J.P. Crawford’s first career grand slam came during an important game for him.
You see the team wearing the uniforms that honor the Steelheads, Seattle’s Negro Leagues team, on June 19, 2021, the first year that America celebrated Juneteenth as a federal holiday. After the game, J.P. told the AP, “It hit me a little differently today with everything going on with Juneteenth and wearing those jerseys. It was just so special to me.” He took the jersey home and framed it.
J.P. might only hit a handful of home runs a year, but he’s had a knack from hitting some pretty big ones like that. My personal favorite is when he gave a not-so-fond farewell to seeing the Houston Astro version of Justin Verlander.
On Wednesday, he had every reason to be amped up again. This week’s series was J.P.’s first in Philadelphia since the team traded him away.
Of course, returning to the stadium of the team that traded you doesn’t have to be acrimonious; Toronto was thrilled to see Teoscar Hernández back this weekend.
Toronto welcomes Teoscar back pic.twitter.com/bPz3WZhU0u— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) April 28, 2023
By contrast, the Phillies and J.P. Crawford have a tortured relationship. Having been their first-round pick in 2013, he shot through the system and entered 2017 as a top-ten prospect. But he disappointed in his first taste of the show. Limited by injuries to merely 225 plate appearances in his first two years, he hit just .214/.333/.358 and had some ugly misplays in the field. It got to the point where they were benching him for, I kid you not, Scott Kingery.
For those of you wondering about J.P. Crawford, I asked Kapler about him yesterday. They seem to have very little, if any, confidence in him right now.— Ben Harris (@byBenHarris) September 11, 2018
The "And do we get to that situation" says to me "we may never get that desperate"... which says a lot. pic.twitter.com/m0lhQpjCJj
The Mariners pounced. On a January 2019 episode of his podcast, Jerry Dipoto detailed the first steps of the 2018-2021 rebuild. Each member of the front office got a piece of paper with 25 blank slots and was told to dream big for the new version of the team. As he tells it, virtually every person at the table filled out their card with J.P. Crawford’s name on it. They actualized that consensus by trading Jean Segura, Joaquin Benoit, and James Pazos to Philadelphia for Crawford and Carlos Santana.
The change of scenery helped J.P. blossom. He won a Gold Glove, turned into an above-average hitter, and became an unofficial team captain and a fan favorite. It reset his attitude too.
JP Crawford talked about being in a dark place in his baseball career during his final months with the Phillies. He said coming to Seattle was a breath of fresh air.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) April 8, 2022
"Man, getting traded was the best thing that's ever happened to me."
J.P. told Daniel Kramer that he didn’t feel anything coming back to Philadelphia, but Tuesday’s stolen base, an uncommon thing for the shortstop to try, tells a different story.
There was certainly no love lost in the stands at Citizens Bank Park. I’m told that the broadcast didn’t pick it up, but the stadium was loudly booing Crawford when he came up to bat in the second inning of Wednesday’s game. Imagine if the Mariners had traded Jarred Kelenic this offseason for four years of an everyday player, and Jarred went on to be a 2-3 WAR player for an NL team. Would T-Mobile Park boo him upon his return? I doubt it. Philly sports fans, on the other hand, the people who threw hot dogs at the Mariners outfielders, might be the most belligerent folks in baseball. If the Roman army went as hard as Philly sports fans do, we’d all be speaking Latin.
Even so, it’s shocking to see anyone boo J.P. Crawford; during his Mariners tenure, he’s been one of the easiest players to root for on a team chockablock with players who are easy to root for. Under those circumstances, J.P.’s second career grand slam must have been as sweet as his first.
That trade was a breath of fresh air for us too, J.P.