Giants’ three-time All-Star shortstop ‘not too worried’ about future

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PHOENIX — It could be terribly awkward for everyone in the San Francisco Giants’ clubhouse these days, but he’s managed to make a clumsy situation feel as if it’s simply a neighborly thing to do. 

He could be selfish but instead spends his free time preparing their rookie sensation to replace him as the face of the franchise. 

He could be terribly bitter, knowing the Giants already tried to give away his job last winter and have offered no hints that they plan to keep him after the season, but he remains calm, almost at peace about his fate. 

Brandon Crawford is the last man standing from the Giants’ dynasty, representing every bit of the championship fabric of his proud organization. 

Crawford, 36, deserves to go out when he wants and how he wants. 

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This is a man who helped lead the Giants to two of their three World Series championships. He won four Gold Gloves, made three All-Star teams and was a Silver Slugger winner. He had his greatest year in the Giants’ historic 107-victory season in 2021. 

But now, just six weeks into the season, and about to come off the injured list, Crawford finds himself at the crossroads of his fabulous career. 

He wonders whether to retire at the end of the season, keep playing as the Giants’ starting shortstop, stay aboard as a part-time player. Or will he even be given a choice? 

‘I’m not too worried about what’s maybe going to happen after this year,’ Crawford tells USA TODAY Sports. ‘It’s the last year of my contract. I don’t know what the future holds after that. 

‘I’m sure it will end up being a feeling that I have and the conversation that I’ll have with my wife. It’s a decision we’ll make together.’

Crawford who’s coming off the injured list for the third time in the past 10 months, knows the time is near. His body, which held up for 12 years, is having difficulty holding up. He has a wife and four young kids at home – two daughters and two sons ranging in age from 4 to 10 – and it was excruciating not being able to see them for 24 days while they are still in school in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

‘It’s made it a little bit harder this year as they get older and more serious in their school and sports,’ Crawford says. ‘I mean, there are a lot of things that I would love to be able to do and spend time with my family and stuff like that. But, you know, as long as I’m able to play baseball, I know my family also loves watching me.’ 

Crawford, who wondered if he’d still be in the organization two years ago until the Giants signed him to a two-year, $32 million extension, would love to retire a Giant. He was born and raised in the Bay Area. He idolized Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent as a kid. 

Now, he’s the one that has kids in the Bay Area wearing his jersey and clamoring for his autograph. 

‘I was one of those kids,’ says Giants infielder J.D. Davis. ‘I mean, being a kid from Northern California and watching him win those World Series, and all of those Gold Gloves and accolades, and to be next to him now is something I’ll forever be grateful. He’s exactly what you hoped he’d be. He truly sets the example on and off the field, just a role model of how to be a big leaguer, really.’

Heralded third-base prospect Casey Schmitt came to camp trying to win a starting job, if it wasn’t at third base, anywhere in the infield. He was called up this past week to make his major-league debut, as a shortstop replacing the injured Crawford. 

Guess who spent the most time talking to him, offering advice, telling him about the nuances of playing shortstop? 

‘He’s been unbelievable,’ says Schmitt, who hit .563 with two homers and a 1.688 OPS in his first five games since his call-up. ‘Whatever I want, whatever I need, he’s there. He’s always helping me. He’s doing everything he can to help me become the best player I can be.’ 

Yep, even if it costs Crawford valuable playing time, perhaps diminishing his value going forward into the free-agent market. 

‘The way he’s worked with Casey has been fantastic,’ Giants manager Gabe Kapler says. ‘You have a young kid coming up, playing his (butt) off and you got a shortstop that won World Series championships and playing at an MVP caliber level (in 2021) with us. Craw has got his arm around Casey and giving him feedback throughout the game and making him better.’

Giants infielder/outfielder LaMonte Wade says: ‘I remember the first day I met him when I was traded over here in 2021, and he just makes you feel immediately welcome and part of the group. Any time he sees something, he comes over and give me advice. We have a lot of young guys who gravitate to him. He’s definitely a role model for me, and I feel everyone in this locker room.’ 

You want unselfish? 

