You may remember Jean Segura from a play that was actually pretty funny, once you pulled your fist out of the wall.
Phillies fans might see the Phillies’ newest acquisition from Seattle and say, “Hey, isn’t that the guy who orchestrated a sinister ploy to pick Kyle Kendrick off second base despite dropping the ball?” And yes, he is that person. This happened back in June 2013, when the core of the Phillies division-running teams was crumbling, but not completely dissolved.
Down 4-3 to Segura’s Brewers, Jimmy Rollins had singled in the wake of a Freddy Galvis solo shot that had brought the Phillies within a run. Rollins had fouled a pair of pitches off the same part of his right foot the previous night, however, and Charlie Manuel made the call to insert Kendrick into the rally in Rollins’ place as the potential tying run. Two weeks prior, down one run in the ninth, something similar had occurred when Manuel put Cliff Lee into a game to pinch run for Delmon Young after a lead-off walk off Aroldis Chapman. Lee was not quite immediately picked off trying to steal second.
That image was still fresh in everyone’s minds, including Francisco Rodriguez, who was on the mound for the Brewers. He spun, fired, and probably had Kendrick dead to rights off the bag, but the throw was wobbly and Segura, covering the bag, dropped it. Or… did he?
Yes, he did. Every set of eye balls in the state saw the ball leave his hand and trickle away, eliciting a relieved, hoagie-scented sigh from the mouths of Phillies fans desperate for a win. Every set of eye balls except one.
And those eye balls were in the sockets of second base umpire Mike Estabrook, who, from his angle, saw only Segura go for the ball, and a suspicious moment later, hold it up victoriously. Segura’s performance sold Estabrook on what had gone down, and Estabrook called Kendrick, who wasn’t even aware of the drop until he jogged into the clubhouse and watched the replay, out. The Phillies lost.
Kendrick voiced sentiments about the loss that, if made louder and pumped full of more curses, echoed those of the fans watching.
“The fact that he didn’t even catch the ball is frustrating. It’s an even worse feeling to know now that I was safe. You never want to get picked off, but to know you were safe – it ended up losing the game for us.”
If we skip ahead five years from that moment, straight through the Delmon Young Era and past a couple of trades, retirements, and regime changes, we reach last night, when Segura became the latest Mariner to pack his bags as GM Jerry DiPoto dismantles his roster (According to Jon Heyman, no one wants out of Seattle more so than Segura). The kind of chewed-up, burned out, 73-win, Kyle Kendrick-pinch running team the Phillies were in 2013 during that particular L is exactly the kind of team they’re planning not to be with Segura starting at shortstop.
The 28-year-old Segura comes to the Phillies with seven years of major league experience behind him. Originally signed by the Angels as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2007, Segura punched upward through the Anaheim farm system and managed to step into three big league games for the Halos before spending his early twenties with Milwaukee. In his first season with the Brewers, he made an all-star out of himself, hitting .354 from April to May in 209 AB. He cooled off in the second half, but finished the season slashing .294/.329/.423 and hitting .317 off lefties. He even tried to innovate the sport by stealing first base from second, in a play described by announcers as “You absolutely cannot.”
Segura was dealt to the Diamondbacks prior to the 2016 season, following a couple of soft years after his all-star campaign in 2013.
In 2014, his nine-month-old son, Janniel, passed away in the Dominican Republic, leading Segura to consider quitting baseball altogether. Drawing from the strength of his family and his eventual teammate Robinson Cano, Segura stayed in the game. Cano, also from the Dominican Republic, had reached out to Segura as he struggled in the seasons following the tragedy to offer guidance and advice.
With Arizona in 2016, Segura led the league in hits (203) and at-bats (637) and garnered some MVP voting, finishing the season slashing .319/.368/.499 with 3.2 WAR in 153 games, 137 of them as a second baseman. He has played in at least 142 games every season since 2013, except for 2017, when he had to to play around ankle, hamstring, and finger injuries. It’s worth noting how many innings he’s logged in that span, given what he’s been through, and because a frightful trend of Segura’s career is how many times he’s been hit in the head:
- April 26, 2014: While warming up, Ryan Braun accidentally hits Segura in the head with his bat.
- May 3, 2015: A 95 MPH Pedro Strop heater clocks him in the batting helmet.
- May 24, 2016: Segura is one of two Diamondbacks players hit in the head by Pirates reliever Arquimedes Caminero in one inning.
- May 26, 2018: Twins shortstop Gregorio Petit kicks him in the head during a double play.
Nevertheless, in 2018, Segura was even better for the Mariners, earning a five-year, $70 million contract extension from Seattle in early June during a truly monstrous first half (He hit .382 in May with seven stolen bases).
“The Mariners have found a starting shortstop and a productive leadoff hitter in one player and they aren’t letting him go,” The Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish wrote at the time.
With Seattle having let Segura go, the Phillies now have the benefit of a skilled veteran shortstop who does not strike out much and can make enough contact to knock in base runners, something their offense was noticeably lacking, especially in the second half of 2018. As the first of what should be many big moves for the Phillies this winter, Segura clears up some questions about the Phillies’ middle infield, as his arrival and J.P. Crawford’s departure in the deal serve as a slowly forming picture of the Phillies’ 2019 opening day squad. Looking at his numbers, both historically and projected, draws the simple conclusion that yes; he would have been quite easily the most productive player on the 2018 team.
But his involvement in one of the more frustrating brain farts of the post-NL East champion years lets his arrival via trade, by contrast, serve as an even more narratively satisfying moment. The Phillies are pulling themselves out of the quagmire with the very players who stepped on their heads during their time in it. Is 2016 Jay Bruce also available?