakland A’s have found in the last two decades, it helps.

When the A’s went to the playoffs in 2000 for the first time in eight years, shortstop Miguel Tejada played 160 of 162 games. He played in all 162 in 2001, 2002 and 2003, and the A’s went to the playoffs every time. Tejada was the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2002.

When the A’s returned to the playoffs in 2018 after a four-year hiatus, shortstop Marcus Semien played in 159 games. The A’s were back in 2019, and Semien played in all 162, finishing third in the MVP voting.

The link here is Ron Washington. He was the A’s third base and infield coach during Tejada’s time in Oakland (1997-2003), and he rejoined the A’s to work specifically with Semien in 2015 when Semien was en route to setting an Oakland errors record.

The thing is, Semien was just following in Tejada’s steps. He had defensive issues when he came up, too.

Art Howe, then the manager of the A’s, thought he had a cure.

“I threw Wash at him,” Howe, now retired, living in Houston and recovering from a bout with coronavirus, says. I told Wash to do whatever he felt he needed to do. And the thing was, Tejada was more than willing.”

Washington, now coaching with the Atlanta Braves, laughs when thinking about that.

“Artie told me he was going to sic me on Miguel,” Washington said. “When it happened with Marcus, it was a big deal. It wasn’t a huge deal in 1997, 98, but it was the same thing. Lots of early work. Me and him, we just got down to it.

“I knew he had ability. Miggy knew he had ability. Artie knew it. We just needed to work on the little nuances of the game. He was some kind of talent, but he’d only showed a little of it on defense. He could get to anything, and he could hit the ball. We needed him in the lineup every day, and we needed him playing defense.”

By 1999, his third full season, Tejada was a fixture, playing in 159 games. It just to 160 in 2000, then six straight seasons of 162 games, three with the A’s and three more with the Orioles. He would wind up playing in 1,152 consecutive games from 2000-2007.

From June 2, 2000, until leaving as a free agent after the 2003 season, Tejada would play in 594 consecutive games, an A’s record.

Semien, if he stays with the A’s – he’s a free agent after this season – would seem to have a chance to break that. He comes into 2020 have played in 243 games, all of them starts. Before that, shortly after joining the A’s, he played in 126 consecutive games before taking a break to be at the birth of his daughter, Tarah.

At the time, it was the longest streak for the A’s since Tejada left, moving him just past another everyday guy, third baseman Eric Chavez.

For his part, Semien, who grew up in the East Bay and used to marvel at the way Tejada was in the lineup day after day after day, says he simply expects to be on the field every day because he prepares to be on the field every day.

“I want to be out there every day; I prepare to play every day,” Semien said. “I just prepare in the weight room doing my stretching, doing what I need to do to make sure I’m healthy.”

Washington says Semien, who went from an error king to a Gold Glove candidate with Washington’s help, has it in him to play every day for seasons on end, the way Tejada did.

“The thing that separates them out as special is that they have character,” Washington said. “They are very special human beings and they love the game. Marcus is such a gentleman and a leader. He had a lot to learn, but he worked hard and turned himself into a great shortstop.

“Miggy, he had a rough life coming out of the Dominican the way he did, but he was a great talent. Marcus had talent, but maybe more than that, he had people in the A’s organization who believed in him. Billy Beane, David Forst, Bob Melvin, they believed in him. If they hadn’t, I would never have had a chance to work with him.

“They believed, but they weren’t seeing him be the player he could be. But he became that player because he worked, worked every day. Marcus Semien made himself the player he is today.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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