May 28, 2024

Max Scherzer thought the answer was obvious. Corey Seager — the quiet, maniacal hitting savant — changing? Seriously?

“No, he’s the same Corey Seager,” Scherzer said with a grin. “Did you ever think he would change? No.”

Scherzer then erupted in laughter. He’s been Seager’s teammate for two half seasons — in 2021 with the Dodgers and this year with the Texas Rangers. In between, Seager signed one of the richest contracts in North American sports history, leaving one of baseball’s marquee franchises to become the face of a resurgent franchise while cementing his place as one of the best hitters in the world. All that change could, theoretically, change a person, even just a little bit. But not Seager.

Across the way, between sections 107 and 108 along the third base line at Globe Life Field, Seager’s demeanor during World Series Media Day on Thursday suggested nothing’s changed. The shortstop was indifferent with reporters. His answers to questions about himself weren’t expansive. He seemed almost uncomfortable with all the attention. He was asked about rarely ever showing emotion on the field either.

“It’s just kind of my personality,” Seager, 29, said.

Nothing’s changed on the field either. Three years after leading the Dodgers to the 2020 title in the Texas bubble with NLCS and World Series MVP performances, Seager will return to that stage on the same field with the home team when the Rangers host the Arizona Diamondbacks for Game 1 of the World Series on Friday.

“It never gets old, you know?” Seager said. “This is where you want to be.”

Seager is where he wants to be for the second time in four seasons with a different franchise, one that decided to build around him. He is the best player on a team vying for the franchise’s first championship, coming off a regular season in which he’d be the American League MVP frontrunner if not for Shohei Ohtani’s two-way prowess.

In Los Angeles, Seager was one of several stars. In 2021, Seager’s last year with the organization that drafted him in the first round of the 2012 draft, the Dodgers boasted at least four future Hall of Famers (Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts, Albert Pujols) plus several other household names.

Seager was coming off his historic postseason run — he batted .328 with eight home runs and a 1.171 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, joining Orel Hershiser as the only Dodgers to ever win both NLCS and World Series MVP in the same postseason — but he wasn’t a long-term franchise cornerstone. That was proven out when the Dodgers acquired Trea Turner with Scherzer anticipating Turner would replace Seager at shortstop when he left for free agency that winter.

Three years later, Seager isn’t just one of the guys. He’s the guy. The Rangers spent $800 million over the last two offseasons to resurrect a franchise two years removed from a 102-loss campaign. Texas committed $325 million of the spending spree to Seager over 10 years. Other notable veterans such as Marcus Semien and Jacob deGrom got paid, too, but Seager is the metronomic centerpiece still obsessing over his swing and mechanics.

“He’s the exact same,” said Rangers reliever Josh Sborz, who spent parts of two seasons with Seager on the Dodgers. “Great guy, good leader, works hard. He’s always there. Just a good dude, man, overall, and it’s one of the reasons why he’s special.”

This season, Seager landed on the injured list twice with hamstring and thumb injuries, but batted a career-best .327 with a career-high-tying 33 home runs and a career-high 1.013 OPS in 119 games while making his fourth All-Star team.

The Rangers finished the season tied with the Houston Astros for 90 wins, but lost the tiebreaker, relegating them to a wild-card spot and a matchup with the 99-win Tampa Bay Rays. They promptly swept the Rays in a best-of-three-games series and the Baltimore Orioles in the best-of-five NLDS.

Seager went 7 for 14 with a home run, three doubles, 11 walks, just one strikeout, and a 1.649 OPS in the five wins. The success didn’t continue through the first six games of the ALCS against the Astros. He was 5 for 27 (.192) with five strikeouts and no walks going into Game 7 in Houston.

Then, in his first at-bat of the win-or-go-home contest, Seager blasted a 440-foot solo home run to begin the Rangers’ 11-4 rout. He finished the game 3 for 5 with a walk. He saved his best for when it was needed most to help send the Rangers to the World Series for the first time since 2011.

“That’s as much emotion as [he’s shown],” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said after the game. “He does show emotion, but he really showed it when he came in. He fired up the whole club.”

The display was notable because it was Seager. Scherzer knows. His first stint as Seager’s teammate began in July 2021 when the Dodgers acquired him from the Washington Nationals. The second started this summer, again days before the trade deadline, when the New York Mets traded him to the Rangers.

Suggesting Seager was any different two years later? Laughable.

“Same guy,” Scherzer said. “It’s the same thing. That’s what’s great.”

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