This is a guy who spent 14 years in the Giants organization, played more games at shortstop than any player in franchise history, but yet was told last December that they wanted him to suddenly learn how to play third base because they were making room for Carlos Correa, signing him to a 13-year, $350 million contract. 

The move stung Crawford, but instead of pouting, he was the first player to welcome Correa to the organization before the contract was voided when Correa flunked his physical. 

He’s still the one who handles DJ duties with the Giants’ batting practice and postgame playlists, is the first player in the victory formation congratulating players after wins and is Team Mom when anyone needs help. 

‘He’s just a big kid, who brings a great energy to the clubhouse,’ says Giants starter Alex Cobb. ‘He’s meant so much to this franchise, and is involved with everything going on here. I’ve played with a lot of superstars, seen a lot of superstars that don’t include themselves as much of the shenanigans that go on, and he seems to lead the way.’

There’s a reason why the Giants won three World Series titles in five years, and players don’t have to look any further than Crawford, whose work ethic, leadership skills and talent will result in a permanent place in the Giants’ Hall of Fame. 

‘I was always wondering what their key to winning was all of those years,’ says Giants infielder Wilmer Flores, ‘and now that I’ve been around him, I see it. He plays. He always plays. He takes it to another level.’

Crawford had only two injured list stints his entire career until last season, playing at least 138 games in every full season. If he was sick, if he was sore, if his body ached, he was still playing. 

‘He’s one of the most professional, dedicated athletes I’ve ever seen,’ says Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Evan Longoria, 37, who played five years with Crawford. ‘I’ve never seen somebody with as consistent of a routine, his work ethic, and commitment to playing the position and being the best player he could be. He’s a pro’s pro. No complaints, just shows up and plays. I took inspiration from him just watching him do that every day.’

No one knows for sure whether this will be Crawford’s final season, but they’d be stunned if Crawford puts on another uniform. This was his team growing up, and to spend his entire career with the Giants would be an honor. 

He’s hitting just .169 with a .596 OPS in his 22 games with the Giants, and coming off his worst season when he hit .231 with a .652 OPS. The numbers must improve, he knows, if he’s going to make it a difficult decision for the Giants after the season. 

Crawford, whose sister, Amy, is married to Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, refuses to stop and think about his future. He brought the entire family to New York for the opening day weekend, spending a night with the Cole family, with an off-day at the zoo, and brought his kids on a couple of road trips, but doesn’t think of this year as a farewell tour. 

‘I haven’t been thinking about that a whole lot,’ he says. ‘I think if I started thinking about that, it starts creeping into my head that it is my last year.’ 

For now, he’s going to savor this season. 

‘I feel like I don’t reflect a whole lot on the past unless I’m actually asked about it,’ he says. ‘I like living in the present thing. My preference for sure is to be a Giant my whole career. 

‘You never know what’s going to happen, but it’s too early to even think about that for me. I just want to enjoy this. There’ll be a lot of factors involved, but I know I can still play.’

Human Hit Machine

Luis Arraez, who won the batting title last season for the Minnesota Twins, is now threatening to go where no player in the history of the game has before. 

Arraez entered Sunday hitting hitting .379 for the Miami Marlins, vying to become the first player to win consecutive batting titles in each league. DJ LeMahieu and Ed Delahanty are the only ones who have won batting titles in each league, but not in back-to-back years. 

And, oh yeah, he’s also bidding to become the first .400 hitter since Ted Williams in 1941. 

‘I mean it’s hard to hit .400,’ Arraez tells USA TODAY Sports. ‘But it’s not impossible. If I hit .400, I’d have to stay healthy, work hard every day, and have the little things go right. The pitchers are so good. 

‘I just got to keep in mind to stay strong, and try to hit the ball hard every day.’ 

Certainly, it’s no fluke what Arraez is accomplishing. He’s a career .320 hitter, owning the highest batting average among active players with at least 400 games. 

He hit .334 his rookie season in 2019, after hitting .300 or higher in all five minor-league seasons and hasn’t stopped. 

‘Baseball has changed a little bit, or maybe it’s changed a lot,’ Arraez says, ‘but everybody wants to hit homers. Me, I prefer getting on base, and just hitting the ball.’

