There are a million players to spotlight and highlight on the World Champion San Francisco Giants of 2012. Or, less hyperbolically, 25 of them. There are more specific moments, plays, and at-bats than I can count, and I can count really, really high. It'll take a while to sift through them all.
Barry Zito was the likeliest place to start, but that was before there was actual baseball news. Actual, honest-to-goodness baseball news. Apart from the Giants winning the 2012 World Series, that is. Which happened. The other baseball news was that the finalists for the Gold Gloves were announced. Now, these aren't the actual awards; those will be announced on Tuesday night. These are just the finalists.
The Giants were shut out entirely. While the A.L. catchers are represented by Alex Avila and two crusty dudes, the N.L. is some rough competition. I can understand Posey not making the cut. And while it's beyond amusing that Ryan Braun is nominated, it's pretty obvious why Melky Cabrera didn't get a lot of votes1. Angel Pagan didn't deserve to be nominated, and neither did Hunter Pence. Pablo Sandoval's defensive struggles were probably a bit overblown, but he wasn't as stellar as he was last year. Ryan Theriot was the starter for most of the year, which is the kind of thing that leads to championships, but not Gold Gloves. Marco Scutaro didn't deserve a nomination, either.
Maybe Brandon Belt was hosed, but I couldn't tell you how good Adam LaRoche or Joey Votto are. I know Freddie Freeman is pretty good, so this probably isn't the place to hop up and down, screaming about the injustice of it all.
But Brandon Crawford wasn't nominated. There were four shortstops nominated. That's 25 percent of the National League. Apparently Crawford is in the great, unwashed 75 percent
It's impossible to care, seeing as the Giants just won the World Series2. But this stuff is related. The Giants won the World Series with the help of Crawford's defense. They might have won it with a clankmitt who hit .400 with four playoff dingers, too, but there's no sense digging too far into the hypotheticals. The Giants won, and you know that Crawford was a part of it.
Here's how the Cardinals took the lead in the final game of the NLDS:
It wasn't an error, nor should it have been. But it's a play that should be made. It's a play that Crawford would make more often than not. It's a play that Crawford did make again and again in the playoffs. The Giants might have won the World Series because Ian Desmond couldn't make that play. If the Giants have to play four games in Washington, things might not have been as ducky. The ball off the outstretched glove of a Gold Glove nominee is why the Giants played the Cardinals. It's why the Giants had home-field advantage as soon as they left Cincinnati. If Desmond makes that play, the Nationals move on.
There's a danger in highlighting one play out of a hundred and attaching too much importance to it. Desmond is, at the very least, a solid fielder. But he's not as good as Crawford, and there's a direct correlation between the respective success of their two teams and their postseason defense. Here's what Brandon Crawford did in the NLDS:
And in the NLCS:
And in the World Series.
Those were just the first three that popped up. There were more. A lot more. And I'll never take outstanding shortstop defense for granted again. We've seen good defense -- Jose Vizcaino was solid, as was Rich Aurilia -- but it's been a while since we've seen amazing defense. Omar Vizquel was great -- a Gold Glove winner, even -- but Crawford's arm gives him the edge over an aging Vizquel for me. What Crawford did in the playoffs, especially with his strong arm on double plays, is just as impressive to me as what Scutaro or Zito did..
So Crawford won't win a Gold Glove this year, settling for that golden trophy with all the spires and little flags and such. He'll be nominated next year. The NLCS and World Series was his coming-out party. The Reds lost Game 3 because of an ill-timed error. The Nationals couldn't advance because of a ball off their shortstop's mitt. The Cardinals kicked the ball around for the entire NLCS, and their rookie shortstop had an especially tough time. Jhonny Peralta could have flubbed a few to make this a more complete narrative, but I'm still running with it.
It feels like there should be some sort of Maverick-and-Iceman-hugging way to end this. Brandon Crawford? He can be my glove man anytime. The little kid who was glum about the Giants moving to Tampa to play in a dome is all growns up, and he's the best defensive shortstop in baseball3.
1. The beard
3. Brendan Ryan has a mustache and he smells of costumed moose, so he doesn't count.