Did you see it? Did you see the throw that electrified fans of the Seattle Mariners and fans of middle-infield defensive excellence across the league?
If so, you already know how amazing it was. If not, it’s an absolute must-watch throw by Mariners starting shortstop J.P. Crawford to first base. It is routine in almost every way, except for how Crawford, who wasn’t on the ground, somehow managed to get the ball across the diamond with enough accuracy and velocity to complete the out.
Whether it’s for the first time or the hundredth, do yourself a favor and take a few seconds to watch this magical moment.
Now that you’re presumably in a state of delighted awe, let’s dig into how this extraordinary feat came to pass, beginning, of course, with the fresh-faced, 24-year old at the center of the action: J.P. Crawford.
Originally drafted in the first round (16th pick) of the 2013 draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, Crawford clearly showed promise early on. He was promoted to the Phillies in 2017 and played 23 games before returning in 2018 to play 49 games. Then, during the 2019 offseason, Crawford was traded by the Phillies, along with Carlos Santana, to our rebuilding Mariners for Juan Nicasio, James Pazos, and Jean Segura.
I remember when this trade was originally announced, and as well as Segura played last season, he also seemed like a divisive figure on the team (locker-room squabble last September!) and I was happy to see him leave and for Crawford and Santana to arrive.
Then, as the 2019 season got underway, Santana popped at the plate (not so much in the outfield) while Crawford developed on the Marines’ Triple-A affiliate, the Tacoma Rainiers before being called up to the team in May. Since coming back from an injury on June 14th, he’s only missed one game, and during that time, he’s been a reliable #2 hitter in the lineup and defensive force on the diamond, clearly.
So, back to the throw.
The Detroit Tigers were in town for a 4-game series at T-Mobile Park. The game was tied 2-2 in the 9th inning and Jeimer Candelario came up to bat with empty bases and two outs. On his second pitch from Roenis Elías, Candelario hit a smoking grounder toward the gap between Kyle Seager at third and Crawford at short, forcing an immediate reaction from the young player.
Quickly ranging to his right, Crawford had to go into a backhanded dive of sorts, briefly ending up on his knees before popping up to attempt his throw. This is where the baseball magic kicks in. Without fully standing to plant his legs, Crawford launches himself into the air off one foot, twists his torso toward the other side of the infield, and unleashes an absolute laser to first baseman, Austin Nola’s outstretched glove. Like I said before, the accuracy and velocity of Crawford’s throw will leave you flabbergasted.
After the game, Nola was asked about the play from his perspective. “It was unbelievable. It just came out of nowhere. I was surprised at how much juice it had on the throw. I’ve never seen a throw like that. I’m going to rewatch it and see how it really played out because when I saw the ball, I was just really focused on stretching as hard as I can.”
Now, during a dismal season overall, why is this lightning-in-a-bottle moment so significant? To me, there are two critical reasons to highlight this act of defensive wizardry.
First, this was J.P. Crawford putting the Mariners and the rest of the MLB on notice that he’s a legit shortstop to watch. In fact, the MLB featured the play on Instagram and ranked it among the week’s best. Crawford is the real deal, and for a team actively rebuilding its roster, this kind of moment signals the solidification of a key position.
Second, it signifies the viability of a forthcoming team that Jerry Dipoto has been working on all this time. The future of the Mariners’ franchise doesn’t rest entirely on Crawford’s shoulders, obviously, but this moment is exactly what we want to see from a team under construction. It’s not all there yet, but every spark of brilliance today demonstrates the genuine fire of potential tomorrow.
It’s easy to imagine a compelling version of the nightly lineup that leads off with Mallox Smith, follows with Crawford and Mitch Haniger, and then has Daniel Vogelback hitting clean-up, driving these guys in with a steady-stream of vogelbombs.
Go back and watch Crawford’s throw a few more times, just for good measure, and try to picture how well he fits in an upcoming Mariners lineup. Goodness, what a vision!