Tony Gwynn, a career .338 hitter who won eight batting titles, insisted he could never hit .400 because he didn’t walk enough. He came close, hitting .394 during the 1994 strike-shortened season, and seven times hit .350 or higher, but never had that historic .400 season while averaging just 39 walks a season. 

Rod Carew, a career .328 hitter who won seven batting titles, hit .388 in 1977, but never walked 80 times in a single season. 

Arraez, second in the the majors with .435 on-base percentage, to go along with a .905 OPS, has never walked more than 50 times in a season, but has never struck out more than 48 times either. 

‘I like hitting,’ he says, ‘not walking.’

And, man, is it ever fun to see him swing the bat, spraying the ball to all fields, with at least 30% of his hits going to left field, center field and right field, with all but nine of his 50 hits going for singles. 

Yet, no one seems to appreciate it. 

‘I don’t think people realize what this guy does, and people don’t really care about average as much as I do,’ Marlins manager Skip Schumaker says. ‘I just still think it’s real. Obviously, OPS is definitely a thing for me, but players still look up and they see a betting average. That means something. 

‘It’s just that people are so enamored with the home run and the slug nowadays. It’s the just the way it is, right?  People are just trying to hit home runs and are conditioned to start hitting home runs at the younger levels.’ 

The reason, San Francisco Giants veteran infielder Wilmer Flores says, is simple. 

‘It doesn’t pay,’ says Flores, a career .261 hitter who has hit 16 or more homers in five seasons, and is earning $6.5 million this year compared to Arraez’s $6.1 million salary. ‘I mean, years ago, if a guy was hitting .300, it doesn’t matter the other stats. It didn’t matter what his slugging percentage was, or how many homers did he hit. He hit .300. You’d pay him the big money. 

‘But it’s not what pays now. It’s like you got to go with what teams are looking for. Maybe this hitter doesn’t walk because he puts the ball in play a lot, but teams don’t value that anymore. I feel like a lot of hitters have to adjust to that because they want to stay in the game a long time, including me. 

‘Years ago, nobody told me how important it was getting your walks. Now, it’s better to take a walk than getting a hit. It’s just how the industry works now. It’s just slugging and walking, and you turn heads. You get hits, it doesn’t do much for your value.’

Well, pardon the Marlins for not sharing the same sentiments. They love what they’ve seen after acquiring Arraez in the offseason for starter Pablo Lopez and two prospects. They didn’t try to change him, and never will. He’s exactly what the offense needs, someone to get on base and hoping there’s big boys behind him driving him in. 

‘Obviously, the way hitters are being evaluated now,’ Marlins veteran infielder Joey Wendle says, ‘is different than years ago. But his ability to get on base, put the barrel on the ball, is as consistent as I’ve ever seen anybody. 

‘It’s nothing short of incredible watching him hit.’

This is a guy who’s obsessed with hitting. He worked out all winter in the Dominican Republic with San Diego Padres DH Nelson Cruz. He’ll get up in the middle of the night at home, grab a bat, and start hitting.

So, why aren’t we celebrating one of the greatest pure hitters we’ve seen in decades, a guy who has struck out just 140 times in 1,716 plate appearances? 

‘That’s more of a question for you guys,’ Wendle says of reporters. ‘It’s just how the game is promoted now. It’s power. It’s flash. It’s all of the celebrations, and things like that. 

‘For us, and Luis, hey, we’re fine with it, just keep it under the radar.’ 

The Black College World Series

It wasn’t splashed on any of the TV networks. 

The boxscores weren’t found in any of the newspapers. 

Few baseball fans were even aware the national tournament was even being played. 

Yet, there in Montgomery, Alabama, this week, eight teams were playing in the third annual Black College World Series: Albany State, Savannah State University, Bluefield State University, Edward Waters, Miles College, Talladega College, Rust College, Wiley College and Paine College. 

‘Blacks have always had a footprint in MLB, going back to the Negro Leagues,’ Michael Coker, executive director of Black College Championships, told USA TODAY Sports. ‘We took a turn and went to the glamour sports. Well, now you’re seeing things returning to the urban levels. It’s gaining national attendance and young kids are gravitating towards baseball.’ 

