Brandon Crawford did not play the best baseball he’s ever played on Tuesday. He didn’t even play baseball that represented the season he, or the San Francisco Giants are having.
It doesn’t matter.
The National League lost to the American League 5-2 in the 2021 MLB All-Star Game, and Crawford came off the bench to pop up in his lone plate appearance and commit an error on one of the only baseballs hit in his direction.
Again: doesn’t matter.
Now, were this an older All-Star Game, when they still had the winner decide home field advantage for the World Series, you could argue that it would have mattered. The Giants are headed to the World Series, as we all know, so Crawford should have hit a grand slam in his at bat, even though the bases were empty.
But the game doesn’t matter and so Crawford’s performance doesn’t matter.
Check that: the outcome doesn’t matter. The game emphatically does.
Crawford getting selected matters. Crawford being there matters. Crawford playing matters. Crawford going 0-1 with the NL’s only error? Not so much.
Back when the season began, and we were all preparing for a campaign of mediocrity to emerge from the San Francisco fog, Crawford was a poignant subject. He was entering the final year of his contract, at age 34, and the Giants were rebuilding and retooling. It felt like one last hurrah, and you just hoped Crawford wouldn’t go out struggling like so many Giants legends, and that the team wouldn’t be eliminated from the postseason by Father’s Day.
Crawford had given the organization everything: All-Star appearances, Gold Glove awards, world championships, luscious hair, the Showtime movie feel good story of homegrown talent, and, I say with zero hyperbole, arguably more defensive highlights than every other Giant combined over the last 11 seasons. His status and legend was confirmed and secure, but it was still difficult to think that it might all come to an end this year.
It might still. He might slump to close out the season, changing the future. The Giants might opt to go in a different — perhaps younger or more versatile — direction. Crawford, despite being a Giants lifer, might seek something new. Maybe a different team offers him more money. Maybe the Diamondbacks call his phone and sell him on the idea of not having an offseason home and an in-season home, but just a home. I know I’d be compelled by that sales pitch.
But when the year began we thought the Giants would be mediocre, and we suspected Crawford would be somewhere in the mediocre to good range.
Now, at the unofficial halfway mark of the season, both of those things are laughably incorrect, in the best way. The Giants have been baseball’s best team, sporting the top record in the Majors and the third-best run differential. And Crawford has been having the best season of his career by a long shot — his 3.4 fWAR is 65.4% of the way to his career high of 5.2, despite having fewer than half as many plate appearances as he did in 2016.
Even if this is the last season of Crawford’s wavy locks spilling out of a perfect Giants ball cap — and the suddenly contending Giants have every reason to hope it isn’t — there should be no regrets. This year has featured everything we could have hoped from Crawford, and there are still 73 games left.
The baseball world tuned into the All-Star Game on Tuesday, and there they were met with the biggest stars from the best teams. The Giant they saw take the field, representing the best team in the league, was Brandon Crawford. He made us proud, as he has so many times over the years.
That is worth celebrating.