The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

November 8, 2013

McCutchen wonders what may have been

PITTSBURGH — Andrew McCutchen might be the best player on the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he’s not their chief recruiter.

The All-Star centerfielder doesn’t plan to make any calls to right-hander A.J. Burnett, right fielder Marlon Byrd or any of Pittsburgh’s other free agents in an attempt to talk them into staying.

“That’s out of my jurisdiction,” McCutchen said Thursday before hosting a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. “Those guys have to make their own decisions. I hope they stay, but I also know that other free agents will come here. Pittsburgh isn’t a place for players to come when they (don’t) have anywhere to go anymore.”

That’s what happens when a team wins.

The Pirates ended their streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons, the longest in the history of the four major professional sports, by going 94-68 this year. They also reached the playoffs for the first time since winning a third straight division title in 1992.

Pittsburgh beat the Cincinnati Reds in the NL wild-card game before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in a division series that went the full five games.

McCutchen acknowledged wondering what might have been as he watched the NL champion Cardinals lose to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.

“We took the Cardinals to the limit, gave them everything we had, so it was hard not to think that it could have been us playing the Red Sox,” McCutchen said. “I think we proved in the playoffs that we could play with anyone.

“It was a great experience for us and a great experience personally because it was my first time in the playoffs. I tried to savor every minute.”

The Pirates’ mission next season will be to prove they were not one-year wonders. Since the day after Pittsburgh clinched its playoff berth in September, General Manager Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle have been preaching the importance of sustaining the organization’s success.

“We’re not going to rest on what we’ve done,” McCutchen said. “We’re only going to get better as a team and the people upstairs are going to do everything they can to give us the best chance possible.”

McCutchen is one of three finalists for the NL MVP award, along with Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. The winner will be announced next Thursday.

McCutchen hit .317 with 21 home runs, 84 RBI and 27 stolen bases in 158 games.

“It’ll be interesting because Goldschmidt and Yadi had really good years,” McCutchen said. “There’s nothing more I can do now but wait and see what happens. Obviously, I’d love to win it. I’d definitely find some room in my office for it.”

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