Just 6.1% of opening-day rosters in Major League Baseball consisted of African-American players this year, the lowest since 1955, but with the help of Coker and sponsorship by Tyson Foods, players at HBCUs are starting to at least get professional scouts’ attention. 

There wasn’t a single scout at the inaugural Black College World Series in 2021, which increased to six scouts last year and now 12 pro scouts were in attendance at this year’s tournament. 

‘If we’re going to get the numbers up (Black population in baseball),’ Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith said, ‘HBCUs are probably the best route to go. It gives them exposure. Most scouts are not able to go to a neighborhood to see a kid, but guys playing in the HCBUs should get the opportunity. …

‘We all have concerns that we don’t have as many African-American players playing today, but it’s all about, what do you do about it.’

The majors once had HBCU alumni such as Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Andre Dawson and Larry Doby, but there’s not a current player from an HBCU who plays in the big leagues. 

Coker believes there could be three players from the tournament with the potential to be selected in the 20-round draft in July, including Bluefield State infielder Tahir Meulens, who batted .397 with a 1.091 OPS. 

Even if there are no players who become professionals, Tyrone Brooks, MLB’s senior director of their front office and field staff diversity program, met with each team to inform them there are plenty other jobs in Major League Baseball. 

‘I talked to them about potential career opportunities,’ Brooks said, ‘whether  to get into the front office, coaching staff, or becoming an umpire. I just wanted to plant the seed with them that if you’re interested in the business side of the sport, finance, sales, ticketing, we have all of the options available. 

‘We want you to be part of our game.’ 

The Black College World Series is here to stay. It is negotiating a five-year commitment with the Montgomery Biscuits, the Tampa Bay Rays’ Class AA club, assuring that the best talent from HBCU’s can be noticed, too. 

‘This is growing leaps and bounds every year,’ Coker said. “The promotion of the event is getting us exposure, national media attention, and we can carve a name across America.’’ 

Numbers gamez

2:37: The average time of games compared to 3:05 after the same amount of games last season. 

9.1: The average of runs per game, compared to 8.3 a year ago. 

78.3: The percentage of successful stolen-base attempts, the highest in baseball history. 

.247: The batting average compared to .235 a year ago, with the batting average of balls put in play by left-handed hitters rising by 35 points on pulled groundballs. 

4: The number of stolen bases by Phillies leadoff hitter Trea Turner, perhaps the fastest runner in the game. The Phillies have stolen just 22 bases, with only the Colorado Rockies having fewer in the National League. They were fifth in stolen bases a year ago. 

11: The number of times the Athletics have drawn fewer than 10,000 fans this season at the Coliseum, including six games under 5,000. 

13: The number of games the Padres have failed to get a hit with runners in scoring position. They are last in the major leagues with a .203 batting average with RISP. 

36: The number of games it took for Atlanta to win 25 games, equalling the fewest in franchise history. 

766: The number of days since James Paxton pitched when he returned Friday night for the Boston Red Sox after undergoing Tommy John surgery. 

20 years, 277 days: Eury Perez’s age when he became the youngest pitcher in Marlins history Friday, and the youngest Dominican-born pitcher to make his major-league debut.  

Around the basepaths

– New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and Milwaukee Brewers executive David Stearns cannot have any formal contact, but some around baseball insist that Stearns will be hired by the Mets in a high-ranking position, perhaps as president of baseball of baseball operations in the offseason. 

‘I can’t say anything publicly, or how I know’ one MLB executive said, ‘but I guarantee it’s going to happen.’

Brewers owner Mark Attanasio previously prevented Stearns from leaving, but his contract expires after the season, allowing him to negotiate with the Mets or any other team. 

Stearns stepped down as Brewers president of baseball operations after last season to become a consultant, and plans to leave the organization when the season ends. 

– The reason for the St. Louis Cardinals’ decision to strip Willson Contreras from his catching duties just five weeks into his five-year, $87.5 million free-agent contract, a high-ranking Cardinals official told USA TODAY Sports, was quite simple: 

The starting pitchers told management they simply no longer wanted to pitch to him, at least not this season, after getting off to their dreadful start, producing an ugly 5.40 ERA. 

