SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — My guy Paulie Mac is off to Portland this week to go to church, aka seeing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and this has everything to do with this week’s Jock Blog.
See, The Boss sings a tune called “It’s Hard to Be A Saint in the City”.
Down here in the desert, I just may pen a similar ode: “It’s Hard To Be a Cynic in the Spring”.
Warmed up last week with my “I don’t want to stay mad at the Giants” column, already showing signs of a thaw from our frosty winter rage. Got on a plane. Disembarked at Scottsdale Stadium. Hooked up with another Boss, audio engineer Darren (DC) Chan, for our broadcasts. Listened to pitching coach Andrew Bailey do nothing to dissuade my excitement for prospect Kyle Harrison. Watched the team run bunt defense on the pristine infield. Was memorized by a multiple-fungo infield drill. Welcomed Logan Webb and his calm leadership to the airwaves.
Fell for the whole damn thing.
Then came the finishing kick.
In walked Brandon Crawford.
Consider this Jock Blog not only an ode to the 36-year-old sly dog, still with the deadpan humor, still with the YouTube-worthy glove, readying for his 13th (!!) Opening Day at shortstop.
Consider it also an ode to all that he symbolizes.
When Shawn Estes, our co-host for these Scottsdale shows, asked Crawford point-blank about his plans for spring 2024, time all of a sudden stood still.
In my mind, Paul Anka started crooning “Times of Your Life” — or, were I 20 years younger, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth dropped the needle on “See You Again”:
The debut grand slam in Milwaukee in 2011. The wild-card grand slam in 2012 in Pittsburgh. The double play with Joe Panik in Kansas City in Game 7, 2014.
Let me say that again, for those in the back: **The double play with Joe Panik in Kansas City in Game 7, 2014.**
The growing out of the hair and beard. The 2021 explosion at the plate. Seven hits in a game. The parades.
Once more, those in the back: **The parades.**
And the passing of time as his buddies and championship peers Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Jeremy Affeldt, Javy Lopez, Pablo Sandoval, Sergio Romo and Hunter Pence either left town or left the game.
It was a big deal when his homeboy Buster Posey retired. Still, No. 35 suited up.
And now, even his fellow Brandon is gone. Belt is in Canada, for the love of giraffes.
Bruce Bochy is in Texas Ranger blue. Brian Sabean is back with the Yankees.
Crawford even had to take a phone call from Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler in December telling him that the Giants were buying a new shortstop. Crawford would have to move out. Crawford calmly took the call, then began studying third base film of Nolan Arenado. Kapler and Farhan called back and said, no — turns out Brandon Crawford is still the Giants shortstop. Crawford calmly accepted his job back. Beneath that placid veneer, the ferocious competitor surely snarled.
So when Estes asked him about 2024, the full force of time and Giants history rushed into the room. Brandon Crawford is not under contract next year. He and Estes discussed aging in the game, and feeling the drudgery of spring training and missing one’s family on the road. Crawford didn’t commit to anything. In fact, he said he still felt excitement this week at the start of it all. He then dryly added: “Ask me in a few weeks, though.”
Brandon Crawford’s time as a Giant will end, of course. He will be the last Giant to turn out the lights on the Championship Era. He’s a good candidate to do it, too. So reliable, so consistent, such a Giant. Good hands, too. He won’t miss the light switch.
You have him this year, Giants fans. He’s still here, still playing the best shortstop you ever saw. Enjoy every grounder.