SEAside Thoughts: Oh Captain My Captain!

Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners
Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

As the Seattle Mariners continue to wreak havoc on the American League, winners of SEVEN in a row, and are hunting down Houston and Toronto for one of the final wildcard spots, there is plenty of credit to go around. The pitching staff has been the backbone of this team, putting together one of the best rotations and bullpens in all of baseball, with ten pitchers currently sporting an ERA+ above 110. The young offensive stars in Cal Raleigh and Julio Rodriguez, the face of the franchise, have turned a corner in the second half and have provided plenty of star power to the lineup. What I wanted to talk about today though is the heart of this baseball team, John Paul Crawford. 

JP Crawford arrived in Seattle as a 24 year old former top prospect in Philadelphia that just couldn’t get the Phillies to fully buy in, even though he only played in 72 games over two seasons. Acquired in a trade for a certain former Mariner who wore out his welcome, Crawford has been a part of the Jerry Dipoto Mariners rebuild since its inception. From the 55-92 stretch in 2019, to helping break the longest playoff drought in North American sports last year, JP has seen all the good and the bad. His journey, much like the teams he’s played for, has been up and down, but the promise was always there. 

We saw JP win a gold glove in the shortened 2020 season, and there were hints as something more to his offensive game in 2021. This was forgotten by many (including myself) as JP struggled through the 2022 season on both offense and defense. What people tend to forget was that JP was battling multiple injuries last year, and it really made Crawford a singles or bust player.

 2023 has been not just a different story, but a revelation for Crawford and the Mariners franchise. Through 106 games, JP is slashing .268/.382/.415 with a career best 10 home runs to go with an OPS+ of 126. By most metrics, JP has been the best shortstop in the American League not named Bo Bichette. This year, we’ve seen not just an improved player, but a true star in the game at one of the sport’s most important positions. How did this happen? 

This career altering season is thanks in large part to three main factors: being pissed off, committing to Seattle, and Driveline. 

In an interview during spring training with’s Daniel Kramer, JP talked about how pissed off he was after the Mariners heartbreaking loss in the ALDS to their rivals the Houston Astros. “I’m still pissed off about it,” Crawford said. “We were so close and just thinking about how close we were, it hurts even more. You go into all your workouts in the offseason with that chip on your shoulder and just want to get back out there and just get going again.”

Instead of his usual offseason program in California, Crawford stayed in Seattle and opened up his offensive game to baseball scientists at Driveline Academy. There, under the tutelage of hitting trainer Maxx Garrett, JP was able to specifically improve the power he is able to generate from his lower half. This lower body half adjustment combined with good health this year has led to a substantial increase in power as well as a confidence and swagger that has his 5 year $55 million dollar extension last year looking like a massive bargain compared to some of the contracts we saw handed out this winter. 

While his offense, defense, and clutch performance have been an absolute pleasure to watch, it may be his leadership for this team that stand out the most this season. This team really has some great dudes, between Cal Raleigh and Geno’s “good vibes”, but JP is the captain of this team. During the team’s epic burying of the Anaheim Angels last week, there was a moment in game two where the Halos threatened to come back, down 9-7 in the 9th. Talented, but volatile Matt Brash allowed the first two hitters to get on base, with the GOAT Shohei Ohtani coming to the plate. With the crowd roaring and breathing down Brash’s neck, time was called and it was JP Crawford that came to the mound to calm Brash down and get him prepared for the moment. Less than a few minutes later, Brash made Ohtani look silly on just three pitches, and retired three Halos in a row to get the save. The very next night in the 8th inning with the Mariners being threatened yet again in a 3-1 game, it was JP who bailed out Brash with a diving one handed snag and glove toss to second base to get the slick double-play to end not just the Angels’ last threat, but likely their season. Back in the dugout, Brash tried to grab Crawford to tell him thank you for saving him, but Jp wanted none of it, and you could clearly see him praising and leading Brash. 

JP knows that, with Paul Sewald no longer there, Brash will have to grow up quickly in his new set up role, as this team appears to be charging towards another date with October. That sentence I just wrote is a testament to the grit and leadership of JP Crawford. This team looked dead in the water countless times, and countless times JP did just enough to keep this team afloat. Now, they’ve won seven straight, have gone 10-1-1 in their past 12 series, and may just be the best trade deadline seller I’ve ever seen. 

This past winter, I wrote numerous articles on how JP needs to move to 2nd base (he will likely still need to do that before his contract is up) or I put him in countless trade proposals. I gave up on him, and I was dead wrong. I know it’s considered unusual in baseball to see that letter “C” on a baseball jersey for a team captain, but considering everything JP has been through here in Seattle and how much he means to this team, I truly believe that he deserves that “C” on his chest. 

At some point the Mariners are going to win their first American League pennant, and their first World Series title, and I 100% believe that JP will be there on that stage for the trophy presentation. Let’s make sure that the whole world see that big fat “C” on his chest when his lifts those trophies. 

Go M’s!