Jean Segura did not have much motivation to leave Seattle in the winter of 2018. He liked his house, and his family felt comfortable living there. Plus, he had been an All-Star that summer for the first time in five years. Seattle treated him well.
But Segura, who has played the second-most games among active players without reaching the postseason, also wanted to win. And the Mariners were purging their roster as they dove into a rebuilding process.
“So I told my agent that I wanted to get traded,” Segura said.
A match was quickly found with the Phillies. A deal required Segura to waive his no-trade clause, which he did because he believed the Phillies were positioned to win. Three years later, Segura is still waiting to get to the playoffs.
“That’s the only reason I decided to come here, because I thought this team had a pretty good chance to go to the playoffs,” Segura said.
Segura, 31, reached the majors in July of 2012, nine months after the Phillies played their most recent playoff game. Tuesday was his 1,222nd career game, and only Seattle’s Kyle Seager (1,469 games) has played more among active players without reaching the playoffs, per Baseball Reference. Segura has hit .298 over the past six seasons, but just one of those seasons came for a winning team.
“I can’t control it, but it’s been a lot of years. I’ve waited a while to get to the playoffs, so we’ll see,” said Segura, who is well aware that he has the second-longest playoff drought. “Right now, I’m at a point in my career where I just want to win and get to the playoffs and win. I don’t really care about much except winning baseball games.”
The Phillies, who have the longest playoff drought in the National League, faded in the final month of Segura’s first two seasons and are flirting this month with another September fade. Entering Wednesday, they trailed first-place Atlanta by three games and had a 17.3% chance to reach the playoffs, per FanGraphs, with 11 games remaining.
They were gifted baseball’s lightest schedule in the second half but are just three games over .500 since the All-Star break. After Wednesday’s series finale with the Orioles, who own baseball’s worst record (48-103 going into Wednesday’s game), the Phillies play four at home against the Pirates, who are 17-30 since Aug. 1 after selling off a host of players at the trade deadline.
And then it’s on to Atlanta for a three-game series that could decide the season.
“We still have a chance, but we have to take advantage of the teams that we play,” Segura said. “I think if we go to Atlanta maybe a game behind or a half-game behind or even tied, I think we have a pretty good chance at winning the division. But we need to take care of those teams that aren’t as good like Baltimore and Pittsburgh. I think we play better baseball against a really good team.
“When we play an OK team, our mentality kind of changes. We need to keep that same mentality. That’s been our problem. You see how the Braves play against an OK team. They go after it and beat them. It’s different for us.”
The Phillies are 13-12 in their last 25 games against teams with losing records. They were swept in Arizona, lost two of three in Pittsburgh, and dropped three of four at home against Colorado. The easy schedule has proved to be a challenge.
“It’s the mentality,” Segura said Tuesday. “When we play those types of teams, we feel too comfortable. We let it get it to us instead of getting in and giving it to them. It is what it is, but we only have 12 games left. We have to, as a team, make it better.”
Bryce Harper has gotten most of the credit for the Phillies having a playoff chance, but it’s hard to ignore what Segura has done. His 3.7 WAR trails only Harper among the team’s position players. His batting average (.295) is the highest since 2018 and his OPS (.804) is the second-best of his career.
Segura has been one of the National League’s best second basemen, and he credits his offensive success to returning to the top of the lineup.
“Last year, they slid me into the seventh hole against righties and hit sixth against lefties,” Segura said. “I don’t know, I don’t consider myself hitting in the seven-hole in any lineup. I consider myself always hitting up top. You can see the last five, six years, I’ve done my part at the top of the lineup.”
For the past nine years, Segura has returned home each October to the Dominican Republic while another postseason rolls on without him.
“Play dominoes and do a lot of barbecuing,” Segura said.
He’s hoping next month is different. Maybe he’ll be in Milwaukee — where he spent four years of his career — for the first round of the postseason instead of drawing dominoes. First, the Phillies will have to change their ways against downtrodden teams. And then they’ll have to hope Atlanta stumbles.
If so, Segura will get what he came to Philly for.
“All he wants to do is get to the playoffs. That’s all he talks about,” said manager Joe Girardi, who first made the playoffs after playing just 59 career games with the Cubs in 1989. “I’m sure he’s quite frustrated with it. It’s interesting when we made the playoffs that first year, I thought we’d make it every year. It was a while until I got back there. It was four or five years. You truly appreciate it when you have to wait.”
Said Segura: “It would mean a lot. I feel like I’m one of those players who really likes the pressure and the playoffs are all about pressure. Everyone is going to come to your game and cheer for your team, it’s exciting. Every baseball player wants to go to the playoffs.”