- Grove City, Pennsylvania

November 20, 2013

EXTRA INNINGS: Clutch 'Cutch' clutches MVP trophy

By Jim Sankey
Allied News Baseball Columnist

OPINION — PITTSBURGH PIRATES centerfielder Andrew McCutchen makes it “The Magnificent Seven.”

McCutchen is the seventh player in Pirates history to be named the National League’s most valuable player.

It took 33 years after Paul Waner became the first Bucco MVP in 1927 for Dick Groat to become the second in 1960. Roberto Clemente won in 1966, Dave Parker in 1978, Willie Stargell in 1979 (tied with St. Louis’ Keith Hernandez), and Barry Bonds in 1990 and 1992.

“To be mentioned with and be a part of that elite group is definitely an honor,” McCutchen said after learning of the lop-sided results for his award, with 28 of the 30 voters naming him number one on their ballots. Only Cardinal catcher Yadier Molina’s two first place votes blocked what would have been a unanimous win.

When McCutchen was called up to Pittsburgh in mid-2009, he became the universal poster boy for the team that would one day break the team’s losing streak. Cutch’s MVP award became the exclamation point to the Pirates’ first winning record, first playoff appearance, and first post-season win in two decades.

McCutchen was honored for leading a team to 37 more wins this year (94) than in 2010 (57), his first full year with Pittsburgh. Those 105 lost games in 2010 were whittled to 68 in 2013.

Although the centerfielder had better numbers last year, his 2013 timing made the difference. The Cutch of 2012 took home player-of-the-month awards in June and July before fading in August and September.

The McCutchen of 2013 batted .317 (compared with .327 in 2012), socked 21 home runs (31), swiped 27 bases (20), drove home 84 runs (96), scored 97 runs (107). His 2013 stats also included 38 doubles and a career-high 11 outfield assists this year, when he was again an All-Star.

He saved the best until last, determined to make sure that the team’s August collapses in 2011 and 2012 would not be repeated. He batted .384 during August in 2013 and triggered chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P” whenever he came to bat.

His defensive clinics and nightly ESPN Web Gems sharpened the spotlight already focused on him, even as his team posted more wins than division champion Detroit and Los Angeles. Only Oakland, Atlanta, Boston, and St. Louis had more wins than Pittsburgh this past season.

His leadership came to the fore after the team lost five of its first six games in what appeared to be another, “Uh oh, here we go again” season.

But on the road in Arizona, McCutchen told his teammates it was time to bring back the “Z” for Zoltan sign, the rally cry from 2012.

“It's hard to even talk about it,” McCutchen told reporters about the team’s meteoric rise in a short time. “From the way it was here to the way it is'll take some time to put it into perspective. To see the change in the team and in me personally, it definitely means a lot to me. It means all the effort put forth and all the sacrifices made are starting to pay off.

The change in this team and in this city ...means a lot, and I'm happy to be a part of it.”

CUTCH ON MTV: MTV and MLB said Monday they will work together on a weekly 30-episode series for which McCutchen and Boston’s David Ortiz will be executive producers.

The as-yet untitled series will be shot at the MLB Fan Cave, a facility built at an abandoned Tower Records store in New York City that has fan features, interactive elements, and occasional pop music concerts.

McCutchen has been a regular contributor and interviewer on Root Sports’ weekly “Inside Pirates Baseball” series while Ortiz’s hit Fan Cave feature depicted him walking through New York City asking Yankees fans for a hug.

SINGLE GAME TICKETS GOING ON SALE: Single game tickets for 2014 Pirates home games go on sale at 10 a.m. on “Black Friday,” November 29.