Here is a Seattle Mariner making me happy:
Granted, it’s not the sort of happiness that lasts: robbing a single in the ninth inning would have extra weight behind it if the game was between two genuine playoff contenders. But this game was between the Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers, and any joy either of those two teams might unearth is almost definitionally unsustainable. These are two baseball teams designed to inflict sadness, and any role-reversal is always a little bit uncomfortable.
But even the most miserable teams are capable of producing highlights. In the absence of hope, in the mire of a decade of fandom-nihilism, highlights are sometimes enough to create the illusion of it all being worth it. And this from J.P. Crawford, friends, is one hell of a highlight.
Jeimer Candelario has an 80-grade name, which, unfortunately, still leaves him as a zero-tool player. Even the fillers who populate the Tiger/Mariner/Oriole/etc. meta-roster are capable of doing damage, however, and here Candelario smoked a one-hopper into the hole left of short.
The diving catch was unimpressive, the sort of play any baseball fan sees so often it’s easy to forget the perpetrator has done something that would cost the typical human about three torn muscles and an embarrassing faceplant. But the throw? That was something special.
Candelario isn’t slow: Statcast has his sprint speed at right about MLB average. Crawford made a clean pick, but in doing so found himself gently tumbling into short left field. Getting up, setting his feet, and firing to first would have eaten up too much time. His only choice was to pull off an accurate, strong, no-look, off-balance throw. Or, in other words, a miracle.
Which is what he did.
Without his legs set, Crawford had to flip himself over in midair to get any power on his throw. Like a mediaeval siege weapon, albeit one with rather more flailing legs than is customary, the shortstop tumbled across his own center of mass before catapulting the ball to Austin Nola at first base. It wasn’t exactly a rocket, but it was enough to catch Candelario, who was beaten to the bag by about an eighth of a step.
Roenis Elias celebrated, as well he should; the rest of the team paid tribute to their shortstop by winning the game in the bottom of the ninth. The win itself doesn’t matter: Seattle is 15.5 games back of the wild card and, thanks to the incompetence of the Tigers, essentially out of contention for the first overall pick in next year’s draft.
But no matter where the Mariners go from here, and no matter how the rest of J.P. Crawford’s career pans out, he still produced the sort of moment which warm summer dreams are made of. It’s the sort of moment that makes the futile plod of hopeless baseball feel (almost!) rewarding.