Trio of Mariners recognized for 2021 efforts

France, Flexen and Crawford acknowledged by the Baseball Writers' Association of America

October 2nd, 2021

SEATTLE -- has been a beacon of consistency and production all season long, and his once uncertain glove also took a huge step forward, making him one of the Mariners’ most valuable players in this 2021 season that has them on the cusp of the playoffs.

Seattle’s first baseman was formally recognized for his efforts by being named the Mariners’ MVP as voted on by the Seattle chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. earned the club’s pitcher of the year award and -- the “heart and soul” of the team, as worded by manager Scott Servais -- received the unsung hero award.

All three were honored on the field with an individual plaque ahead of Friday’s game against the Angels, which opened the Mariners’ final series of the regular season.

For France, the recognition underscored just how vital a member he’s become to Seattle’s long-term position-player nucleus -- and in his first full Major League season. He wasn’t one of the homegrown prospects, but rather, a highly coveted trade acquisition from the Padres ahead of the 2020 Trade Deadline. Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said at the time that he had made multiple efforts to acquire France before finally landing him.

“It’s definitely been a whirlwind, to be traded over here last year. They told me I was going to get every opportunity,” France said. “I’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They've given me that. I just ran with it, and where we are right now, it's been such a fun year and I'm very grateful for it.”

Entering Friday, France was flirting with a .300 season, hitting .293/.368/.446 with 18 homers, 73 RBIs and playing in all but the 10 games he missed in May due to a left wrist injury. Since returning from the IL for that issue, his .312 batting average ranks 10th in MLB, his .379 on-base percentage 15th, his 139 wRC+ (league average is 100) is tied for 19th (with Giancarlo Stanton) and his 86 hits lead the American League. He also might earn consideration for a Gold Glove Award, ranking third among AL first basemen with plus-four defensive runs saved.

Flexen, only one year removed from making himself over in the Korean Baseball Organization, has easily been the Mariners’ most consistent starting pitcher, but also quietly one of the best in the AL. Seattle is 21-9 behind the righty -- a .700 win percentage that is the AL’s highest among qualified starters. Entering Friday, his 3.67 ERA ranks seventh in the AL, his 174 1/3 innings rank sixth and his 3.1 WAR ranks tied for ninth, per FanGraphs. It’s possible that the 26-year-old earns down-ballot Cy Young Award votes.

Crawford, who has emerged as a prominent clubhouse leader, might’ve had a case for team MVP, too. He’s hit .273/.336/.378 and has played in all but two games this season. The reigning AL Gold Glove Award winner’s defense has also been just as solid as last year.

“J.P., after getting off to a slow start, has been phenomenal getting on base,” Servais said. “He's shifted the field and how he hits in his approach to hitting, and he's really matured.”

First sellout this late since 2001-02

The Mariners welcomed a packed house for Friday’s series opener, their first sellout since Opening Day in 2019. However, the Mariners hadn’t had this many fans in the stands -- 46,841, to be exact -- this late in the season since the club’s ticket data began tracking in 2006, per Mariners PR, meaning they haven’t had a sellout in a final homestand since at least their runs in 2001-02, when they sold out virtually every night.

The club also announced that both Saturday and Sunday’s games had exceeded 40,000 in ticket sales, with the few seats left available going quickly.

T-Mobile Park began the season with a 9,000-fan limit due to COVID-19 restrictions in Washington state before going to full capacity on July 2. The highest attended game in 2021 before Friday was a 5-4 walk-off win over Oakland on July 24, which was during peak summer with schools out and the state’s health and safety restrictions fully lifted.