Marcus Semien’s loss of All-Star starting spot reflects Texas Rangers’ disappointing season

Marcus Semien’s loss of All-Star starting spot reflects Texas Rangers’ disappointing season

Marcus Semien’s loss of All-Star starting spot reflects Texas Rangers’ disappointing season

ARLINGTON — The Texas Rangers — as gracious hosts are wont to do — will graciously let visitors play with their toys (i.e., their grass) first during this month’s All-Star Game. Well, they’ve been there, right? There will be a couple of World Series posters hanging in each corner of the ballpark, anyway.

He is selfless.

Or, perhaps, rather a lack of self.

The Rangers — a year after sending six players to the All-Star Game in Seattle and nine months after they won their first championship ever — will not have a starter selected for the July 16 midsummer classic at Globe Life Field. Their last hope evaporated Wednesday before their 6-4 loss to the San Diego Padres when the Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve was chosen to start at second base in place of Rangers iron man Marcus Semien.

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All-Star starters are determined by a fan vote that officially concluded at noon Wednesday. Semien and Altuve were named finalists after Phase 1 and Altuve won Phase 2 with 57% of the vote. It was the closest race among any of the American League infield finalists, though statistics suggest it wasn’t that close.

Altuve, a nine-time All-Star, has hit .308/.357/.451 with 13 homers for the second-place Astros, who began play Wednesday with a four-game lead over Texas in the AL West. He leads all AL second basemen with 2.6 WAR and has played his best in a month in which the Astros have rebounded from a disastrous start to leapfrog Texas in the division.

Semien, a two-time All-Star and last year’s starter, has hit .231/.295/.377 this season and is in the midst of a brutal slump in which he has hit just .197 over his past 30 games. The 33-year-old went 0 for 5 in Wednesday’s loss and hasn’t hit well since colliding with right fielder Adolis Garcia in the outfield during a May 18 game at Globe Life Field, though Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said in June that the fight has not been the cause of the slump. Semien had a .270/.319/.465 batting line before the collision, and he entered play Wednesday with a .185/.270/.267 batting line since.

“He’s not in the right moment, there’s no way around it,” Bochy said. “He’s done it before and he’s overcome it. He’s one of our guys, you have to support him, that’s what you have to do… we need him right now, we’re going to support him.”

He has played in all but one of the Rangers’ 86 games this season; he sat out just once on May 29, citing lingering soreness after a collision with the Rangers’ right fielder. He leads the American League in defensive runs saved and run value in the field, but his offensive decline from last year to now (an .826 OPS to a .674 OPS) has been stark and reflects Texas’ collective struggles.

The then-first-place Rangers sent a total of four elected starters and a club-record six All-Stars to Seattle last season: Semien, shortstop Corey Seager, third baseman Josh Jung, catcher Jonah Heim, right fielder Adolis Garcia and right-hander Nathan Eovaldi. It was a fully deserved triumph for an offense that led the American League in most statistical categories last season.

So is the overall lack of representation in this year’s star-studded exhibition game. Last season’s Rangers were 50-35 through July 3; these Rangers, at 39-47, are 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Seattle Mariners. Their collective work this season mirrors that of a league-average offense that has sorely missed the consistent firepower of last year’s honorees. Their final two months — in which they scored the seventh-fewest runs in the American League, posted the fourth-worst OPS (.670) and went 23-33 since May 1 — scream for starters.

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Heim has a 0.5 WAR, which, according to FanGraphs, ranks 10th among all AL catchers. Garcia, with a 0.4 WAR, ranks 11th among all AL right fielders. Nathaniel Lowe and Semien rank fourth at their respective positions (the latter driven by the best defensive metrics in the entire league), while Seager (who had a just .595 OPS in April) ranks sixth in his position group with a 1.8 WAR. Jung has played in just four games this year due to a broken wrist.

“All hitters, just like pitchers, have their moments when they’re a little out of shape,” Bochy said of Semien, though the statement has applied to several Rangers hitters at various points this year.

Now, there is reason to believe most have already turned a corner or are close to doing so. Heim doubled in each of the first two games of the series against the Padres, scored twice and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly Wednesday. Garcia hit just .198 in June but has recorded an extra-base hit in four straight games. Lowe homered twice in Tuesday’s 7-0 win against San Diego and Seager, who missed three straight games with a sore wrist, returned Wednesday with an RBI double.

They can help Texas compete for a playoff spot in the second half of the season. Their chances of walking the red carpet in two weeks may be slim. The Rangers will be assured of an All-Star representative, as each club must have one. Semien, though a finalist, is not guaranteed a spot. The 23 reserves and pitchers needed for both teams will be chosen by a combination of votes from players and the commissioner’s office and will be announced Sunday.

Infielder Josh Smith’s breakout season (which included a .290/.384/.450 slash line and above-par defense at third base and shortstop) is worthy of backup consideration. The same can be said for closer Kirby Yates, whose 0.92 ERA in 29 1/3 innings pitched ranks second among American League relief pitchers.

The Rangers will be represented as hosts of this summer’s All-Star Game, there just won’t be six of them there.

It’s not that it’s a surprise.

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