When Jean Segura was first acquired in the 2017 offseason in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, we had the debate over how to pronounce his first name. Was it “Jean” like denim or was it like “John” with a soft ‘j’? Segura stated he prefers the former and more English pronunciation for his professional purposes, so the pedantic among us (coughs) had to accept it and move on.
When you come out of gates swinging like Segura did in April 2017, a pronunciation quickly becomes an afterthought.
Despite missing stretches of playing time in May, June, and September due to injuries, Segura still put together the best offensive season by a Mariners shortstop since Brad Miller in 2014 (1.6 fWAR) with 2.9 fWAR and a wRC+ of 111, not far off from his personal best of 126 wRC+ the previous season with Arizona. Before Miller, Yuniesky Betancourt’s high mark at shortstop was 1.6 fWAR/wRC+ of 86 in 2006. Before that, it was Alex Rodriguez’s pornographic and obscene numbers from his final season in Seattle in 2000. Don’t look, it’ll just make you sad. So, what I’m getting at here is Mariners shortstops have been mostly bad to awful for nearly the entire team’s existence, let alone the last 20 years.
Here’s a better way to illustrate the point. It took Segura one single season to land at number SIX on the all-time fWAR leader board for Mariners shortstops. It only took him 125 games over one dang season.
I’m not sure if we as a fan base appreciated how big of a difference it was last season to not have an utter black hole at shortstop. Maybe we’re already taking Segura for granted and focusing on other black holes (/gives murderous look to first base), as is our way as weary Mariners fans. But, man, the team has a fast, free-swinging, line-drive hitting joy of a ballplayer batting at the top of the order nearly every day. That is pretty great.
Jean Segura didn’t just magically arrive at this level of success. He has shown uncommon resilience and determination to keep his baseball career going after suffering a personal loss few of us can fathom. Most of us know this story well, but he credits his fellow Dominican Robinson Cano with helping him reconnect with the game of baseball (before they were teammates) and ultimately to begin to heal from his massive loss.
Translation for caption, per LL staff writer and HR representative Isabelle Minasian: caption:
“Thank you so much for everything, you taught me to work and my work brought me success with my family, my friends, and the people around me. I will never tire of thanking you, and your God-given gift to help others. God bless you.”
For the Players Weekend last season, you may recall how Segura he chose to put Cano’s name on his jersey sleeve patch. Each player was able to put the name of someone who was instrumental in their career. Segura didn’t have to look further than his own locker room.
Greg Johns got this very good quote from Cano on the Segura shout out: “He means a lot to me,” Cano said. “In a humble way, you deal with guys and help them play this game in the right way and take it to the next level. He works hard and goes about his business, and those are the guys you want to be around.”
It’s hard to imagine Segura being in a better place professionally. He signed a 5-year, $70 million extension with the Mariners mid-season. His good friend and mentor Canó, in the midst of his own 10-year contract, will presumably be on the team with Segura throughout his contract.
Then Segura had one of his first big “moments” as a Mariner on July 25, 2017, when he ended one of the more ridiculous games of the season with a glorious walk-off single against the Boston Red Sox at Safeco. This gave the Mariners a series win against a very good Boston team that would go on to win the AL East. Through odd circumstances, I ended up seeing the last few innings of this game in the back room at Hooverville’s bar in SODO. There was a sizable and vocal (of course) contingent of Boston fans at the bar, and seeing their deflated reactions to Segura’s walk-off and subsequent “airplane wings”(?) celebration as he continued sprinting into the outfield after rounding first base filled me with the kind of deep, heartfelt joy and schadenfreude that I really only tend to feel when bad things happen to teams I hate. It gave me life. At that point in the season, we knew the writing on the wall was that this Mariners team, barring several miracles, wasn’t going to make the playoffs. I knew in my heart this moment would be one of the very best of the season. I savored the last few sips of my beer, the hair on my arms and neck still standing at attention from the sheer rush of what I had witnessed. Moments are like are the good stuff, and they are few and far between for Mariners fans. Jean Segura was the author of that moment and as if I needed another reason to love the guy, I certainly had it.