Every National League Championship Series produces stellar effort, epic plays, and a Most Valuable Player, and this one, between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, will be no exception. Because these two teams have already danced to this music before, in 2012, they know the steps well.
It is generally recognized that on the Giants, the three candidates most likely to land this award, should the outcome of the NLCS warrant it, are Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Hunter Pence, not necessarily in that order.
Each has stepped up his game at crucial junctures, not only in earlier playoffs, but in the current set as well. In 2014 Posey is batting .360, Sandoval tied the marathon game in the ninth inning by doubling, with two outs, and Pence made a catch in the bottom of the sixth inning of the finale, that was so scintillating, it helped keep the stadium’s equilibrium a little more stable, shortly afterward in the top of the seventh, when Bryce Harper clobbered a ball into the Cove.
All of this being acknowledged, and recognizing that the big stage is always the setting for players of any caliber, to step up and imprint a game or a series, with his stamp of achievement, consider Brandon Crawford.
September 9, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (35, center) forces out Colorado Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer (3) as Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro (19) looks on during the sixth inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Crawford plays shortstop, a position designed to frustrate even the best of players, because it is so easy to look inept. For all of his flash and dazzle, Crawford led the league in errors, at one point, fairly late in the season, and that was still OK. What Crawford accomplishes on a daily basis, in terms of run-saving plays, more than compensates for his number of E-6’s.
In baseball, however, greatness is generally rewarded when it involves offense, such as Buster Posey’s slam off of Mat Latos, Pence’s home run off of Adam Wainwright in a losing effort, or Sandoval’s three home runs in Game One of the 2012 World Series. That is not going to change.
Brandon Crawford is no stranger to big offensive fireworks.
Crawford has set the bar for achievement in future wild card games, impossibly high.
He burst onto the MLB stage with a grand slam in his first game as a Giant, and he complementedMadison Bumgarner
’s attempt to silence the frenetic Pittsburgh crowd, in the wild card showdown on October 1st, by hitting a grand slam that will forever set the bar for sterling accomplishments, impossibly high.
Crawford’s roots lie deep, if you remember that photo of him at age five, in the San Francisco Chronicle, appearing downcast at the thought of the Giants moving to Florida. Now he has the opportunity to share his appreciation of their presence in the City by the Bay, by stepping up once-or twice-again, and doing something extraordinary.
Why Crawford? Why not? Still waters run deep, deeper than the bottom of McCovey Cove. Crawford doesn’t have to deposit a ball in the water, in order to make a splash, just perform one of his routine miracles, by spearing a scorching ground ball, headed to the gap, and starting a 6-4-3 double play, with the bases loaded, two outs, and the tying and winning runs on second and third base.
Is that good enough?
Sep 7, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (35) at bat against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports