This is a post in search of the best Giants defensive play. I just watched 30 of these ...
... trying to distinguish which impossible throws from deep in the hole were more impossible than the others. Look at this play that didn't make the final cut:
That's a perfect play. Hicks ranges far to his right. He scoops it to Crawford at the perfect height. Crawford makes a split-second decision to grab the ball with his bare hand, and then he turns quickly and throws a strike to Brandon Belt. It's probably the best play of 2014, technically, or at least tied, considering it's impossible to improve on it. But, again, it's not in the final cut. It's just an ordinary kind of spectacular, the kind you'll see over a 162-game season.
The good news is I'm pretty sure I know which play will win. So while you might remember catches against the wall or wizardry to end the game, let's not dance nimbly around this ballroom. There are really only four contenders.
Brandon Crawford being Brandon Crawford
I don't know if that's the best play Crawford made all year. I watched a lot of them, but I didn't watch all of them. But this one can stand in nicely for the entire genre of "Brandon Crawford does something silly." According to Inside Edge, Crawford made eight plays that were classified as "remote", which is a play that's usually made one to 10 percent of the time. I'll guess that play up there is one of them. It's as good of a play as a shortstop can make, and it made Hanley Ramirez upset, which means it was awarded bonus points.
Crawford will probably never win a Gold Glove without Andrelton Simmons getting hurt or traded, but he doesn't need one of those silly things. His defense will be remembered fondly, with or without the award, just as it will be appreciated presently.
Brandon Crawford saving a no-hitter
Peavy was at 600 pitches or so at this point, so I'm not sure how realistic the no-hitter was. But it's not like it was going to end on Crawford's watch. This was probably better than the similar play you'll watch over and over again for the rest of your life (video below), or it had a higher degree of difficulty, rather. And the situation and context add plenty to it, too. It won't win because there's a chance you had forgotten about it already, which isn't something you can say about some of the other plays that follow, but in a different year -- an odd year, perhaps -- this would probably be the best play of the year.
Hunter Pence vs. the Wall
Upon a 500th watching, this play isn't that technically impressive. He had time to stop, stutter-step, and time his leap. It's not like he flew at the wall with reckless abandon on a dead run.
It's technically impressive enough, though. He timed it beautifully and gave zero bothers about the wall that was about to rattle his exoskeleton. It's the timing that puts it, and the other contenders, on the short list for defensive play of the year. Jayson Werth standing on third with one out is a sliding door that I don't want to open. I don't know what happens after that scenario, but I know what happens after that successful catch, and it's very, very agreeable.
Juan Perez in Game 7
Again, not the best play, technically. There were other players on both rosters who could have made it. But it's here as a testament to advance scouting, and it's here as a testament to Bruce Bochy's educated guess that one more Travis Ishikawa appearance would set the entire pile of oil-soaked rags on fire. Off the bat, the game was tied. I was convinced. Bringing in Madison Bumgarner was a mistake, a horrible mistake, and we were going to feel the wrath of oh, hey, Juan Perez is there, cool.
Another sliding door moment. Heck, forget about the weirdness of Ishikawa, what if a healthy Michael Morse were out there? I mean, I get that he would have been playing DH regardless, but he was the Giants' starting left fielder for most of the season. I could see a scenario in which a minor injury sends another player to the DH spot, with Morse clomping around like he had clomped all season. Instead, it was Juan Perez, who might be one of the better fielders in baseball, you know. It's a nice luxury to have him wandering around left field in the most important game in franchise history (tied).
The Double Play
I've waxed rhapsodic over The Double Play before, so go here for a full serving. Again, there were double plays like this in the regular season, too. There are two of them up there. There was ...
... one of them in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. In 50 years, people will remember Madison Bumgarner. Make sure you're there to remind them of The Double Play, too.
Y'all have a collective consciousness that is more powerful than my meager research abilities, so if you remember a play in the regular season that stands out as being a how did that happen masterpiece -- Dan Uggla being on the field in a Giants uniform excluded -- please share. And if I agree it's a contender, I'll write it up and add it to the poll. But ... you're probably going to vote for one of the ones up there, regardless.