J.P. Crawford: Trade to Mariners ‘saved my career, saved my life’

Mar 16, 2024, 11:06 AM | Updated: 11:20 am

Seattle Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford firmly established himself as one of the best players in baseball last year, especially at his position.

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The 29-year-old infielder had a career year, slashing .266/.380/.438 (.818 OPS) with a career-high 19 home runs and an American League-leading 94 walks.

But getting to this point wasn’t always easy.

Crawford was a first-round draft pick in 2013 by the Philadelphia Phillies out of high school, and he quickly became one of baseball’s top prospects and made his MLB debut in 2017 at 22 years old. In parts of two seasons for the Phillies, Crawford struggled to the tune of a .692 OPS in 72 games and he was traded to Seattle after the 2018 season.

That trade ultimately was one of the best things to happen to Crawford, as he shared with Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob.

“Definitely a culture shock for me,” Crawford, who is from California, said of his time in Philadelphia. “I think for me, I had a hard time. The fans there are crazy. They’re ruthless, but they show a lot of love, too. But if you’re not going the way you want to go, which I started off terrible over there, it’s like you’re playing on the road 162 games of the year, and that’s not fun.”

That was especially tough to handle as a young player trying to establish himself at the MLB level. Some fans took things way too far with Crawford, too.

“You’re getting all these hate messages on social media. You try not to look at it, but I mean, how can you not?” he said. “And you have people saying ‘You better not walk your dog down this street,’ like stalker-type stuff. It just wasn’t fun for me over there.”

Now with the Mariners, it’s safe to say Crawford is having a lot more fun.

“Getting traded over here really saved my career, saved my life. So I’m really happy that happened,” he said.

Someone who played a key role in Crawford’s development is Perry Hill, the Mariners’ veteran infield coach who helped turn Crawford into a Gold Glover in 2020.

“Man, he saved it,” Crawford said of Hill when asked what he means to his career. “I mean, he fine-tuned some things at short for me and I took it right away and ran off with it. I wouldn’t be in this spot, wouldn’t have that Gold Glove without him. He’s really the best infield coach, coordinator, whatever you want to call him, I think the history of baseball has ever had.”

The Seattle Mariners’ offseason

It was a slow start for the Mariners this offseason when it came to notable additions.

Due to payroll constraints, the Mariners’ first moves were of the cost-cutting variety, letting Teoscar Hernandez walk without a qualifying offer and also making two trades to shed salary.

“I was watching everything. It’s part of my team and I want to see all the moves we make, see if we make a move or whatnot. And at first, I was probably like 90% of you guys like, ‘Hey man, what are we doing here? I mean, we’ve got to get better,'” Crawford said.

After that start, the Mariners did make some notable additions, signing designated hitter Mitch Garver and trading for outfielders Mitch Haniger and Luke Raley as well as second baseman Jorge Polanco. Crawford tipped his cap to president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto and general manager Justin Hollander for those moves.

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“Gve props to Jerry and Justin. They did a great job bringing this good group of guys in,” he said.

Crawford has liked seeing what those new faces bring to the table.

“From day one, all the guys we brought in, I mean, they bought into our program, they’re comfortable here. And these guys are competitors, man,” Crawford said. “It’s cool. It’s really cool to see Garver and Polanco and the way they carry themselves. They’re true professionals. Everyone that we brought in, they go out to work every day, their craft is unreal. It’s really cool to see and to bring all these good guys to a good group.”

Crawford’s time at Driveline

It’s been well documented by now that a big reason for Crawford’s career year in 2023 was due to him spending the previous offseason at Driveline, a high-level performance center in Kent that many MLB players frequent.

First off, how did Crawford wind up there?

“Honestly, Jerry Dipoto and Justin Hollander reached out to me because I stay up (in the Seattle area) during the offseason, and you know what? Why not do it?” he said. “And they offered it to me … I looked into it online and that was a good place to go, and I’m happy I did it.”

Going to Driveline, Crawford admitted he “didn’t know what to expect,” largely because Driveline initially was known as a place for pitchers to work out.

“I thought Driveline was just a place where pitchers go to throw harder. I didn’t know they had the offensive side of things,” Crawford said. “So then I did a little mo-cap test where you’re hitting in your boxers and all that weird, awkward stuff, and after that they gave you a presentation about areas where you could get better at. And then every day in the offseason, you work on something that you can get better at. They expose your weaknesses and you work on that and they hold you accountable. If they see you slacking, they’re gonna get on your butt. The quality of work you’re getting in is just unbeatable.”

Crawford used to be a guy who, he said, would “slap singles the other way.” After working with Driveline, he is hitting the ball harder and farther than ever before.

“I was doing the same thing you all were doing, like, ‘This is kind of cool,'” Crawford said of his extra pop at the plate.

Listen to the full conversation with J.P. Crawford at this link or in the video player at the top of this story.

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