OAKLAND, Calif. — In the aftermath of Tuesday night’s must-win victory over the A’s, J.P. Crawford couldn’t allow himself to forget the preposterous play he couldn’t quite make to end the fourth inning and celebrate the ridiculous play moments later that did end it.

With two outs and a runner on first, Chad Pinder hit a rocket deep into the hole at shortstop off Seattle starter Marco Gonzales. Crawford made a diving stop on the ball about 3 feet into the outfield grass, popped to his feet and fired a laser to first that was a second too late.

“He lays out, gets up and throws an absolute dart across the field,” manager Scott Servais said. “That ball should’ve never been close. He’s got that kind of defensive ability.”

Moments later, Crawford, still fuming about not finishing the Pinder play, had minimal time to react as Mark Canha hit a one-hop rocket to his left. In an all-or-nothing play, Crawford made a sliding grab on the short-hop, bounced to his feet and fired a strike to Ty France, who caught the ball and just stared at his shortstop with a look like, “Is this guy for real?”

“It’s just something you just react to,” he said. “You just try to judge whether it’s gonna be an in-between hop or a long hop. So many thoughts can go through your head in such a short amount of time to where you just react to the ball. You just don’t think about stuff like that. You just make the play.”

Admittedly, Crawford was still thinking about the play before when he made the inning-ending play one batter later.


“I was still pissed off,” he said. “I should have made that play on Pinder. It’s always fun to help get my pitchers out of jams and help them keep runs off the board. I take pride in my defense. I expect myself to make that play 10 out of 10 times. It’s something I work on every day, and I take pride in every day.”

That sort of mentality comes from the daily infield work that Crawford and the rest of the infield puts in with infield guru Perry Hill. It’s impossible to recall a game this season where the Mariners didn’t do their pregame infield work. Even as they prepared for their 152nd game of the season, many of them dealing with physical fatigue and nagging injuries, they were out there again Wednesday afternoon. And they’ll be there again Thursday morning before the series finale at the Oakland Coliseum.

Crawford will often appear to have a just-woken-up-from-a-nap face when he steps on the field, but the moment groundballs start being hit by Manny Acta, there is a shift to in-game intensity. If he practices that way, it will be the same in games.

It’s a reason why he earned the American League Gold Glove award in 2020 and why Servais and his teammates believe he should win it again in 2021.

“There’s a lot of really good shortstops in the American League, but nobody flashes the leather like J.P.,” Servais said. “It’s just the range, the athleticism and his ability to finish plays. He’s a Gold Glover if I’ve ever seen one. There’s no question about that.”

Gonzales has benefitted from more than one of Crawford’s run-saving plays. Speaking for the entire pitching staff, Gonzales offered his vote for Crawford, even if it doesn’t count toward the award.


“J.P. Crawford, man, I feel like every night it’s something special with him,” Gonzales said. “He should just have his name etched on it right now. The guy’s special. We call them ‘the unicorn’ for a reason. He just does it all. I hope everyone appreciates him as much as I do.”

In 2020, Rawlings, which sponsors and handles the selection process for the Gold Gloves, used the qualifications for the award to rely solely on the SABR Defensive Index (SDI). Crawford had a 5.2 SDI and beat out Carlos Correa (3.3) and Niko Goodrum (3.2).

But with Major League Baeball returning to a traditional 162-game season, the selection process goes back to multiple layers. Per the website:

  • The Rawlings Gold Glove Award represents overall fielding excellence, and it is not an award based solely on fielding metrics and statistics, nor does it factor offensive production.
  • Only the manager and his coaching staff on each Major League Baseball team vote, and each person must sign the completed Ballot in order to be considered valid.
  • Managers and coaches cannot vote for their own players and can only vote for players in their own League.