The Cardinals, off to their worst start in 50 years at 10-24, have since won five of six games after demoting Contreras, although the starting rotation has actually gotten worse, yielding a 5.47 ERA, with no starter lasting past five innings. 

The last Cardinals starter to win a game was Miles Mikolas on April 27. 

Well, Contreras will be given another opportunity on Monday when he’s scheduled to catch struggling Jack Flaherty against the Milwaukee Brewers. 

– The Cardinals can kick themselves for not out-bidding Atlanta for sensational catcher Sean Murphy when the A’s shopped him during the winter, but the truth is that the Cleveland Guardians finished second in the sweepstakes with their offer. 

Certainly, Cleveland could sure use him now. 

They are last in home runs (22), last in slugging percentage (.341), last in total bases (443), 28th in runs scored (138) and 28th in batting average (.222). 

– The best trade commodity this summer will be Detroit Tigers left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who’s pitching like an ace with his 1.57 ERA. The Tigers would love to keep him, but Perez has an opt-out after this season, and can walk away from the remaining three years, $49 million in original five-year, $77 million deal. If the Tigers are out of the race and believe he’ll depart, they’ll have no choice but to move him at the trade deadline. 

– In a time where everyone is scrambling for starting pitching, still no one has picked up veteran starter Madison Bumgarner after being released last month by the D-backs. 

‘A highly successful pitcher is resistant to change,’ says D-backs pitching coach Brent Strom, who has not spoken to Bumgarner said his release. ‘It was an amicable divorce.’ 

– The Pirates and starting pitcher Mitch Keller are in negotiations on a long-term contract extension. 

Keller, 27, is earning $2,437,500 this year and is eligible for free agency after the 2025 season. 

– It’s an early-season nail-bitter between the New York Mets and San Diego Padres to earn the moniker: ‘The Worst Team Money Can Buy’ with their bloated payrolls and sub-.500 records. 

‘We’ve got to perform better,’ Padres manager Melvin snapped after a loss against the Twins this week. ‘We have guys that can perform better, and we’re going to. But it’s time to quit just talking about it. It’s time to go out there and do it. 


To say the least. The Padres have scored the sixth-fewest runs in baseball, just five more than the woeful Athletics, despite having a star-studded lineup and a $250 million payroll. 

– Please, enough is enough. The Angels are NOT trading Shohei Ohtani. The only chance to get him is when he hits free agency in November. 

– You wonder why more players are willing to wear a two-way mic and go on live TV during national broadcasts? 

Well, players must be paid $10,000 for each appearance during the regular season and $15,000 in the postseason, under the CBA. 

Their comments will also be screened, with the networks obligated to scrub any controversial remarks that would ’embarrass, be prejudicial to, detrimental to, or critical of, Major League Baseball, the Players Association, the individual wearing the microphone, players, fans or umpires, include any profanity … or likely would be construed as inflammatory.’

– The Giants’ LaMonte Wade says he was stunned that Hall of Famer Willie Mays even knew his name when he asked to talk to him during his visit to the Giants’ clubhouse on his 92nd birthday. 

‘I still can’t believe it,’ Wade tells USA TODAY Sports. ‘I’m on the training table one minute and talking to Willie Mays the next with Barry Bonds right behind him. We were able to talk hitting. As soon as I was done, I called my dad, and he said, ‘Did you get some pictures?’ 

‘Man, I wish I did, but believe me, I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.’ 

– Bizarre scheduling. The St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs, who played their first games against one another this past week, don’t play a single game against one another after July 30. It’s a shame for this great rivalry. 

– The San Diego Padres could use a catcher with Luis Campusano out for two months after undergoing thumb ligament surgery. The Chicago White Sox would gladly trade one-time Padre Yasmani Grandal. 

– San Francisco Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper says that he actually has a bat from every teammate he played with during his 12-year career, collecting them along the way. He’s not sure what he plans to do with all of them, but he figures he has at least 150 bats, complete with their numbers written on the bat knobs. 

