After Buster Posey retired, Brandon Crawford sometimes joked that -- while Brandon Belt technically had been in the big leagues longer -- Crawford really was the longest-tenured Giant because of how much time Belt had spent on the Injured List. This year, there's no competition for Crawford. It's actually not even close.
The second longest-tenured Giant is Austin Slater, who debuted in 2017 after Crawford already had won two World Series, two Gold Gloves and played more than 800 games for his hometown team. Change has come quickly at Oracle Park, and heading into his 13th season, Crawford is the last one standing from a familiar group of infielders.
Posey is now one of his bosses. Belt is a Toronto Blue Jay. Evan Longoria is an Arizona Diamondback, along with another close friend, Madison Bumgarner. Brian Sabean is back in New York and Bruce Bochy is back in a dugout, managing the Texas Rangers.
For all that is unrecognizable about the current Giants, one thing remains the same. On Opening Day, Crawford will jog out to shortstop for the team he grew up rooting for.
The Giants tried to change that over the offseason, pursuing Carlos Correa, which would have nudged Crawford to third. Of all of their mistakes over the winter, failing to adequately keep Crawford in the loop during all of that was near the very top, but in the end, Crawford remained at short, and he's hopeful that a bounce-back season is coming.
Crawford turned 36 last month but has no plans to slow down. As he caught up on the phone Friday morning, he was driving to Scottsdale Stadium, ready to get one more workout and hitting session in before flying back to the Bay Area for the first FanFest in four years.
Here are his thoughts on what has changed for the Giants, that odd offseason, what his future holds and more:
Q: You're headed to the facility right now, which is something you couldn't do last offseason because of the lockout. How big of a difference is it to just have a normal offseason routine again?
Brandon Crawford: "I think it's a huge difference just from a baseball standpoint. The weight lifting and conditioning and stuff like that, the facility might not have been quite as nice as what I was used to, but I was still able to get everything done last year from that standpoint. But baseball wise, it was really hard to be able to get on a field and take batting practice or do long toss or do some of the groundball work that I would [usually] do at one of our facilities.
"This year, I've been able to do all that and hit with our coaches, which is another big thing that I wasn't able to do last year. They can see where my swing is at and go from there. Also, it's good having our strength coach and trainers so that if anything pops up, they're able to have eyes on me and I can work with them."
Q: You've said in the past it takes a while to get your swing where you want it to be in the spring. Is it more important than anything else right now to just have that ability to go hit with your Giants coaches every day?
BC: "Yeah, I think that's big. I feel like I was just going off of my feel for my swing last offseason and just assuming that it was going to go back to how it was in '21. I think I started getting into some bad habits without having our coaches seeing some things and picking up those things that I was creating.
"I think it's definitely a big deal that I've been able to hit with Justin [Viele] all offseason. Sometimes it takes a little while for me in the spring, that's more timing-based than the actual swing, just facing live pitching again."
Q: Your defense in September was about as good as it's been, but the rest of the year wasn't up to the usual standard we've seen. Was it just a matter of getting healthy or did something else click?
BC: "No, I think it was just getting healthy. Obviously the collision at home plate kind of jarred my knee a little bit and I thought the 10 days or whatever that I was on the IL initially was going to be enough, and after playing about a game and a half on it I realized it probably wasn't. I was still feeling it pretty good.
"That second IL stint was a little bit longer and being able to play a couple of rehab games to make sure that it was feeling better, I think that was a lot smarter and we probably should have done that the first time. But I felt a lot better after that.
"In August and September, defensively I was a lot better, and I was actually just talking about this yesterday with Justin Viele and one of our analysts -- my hitting numbers were also better, whether or not the traditional average, homers and RBIs were up. My barrel rate was better, my hard-hit percentage was better. I think [the injury] definitely played a major part in some of the struggles from last year on both sides of the ball."
Q: For the entire team, poor defense obviously tanked the season a little bit. How can you guys make sure that doesn't happen again?
BC: "I think it's just making the plays that we're supposed to make, not worrying about the spectacular play or trying to do too much with the ball. It's just kind of secure the ball and get the outs that you're supposed to get. I think with the potential of our lineup to score runs, by just securing the ball and getting the outs that we're supposed to, we're going to score enough runs to be able to win a lot of games."
Q: What stands out to you the most about the group of free agents that was brought in?
BC: "Our starting pitching depth is, I think, as good as I've seen. I feel like we have seven capable starting pitchers this year, which I can't remember many years where we could say that. We have at least seven, I think. I'm excited to see what they can do.
"And Michael Conforto was a really good player a few years ago before his injury. I know he's excited to get back out on the field, and we're excited to see what he can do for us."
Q: It's been almost two months since one of the most awkward nights of your career. Now that the whole Carlos Correa thing is done, how do you look back on what happened?
BC: "At this point, it is what it is. He's with the Twins. I understand what we were trying to do from a baseball standpoint. Like I said, it is what it is at this point."
Q: What was your reaction to Brandon Belt signing with the Blue Jays?
BC: "I'm happy for him. He's going to a playoff team from last year that has a lot of really good players around him. He told me that it's going to be mostly a DH role for him, so hopefully that kind of keeps his knee healthy, and we know what he can do when that knee is healthy from the offensive and defensive side. If he's just DH'ing, obviously on the offensive side we saw what he can do in '21. And he gets to go to a hitters' park for once, so that's nice for him.
"I'm obviously sad to see him go from the Giants because we've played our whole career together. But that's baseball sometimes."
Q: Were you surprised that it was Toronto specifically?
BC: "I didn't really have an idea of if he wasn't coming back with us, where he was going to go. I think a lot of people probably thought maybe Texas because he's from there and with Boch being over there now, maybe they would bring him in. But they've spent a pretty good amount of money the last couple of years on free agents. I didn't really have an idea of where he was going to go. He told a couple of us a day or two before it was announced that he was going to go there."
Q: You've never played a season without him, what are you going to miss about him on the field or in the clubhouse?
BC: "His goofiness in the clubhouse, for sure. You've gotten to know him well over the past 12 years or so -- there's not many people like Brandon Belt. We'll definitely miss that in the clubhouse, and then I always loved having him at first base. Nothing against whoever is over there for us this year, but he helped me out many, many times, whether scooping the ball or jumping up and grabbing it or giving me a good stretch to get a guy out at first. I'll definitely miss that, but hopefully not too much because I think our guys will be good."
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Q: Buster retired, Brandon is in Toronto, Evan was here a sneaky-long time -- and all of those guys are gone. Have you sensed a change or do you anticipate a big change in the clubhouse?
BC: "Something like this happens every year, whether it's Buster retiring or Belt and Longo moving on. There's always at least some piece that you're not going to have back from the year before. There's Donovan Solano or somebody like that -- they played a big role on our team and now they're on to another team.
"I don't think you can necessarily sense a change yet just because we don't have our whole roster down here yet. I normally wouldn't be seeing Belt in the offseason yet, but I'm sure we'll feel it whether it's spring training or the start of the season or whenever. We'll miss him and Evan and that veteran presence and leadership that they have, but that's part of baseball and you sign a few guys that step up and fill that role."
Q: This is Year 13 and it's also the last year of your contract. How much have you thought about your future beyond this season?
BC: "There's definitely been some thought. I wouldn't say I have an answer one way or the other on what I want to do. There's definitely been some talk and I've thought about it for sure, but yeah, I wouldn't be able to give you an answer right now."