SAN FRANCISCO — There are always several good candidates for the Willie Mac Award. This season, the clubhouse couldn’t decide between two respected team leaders.
For just the third time since the award was first handed out in 1980, two Giants were selected. Shortstop Brandon Crawford and reliever Javier Lopez tied atop the voting for the prestigious award, named for Willie McCovey. Crawford and Lopez, two pillars of the clubhouse, were first-time winners.
“It’s a huge honor for me to win this award, especially growing up a Giants fan,” Crawford said in a short speech. “Being up here with previous award winners makes it even more special for me. To win it with one of the best teammates I have ever played with, Javi, makes it special for me.”
Lopez smiled as he grabbed the microphone from Crawford, saying “I think he said it all.” He went on to thank McCovey.
“I’m honored to be a part of this club now,” Lopez said. “This is the only (uniform) that my kids have ever seen me wear. They were both World Series babies, so it’s worked out well. This is always going to be our home.”
Both players were joined on the field by family members.
Crawford, 29, might be the Giants' MVP this season. In his sixth year in the big leagues, Crawford is batting .272 with 12 homers and 83 RBI. He has played through several minor injuries to provide Gold Glove defense on a nightly basis. Crawford is second on the team in games played while handling one of the most demanding spots on the field. He has been a mentor for the young infielders in the organization, and on Thursday he was awarded the Giants’ “Heart and Hustle Award” for the second straight season.
The 39-year-old Lopez has been a steady force for a young bullpen that needed his leadership. During an up-and-down year for the relievers, one player after another has sought out Lopez for advice or a helping hand. In his seventh season with the Giants, Lopez has a 4.05 ERA in 68 appearances. He has held left-handed hitters to a .211 average and .634 OPS.
The Willie Mac Award is given annually to the most inspirational player on the Giants and is voted upon by players, coaches, medical staff and fans. The fact that players have such a huge role in the voting has always made it a special award in the clubhouse.
“It’s really an honor for these guys because they’re voted on by their peers,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It means a lot to them, what the award represents.”
Mark Leiter and Mark Carreon split the voting in 1995 and Mark Gardner and Benito Santiago tied in 2001. With Friday’s result, there are now six Willie Mac Award winners on the active roster. Crawford and Lopez join Matt Cain (2009), Buster Posey (2012), Hunter Pence (2013) and Madison Bumgarner (2014). Matt Duffy, the 2015 winner, was traded away on August 1.