Reporting from ORACLE PARK
He rose from rooting on the San Francisco Giants as a child from rickety, Candlestick Park seats to donning their uniform for more than a decade.
He blasted a grand slam in his MLB debut. He’s played hero after crushing crucial walk-off homers.
He’s kept spectators ooh-ing and aah-ing after highlight reel plays that earned four National League Gold Glove awards, leaving opponents shaking their heads – if lucky, they’ll give a tip of the cap, too.
He’s played in two All-Star Games and twice racked up MVP votes in separate seasons – most recently, in 2021, when an unlikely late-career resurgence led his club to a franchise-best 107 regular season victories.
Above all, he’s celebrated on the infield during two World Series championships during a time which could only be described as the greatest era in Giants history.
All of this was accomplished by Brandon Crawford, the shortstop of the San Francisco Giants – a childhood dream well lived. Crawford said:
“A dream come true’ doesn’t quite cover it. Pretending to be Giants players in the backyard –– growing up, coming to games. The dream was to play for the Giants, not necessarily to win a couple of World Series and be here for 13 years. Some of the things I’ve been able to accomplish while on the Giants, I never even dreamed about. Just definitely grateful for the experience and opportunity.”
An argument could be made – a more than reasonable one – that Crawford, equipped with never-ruffled, always-curly hair and lead-by-example professionalism, is the greatest shortstop in the history of the franchise.
Now a shell of his glory days at 36, and a pending free agent for the first time, Crawford played what could possibly be his final game with the orange and black during Sunday’s 5-2 loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It could also be the last of his big league career, though he’s still not ready to share his future plans.
Before starting at shortstop and hitting leadoff, Crawford’s memorable afternoon began by signing autographs near the Giants dugout, a tradition he’s been consistent with throughout his career. Prior to the lineups being exchanged, his family appeared on the field with each of his four children throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
As the game started, Crawford – the type to often brush aside any hint of attention –– took the field alone as the other eight on the field stayed behind to maximize the ovation from a packed Oracle Park. Crawford received another ovation in his first at-bat and doffed his batting helmet to the crowd.
Crawford received one more round applause from the home crowd when interim manager Kai Correa walked to the mound to remove him from the game. After receiving hugs on the mound, Crawford departed off the field to a monumental ovation.
When asked if he was able to put the moment into words, Crawford said he couldn’t:
“A little overwhelming. Probably (will) take some time to process all of it. It’s just a lot of love and I appreciate all of it. “
Crawford’s place in Giants history is not just an All-Star, world champion shortstop, but a premier member of a crop of homegrown talent San Francisco was producing seemingly every season.
Since the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958, Crawford ranks fourth in games played (1,654) behind Barry Bonds, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey – not bad company by any standards. He’s 13th in homers (146), seventh in runs scored (669), fifth in RBI (744) and eighth in fWAR (31.2). And though defensive metrics don’t share his entire story, Crawford’s 56 defensive runs saved rank him third all-time in franchise history behind Buster Posey and Pedro Feliz.
Although his future is unkown, Crawford said he plans to chat with his family about the decison on whether or not to continue playing. He noted some regrets on how the season went:
“There are a lot of parts I didn’t enjoy, unfortunately, this year, but that’s baseball. You fail a lot in this game. Failing isn’t very fun. That’s probably partially why I haven’t made a decision yet. This this year is far from how I pictured it going, whether it was like going on the IL or just not playing well. Just not kind of how I pictured to go out.”
Outside of Crawford, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, the Giants played flat in their final game of the season and weren’t able to generate much offense against rookie Bobby Miller, who cruised through four scoreless frames. With a postseason appearance upcoming for the Dodgers, they weren’t in a position to push Miller and turned to their bullpen in the fifth inning.
Casey Schmitt provided the only two runs of the game for San Francisco with a frozen rope homer to left in the sixth, his fourth of the year, to make it a 5-1 game and ensure the Giants wouldn’t end the season with a shutout.
The rookie third baseman stepped up again in the eighth and launched his second homer of the game into the left field bleachers. It marked his first career multi-homer game of his career – both swings were majestic with the first blast coming off the bat at a scorching 109.3 mph. The second swing was just as deadly – 106.3 mph off the bat.
Left-hander Kyle Harrison made his final start of the season and worked five hitless innings with four strikeouts. He struggled with his command, hitting three Dodgers and walking two. He finishes the season with 35 strikeouts and 11 walks in 34-2/3 innings thrown in seven starts at the big league level.
On his offseason plans, Harrison said he’s looking to add strength:
“The main thing is I want to get stronger and build up to maintain – I want to be like Webby going out there, six innings at a time and build about 200 innings. Really just going to pound the weight room, take a little break and just take a look at my arsenal.”
It wasn’t great for the Giants bullpen. John Brebbia and Taylor Rogers combined for five earned runs allowed in just two-thirds of an inning. Brebbia allowed RBI singles to Ahmed Rosario and James Outman while Rogers surrendered the big killer – a three-run shot off the bat of Kike Hernandez to top a five-run sixth inning.
With a final record of 79-83, the Giants embark on an offseason full of question marks from the front office to the talent displayed on the field. After dismissing manager Gabe Kapler ahead of Friday’s opener against the Dodgers, they’ll be on the hunt for another manager, too.
Crawford was activated off the injured list to make the start at shortstop on Sunday, which meant Heliot Ramos was the position player optioned to Triple-A Sacramento to make room for him on the roster.
Steven Rissotto has covered the San Francisco Giants for SFBay since 2021. He is the host of RizzoCast, a baseball interview show featuring players, coaches, media and fans. He attends San Francisco State University and will major in Journalism and minor in education.