On June 3 of 2009, a young Andrew McCutchen was called up to Pittsburgh for the first time following the departure of center-fielder Nate McLouth. The next day in a contest against the New York Mets, McCutchen would be making his debut and batting lead off. He would single in his first career at bat, and the career of ‘Cutch’ was underway. Almost 14 years to the day, and McCutchen recorded his 2000th hit, batting lead off, in a win against the New York Mets.
This has been marked as a Summer of milestones for McCutchen. After making the long awaited return to Pittsburgh in the offseason, many were wondering what the aging superstar could contribute to the team. Well, I think it is fair to say that we yinzers are all delighted to see our number 22 playing some of his best baseball in years.
Through 57 games so far, ‘Cutch’ is hitting .265 with eight home runs (five short of 300) 23 RBIs and seven stolen bases, as the 36-year old continues to turn back the clock with notable performances.
The aforementioned summer of milestones is in full swing as in addition to his 2000th hit, McCutchen has also laid claim to 1,500 career hits as a Pirate and 1,000 walks in his 14-year career. At this point he sits just one double away from 400, and one triple away from 50 in his career. McCutchen spoke to MLB.com following the win against the Mets and was elated that this milestone happened at PNC Park.
“I wanted to do it here in Pittsburgh,” McCutchen said after the Pirates’ 2-1 win against the Mets. “I’m glad I was able to do it here. It was a special moment.”
After such a memorable performance, the conversation automatically has to go to the odds of McCutchen making it to the Hall of Fame. For us hometown fans, there’s not much to think about, but for the criteria of Cooperstown it’s not so black and white.
Two weeks ago, MLB Network was debating on the Hall of Fame candidacy of several players, including McCutchen. For them, McCutchen was in a lower echelon of active players that could make it. Citing the career arks of players omitted from the hall like Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly and Chase Utley, Brian Kenny believes that these individuals enjoyed peaks great enough to be considered or inducted to Cooperstown.
Yinz just witnessed history. pic.twitter.com/n7UTzWe7TK— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) June 11, 2023
As far as peaks are concerned, there have been few players as electric through the 2010s as McCutchen. From 2011-2015 he was an All-Star, winning the NL Golden Glove award in 2012, the NL MVP in 2013, and was a Silver Slugger from 2012-2015. The big question is was that all enough. Personally, I would be hard pressed to omit a former MVP in one of the toughest sports, in a very competitive National League. However, the drop off is noteworthy, as the days were not always as bright outside of the Steel City, bouncing around from team to team, battling injuries, and not finding the same foothold he has enjoyed with the Pirates.
With that being said, for a long time the city of Pittsburgh was not crazy about Pirates’ baseball. Years of record setting mediocrity made the team hard to watch. The arrival of Andrew McCutchen turned the tide of that sentiment, and suddenly Pirates’ games were like rock concerts. The same energy transfer was felt when he was traded to San Francisco, as the stadium was once again a dull place to be.
This season, McCutchen finally being back has rejuvenated the team and the fan base alike, and I guarantee we will all go through that same kind of hangover when he inevitably retires from baseball. I’m a big fan of impact when it comes to grading a player’s Hall of Fame credentials, and for the greatest sports city in the world (unbiased take) there have been few athletes as impactful on a city as Andrew McCutchen.
We believe this ball belongs to you, Cutch pic.twitter.com/dq6uCboBN0— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) June 11, 2023
For the past 10 years, it has been Ben Roethlisberger, Sidney Crosby and McCutchen, through and through. That may not be enough for the voters, but for me and plenty of Pirates fans it is plenty of evidence for this generations greatest Bucco.
I will not however, get caught up in the politics of all that because there is still plenty of baseball left, and McCutchen still has plenty of time to create more moments in the Black and Gold.