To say the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates season was a roller coaster for the team and fans alike would be a tremendous understatement. You all know the story by now. A team that is 16 games over .500 in August just collapses like we’ve never seen before. Ok actually, we saw the same thing take place in 2011, but not to this magnitude. There is one man who stayed consistent throughout the season for the Pirates winning awards and becoming exposed to a national audience.
Don’t let the recognition or the personal accolades fool you though. Andrew McCutchen is not content with where he is at and would trade his personal success for team success any day of the week.
“That’s the awesome thing about the game of baseball. There is always room to improve,” McCutchen said. “You’re never going to hit 1.000, but you want to get as close as you can get to it. Regardless of what it was. If you hit .350 or .360, you go into the offseason to try to do better than you did before.”
While McCutchen did step away for a couple of weeks to kick off the offseason, he got right back to the grind whenever he returned.
“I took a little time off and took a vacation. When that was over, I got back at it,” McCutchen said. “I’m the type of person that doesn’t just like to sit around. I’ve got to get moving. I took a little time off and when I came back to it, I was working and ready to go. The season is just around the corner and I can’t wait.”
With a .327/.400/.553 line last season and placing third in the MVP voting, McCutchen has a newfound confidence going into the 2013 campaign. While McCutchen had a career year last season, he says he is still striving for more.
“The confidence definitely changed. They say the hardest thing to do in baseball is getting that first Gold Glove or Silver Slugger or whatever it may be out of the way,” McCutchen said. “They say that is the hardest thing to do. After you get it, it’s kind of a breath of fresh air, but you strive to get to it again.”
“You have that confidence that you can do because you’ve done it before. That’s kind of how it is with me. I’ve done these things before and I know I can do better. That’s how I took to the offseason.”
McCutchen said he’s going to wait until his awards arrive before he thinks about where he’s going to put them. Part of that is due to his work schedule, and the other part is being a hot commodity with the media and fans.
McCutchen took part in the Pirates Caravan this season where he joined his teammates in traveling around different places to greet fans. Catcher Michael McKenry told me that while they were only supposed to sign for 90 minutes, they stayed for three hours to sign. But no one had the experience that McCutchen’s group did.
At their one stop, a guy and his girlfriend got their autographs from the Pirates and right in front of McCutchen’s eyes, he went down on one knee and proposed.
“(Laughs) You don’t see that all the time. It was pretty neat,” McCutchen said. “I’m sure it’s something that they’re going to be able to remember for the rest of their lives. Hopefully that’s what she wanted.”
Along with the Pirates Caravan, McCutchen has been busy with PirateFest, his Pirates Charities 5k team, his outstanding video for MLB.com impersonating Tom Cruise and most recently, taking part and winning the MLB 13 The Show video game cover competition.
With over 108,000 votes, McCutchen won easily (C.C. Sabathia finished second with 89,0000) and becomes the first Pirate ever to appear on the cover of a game.
“This isn’t for me, it’s for the city of Pittsburgh,” McCutchen said. “This vote showed me the sense of pride that the people of Pittsburgh have, along with all the other fans that supported me.”
While McCutchen is a hot name for interviews and appearances, he knows that he can only do so much and is aware that there are people that want to take advantage of him.
“I try not to do too much and I’m not afraid to say no. That’s the biggest thing,” McCutchen said. “You can’t please everyone, but you do what you can. I have someone to help me with that. I try not to do too much, but just do what I can do.”
McCutchen is ready for the season and with his performance last season, he still feels he is the same person, but does have the leadership quality in him.
“I’ve never been a real vocal type of person, but I’ve been the type to say something when it needs to be said,” McCutchen said. “That’s the kind of person I am and always will be. I know people will listen because we respect each other. Nothing has changed and I’m going to continue to remain myself.”
So what’s the goal for this year? Is it a MVP? Another Gold Glove? Making the playoffs?
“My goal is to win the World Series and bring the trophy back where it belongs,” McCutchen said.
But what about last season? How does a team have a collapse like that? McCutchen said while disappointed, it was a learning experience.
“You never want those things to happen, but sometimes they do,” McCutchen said. “You learn from those things and they make you a better person and ballplayer. The guys know what to expect now.”
With Russell Martin added to the lineup, as well as a full year of Starling Marte and possibly Francisco Liriano, is Cutch confident with this bunch?
“Definitely. With the experience that we’ve had with both the winning and the losing, it’s going to propel us into this coming year,” McCutchen said. “It’ll help up win more games and show this city something they haven’t seen in a long time.”
Photo Credits: Getty Images