Andrew McCutchen has played center field for the Pittsburgh Pirates, since his Major League debut at PNC Park back in June, 2009.
Since then, he has been selected to five All-Star teams, has won four Silver Sluggers, one Gold Glove, and one National League MVP award (although he’s finished in the top five of MVP voting a total of four times).
Pittsburgh loves McCutchen and he loves them right back.
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) February 6, 2017
In 2012, McCutchen signed a long-term extension with the Pirates – a contract that can still keep him in Pittsburgh for the next two seasons – and for the most part, he’s far exceeded the team’s expectations.
That is until the 2016 season.
In 2016, McCutchen, 30, had the worst season of his career. Although his bat was still above average by the end of the season (106 wRC+), he hit for the lowest average (.256), and had the fewest runs (81), RBI (79), and stolen bases (6) of his career.
But his struggles didn’t stop at the plate.
According to the advanced defensive metrics, McCutchen’s 2016 center field defense was by far the worst of his career (-16.5 Def) and the worst among all center fielders.
Check out, for another example, the abbreviated Defensive Runs Saved leaderboard (among qualified center fielders):
1. Kevin Pillar (TOR): 21
2. Billy Hamilton (CIN): 15
3. Ender Inciarte (ATL): 13
17. Andrew McCutchen (PIT): -28
But despite the struggles, Pittsburgh fans have stuck by McCutchen, because he has always played his hardest and been an icon in his community.
In fact, back in 2015, McCutchen won the Roberto Clemente award, which is given out annually to the MLB player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual contribution to his team.”
Recently, McCutchen redisplayed just what makes him so worthy of that honor.
After struggling at the plate and in the field last season, McCutchen will be making room in center for his teammate and fellow outfielder, Starling Marte, in 2017:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) February 5, 2017
But instead of responding with grit, envy, anger, or hostility to the change, McCutchen responded with grace, humility, and a whole lot of class:
— andrew mccutchen (@TheCUTCH22) February 6, 2017
In case you’re unaware, that’s a photo of former Pittsburgh Pirate (and right fielder) Roberto Clemente – the namesake for the award McCutchen so rightfully deserves on an annual basis.
With just one photo showing the back of a former player, McCutchen expresses so many feelings and oh so much class.
You can interpret the message however you want, but it sure seems like a wonderful way to depict his willingness to give up his own desires for the betterment of the team (his community). What a wonderful guy and amazing gesture.
Flip through the responses to that tweet, and you’ll see how much his hometown loves him.
— liz (@biggles14) February 6, 2017
— Arnie gordon (@ArnieGordon) February 6, 2017
@TheCUTCH22 Clemente will be smiling with you in right field .
— james scragg (@jfscraggsie) February 6, 2017
I am a die-hard Cubs fan and always have been, but a small part of me will be rooting for Andrew McCutchen in right field this year. There’s just too much to like.