Brandon Crawford has developed into one of baseball’s best all-around shortstops.
He’s always been an elite defensive shortstop for the Giants and his offensive production has been on a steady incline, to the point where he made the All-Star team for the first time in 2015 and hit a career-high 21 home runs. That production earned him a six-year, $75 million extension, and then he went out in 2016 and posted career highs in average (.275), on-base percentage (.342) and triples (11) while tying his career best for RBIs (84).
In his first two games of 2017, Crawford has two doubles, a home run and three runs scored. Not a shabby start to the season.
I chatted with Crawford on the phone during his off-day Mondayas part of a round of interviews sponsored by Sports Crate (a pretty cool product). The Giantsopened their season Sunday, a rough late-inning loss that started so very well, with a pair of home runs hit by starter Madison Bumgarner.
That led, naturally, to the opening question …
SPORTING NEWS: OK, feels like the first thing I have to ask you after watching Madison Bumgarner hit two home runs on opening day is this: How much power does that guy really have?
BRANDON CRAWFORD: (laughs) I think everybody saw it. His batting practice looks like that. He’s always hitting homers. Us position players, we’re usually out there stretching while the pitchers take batting practice, and we’re all looking at each other like, “Who is this guy?” It’s not that easy to hit homer after homer in BP, let alone the game, which he did (Sunday). Me and Buster (Posey) were just laughing about it after the second onebecause it’s really not that easy to hit a home run in the big leagues as an everyday player, let alone a pitcher who’s only hitting once every five days or so.
SN: So what makes it so easy for him?
BC: I don’t know. He’s a big, strong guy, I guess. That helps. But he’s actually turned into a good hitter. He’s pretty balanced, he looks for a specific pitch in a specific zone. And when he gets it, he hits it pretty hard.
SN: With all the homers and his history of postseason pitching brilliance, does anything Bumgarner does surprise you guys anymore?
BC: At this point, no, probably not. Hitting two homers in the game … I mean, we know what kind of power he has, but I don’t think anyone expected that. But like I said, he’s turned himself into a pretty good hitter, so even that isn’t too surprising. He just continues to do some pretty special things.
SN: Yadier Molina just signed an extension with the Cardinals that puts him in position to finish his career with St. Louis, and that got me thinking about other guys who could potentially play their entire careerswith one organization. I look at the deal you have with the Giants, and obviously Posey has a long-term deal, too. What does that mean for a player, to be with one franchise as long as you guys have and having the security of knowing you’ll be there a while longer?
BC: I think it’s awesome. Just the fan base you build up, and then being able to be with one organization — and with an organization like the Giants, there are a lot of the same guys in the front office, almost all the same coaches since I’ve been in the big leagues. And mine and Buster’s contracts, and now (Brandon) Belt’s, we’re all up at about the same time. So we’ll have played with each other for 10 years, all of us together. So just to be able to build up friendships like that and have the same teammates and coaches and front office and all that, and to be able to build up a fan base in one city for so long, I think it’s what I would dream of. That’s what you would hope for as an athlete.
SN: OK, really dumb question, but when I told a couple people I was interviewing you, they told me I have to ask why your hair always seems like it's wet when you’re playing in a game. So … why is that?
BC: (laughs) I don’t know. It’s not wet. Must be the gel that I use. I do throw some product in there, or else it would be all over the place. That’s got to be it, I guess.
SN: Ha. Thanks. OK, I promise to stick with baseball questions the rest of the way. When you’re working on your game defensively, what are the things you work on to try tomaintain and improve your ability with the glove?
BC: The biggest thing I work on at this point is my footwork. That’s probably the most crucial part of being a shortstop, working on your footwork and having good footwork. Because almost everybody in the big leagues, if you’re an infielder in the big leagues, you have pretty good hands. So if you can have quick feet and move your feet the right way, and have a little bit of range, you’ll be able to play shortstop in the big leagues. That’s what I focus on most when I get back into spring training mode and leading up to spring training, that’s what I work on. And even during the season, when I’m taking ground balls in batting practice, I always like to throw to a base, because it forces me to work on my feet. A lot of guys will take ground balls and throw them back to the coach with the fungo, but their feet get lazy. For me, I like throwing to a base because it forces you to work on your feet at the same time.
SN: Your manager, Bruce Bochy, has three World Series titles already. I know he’s a long way from retiring, but with that resume, do you think he’s bound for the Hall of Fame?
BC: Yeah. You look at his resume and what he’s done as a manager throughout his career, and I definitely think he’s a lock for the Hall of Fame. To have three World Series titlesand to have gone to another, to be to four World Series and win three of them, that’s pretty special. Just from what I’ve seen playing for him, the way he manages the game, the way he manages bullpens and matchups and stuff like that, he’s one of the best in the game.
SN: And what about you? How has he helped you?
BC: He gave me a shot. I hit .200 with a few homers my first year, and he gave me the starting job the next year. I don’t know how many managers in baseball would have done that. He gave me a chance to succeed, and I’m still here. That worked out, and I definitely appreciate him for that.
SN: Have the folks at Sports Crate given you any samples of their product?
BC: I’ve heard some examples, but I haven’t gotten any personally.
SN: You need to get them to hook you up.
BC: For sure. When I heard about this, I thought it was a really cool idea. And if I was a fan, in high school or something like that, I would have wanted my parents to sign up for it, for sure. Get some Giants swag.