– It’s stunning to see the turnaround with Orioles reliever Yennier Cano. He had an 11.50 ERA last season with the Twins and Orioles, has now given up just four hits without a walk in 19⅔ shutout innings this year, a 0.203 WHIP. 

The dude has thrown 220 pitches. 

The barrel percentage by hitters in those pitches? Zero. 

– The best-kept secret is the Marlins’ sensational bullpen, which is the reason they are 12-0 in one-run games, which are the most consecutive one-run victories to open a season in baseball history. They lost 40 one-run games a year ago, just four shy of the single-season record for one-run losses since the Live Ball Era in 1920. 

– White Sox manager Pedro Grifol, when asked why they had a team meeting Friday: ‘We’re 13-26. Maybe that’s the reason.’

They proceeded to lose and now are 14-27 entering Sunday. 

– This could be the first time in baseball history that every team in a division will produce a winning record. Take a bow, AL East. 

– Congratulations to Red Sox closer Kenley Jansen, who has been given up by two different teams in the past two seasons, and now just produced his 400th career save. 

Jansen is making his way to a possible spot place in Cooperstown, becoming only the seventh pitcher to produce 400 saves, to go along with his 20 postseason saves, three All-Star appearances and a World Series title on his resume. 

– The Colorado Rockies, whose starting rotation is as thin as their air in Denver, are now without their top two starters with German Marquez (Tommy John surgery) and Antonio Senzatela (sprained elbow) for all or most of the season. They had little choice but to grab Rays starter Chase Anderson off waivers. 

– Los Angeles Dodgers star Mookie Betts became the latest player to believe in ghosts at the historic Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, and instead stayed at a local Airbnb with friends rather. 

– Should anyone be surprised that the Oakland A’s are now in their second binding agreement in three weeks trying to get a stadium in Las Vegas, this time trying to build a place near the Tropicana resort, with $395 million in public funding instead of $500 million? 

– Time to update those passports: 

In 2024, the Padres and Dodgers are playing a two-game series in South Korea or Japan. 

The Astros and Rockies are playing in Mexico City. 

The Mets and Phillies are playing in London. 

– The Royals already are listening to teams who have expressed interested in veteran closer Aroldis Chapman, but expect to keep him until the trade deadline. 

– Well, if nothing else, the A’s have slugger Brent Rooker to keep their minds off their losing ways. 

Rooker, 28, leads the major leagues with a 1.091 OPS and .667 slugging percentage, and is tied for the American League lead with 11 home runs. 

He has been quite the find after being cast aside by the Twins, Padres and Royals, and now has found a home as the A’s everyday DH. 

– Tampa Bay Rays magic: The White Sox released veteran reliever Jake Diekman after yielding a 7.94 ERA the first month of the season, went home to Nebraska, and got a call from the Rays, asking if he’d come over to replace injured Garrett Cleavinger. 

Diekman, with the White Sox still responsible for all but the pro-rated $720,000 of his $3.5 million contract, jumped on a plane, joined the Rays in New York and promptly pitched a scoreless inning in his debut against the Yankees. 

‘I feel very rejuvenated to be here,’ he told reporters. ‘It’s better than mowing my yard back home. Spending six, seven days at home, I was getting very bored.’  

– Remember when the Pirates were the talk of the National League with their league-leading 20-8 record? 

Well, reality has since arrived, losing 10 of 11.

They have hit a league-low .181 during their slide, including .133 with runners in scoring position, after hitting .312 with runners in scoring position the first 28 games. 

– Baseball lost two scouting legends this past week with the passing of Dave Yoakum, 76, and Deacon Jones, 89, two of the nicest men you’ll ever meet. 

Certainly, their passing is a reminder of the beautiful advice from brilliant reporter Sarah Langs, who was diagnosed last year with ALS. 

‘Think about the people in your life who help you on a daily basis, make you happy, whatever it may be,’ Langs told Jayson Stark and Doug Glanville on their podcast. ‘Make sure you’re explaining to them how important that is, because you want to be able to share that with them while they can still appreciate it. Overwhelm them like I’m overwhelmed.’ 


Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale 

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