Josh Harrison is a member of the National League All-Star team. The Pirates' play-anywhere, do-anything, utility man will be joined by Tony Watson and Andrew McCutchen in Minnesota.
Harrison's first half highlight reel matches up favorably with anyone's in baseball. How about that catch in New York? Or, the diving catch he made against the Nationals when the Pirates returned to PNC Park after that road trip? A catch that Andrew McCutchen said was one of the best he has ever seen. How about the rundown, followed by walk-off hit? I could go on.
But, it's not just the highlights that have made Harrison an All-Star and one of the more valuable members of this team. His offensive output has been impressive (.299/.336/.448), his defense solid (0.7 runs saved above average) and his baserunning excellent (2.0 runs gained above average). All told, he has added 1.7 WAR (tied for 78th out of 550 position players).
Most importantly, Harrison's emergence came right when things were the darkest for the Bucs. Entering May, the team was desperately looking for a spark, and right field was a dark hole both offensively and defensively. Then, on May 3rd, Clint Hurdle put Harrison in right field and batted him first. In the bottom of the seventh of that game, with the Bucs trailing 6-2, he hit a double down the line scoring Clint Barmes. The Pirates would go on to win that night, 8-6. They've since gone on to post a 35-23 record.
I remember after that game turning to a reporter and saying, "Today's game is only going to reward Hurdle for bad behavior." My point was that not only should Harrison not be starting in right field, but he certainly shouldn't be leading off. As we approach the All-Star Game, it is Harrison who is being rewarded, the Pirates who have benefited, and Hurdle who deserves credit for going to the right man for a spark.
Harrison described his reaction to hearing he was an All-Star following today's game.
"It was one of those things where we had a meeting today and Hurdle tells us he has three announcements. 'First thing, Andrew McCutchen is going to be on the All-Star team.' He then told us 'Given everything, Matheny had to make a couple choices and he chose two more of our guys.' and that's when he announced me and Watson and everybody clapped for us."
One could argue that there are more deserving players being left off the All-Star roster, but I'm not sure Pirates fans care much about that. If nothing else, Harrison deserves to be there for the pivotal role he played in turning around a season that was heading into the abyss.
"I was definitely planning on after the Cincinnati series to sleep at home in my own bed, but I'll take not sleeping in my own bed to experience something like this. It's once in a lifetime," Harrison said.
It's certainly going be fun to watch Harrison play in the All-Star Game, but it may be even more fun to see where he plays.
Watson and McCutchen join Harrison as All-Stars
For the second year in a row the Pirates are sending their "eighth inning guy" to the All-Star Game. Watson has had an excellent first half, posting an 0.89 ERA in 40.2 innings pitched.
"I'm really proud to represent this team, represent the Pirates organization in the All-Star game," said Watson. "It wasn't something I was expecting, but I'm honored to even be in the conversation and now to know that I'm going feels tremendous."
McCutchen is having another MVP-like season, posting a .322/.423/.542 slash line. He will be the first Pirate to start in an All-Star Game since Jason Bay.
"It takes us winning to get the recognition," McCutchen said following learning that he will play in his fourth All-Star Game. "We've done that the past couple years and we're doing a good job this year."