There is a Roy Ayers song titled, “Running Away” that seems to define the 2017 Pittsburgh Pirates realistically and ambiguously. It goes something like this: “Dippy doo, run, run, run…Dippy doo, run, run, run…Hey, I’m taking my bag and I’m running away now. Cause you’ve been mean to me, and I’ve been good to you, and I’ve been oh so strong…”
All of the murmurings about the status of one Andrew McCutchen, the All-Star center fielder for the Pirates, is getting to be tiring, more tiring and even redundant. As the cartoon character “Snagglepuss” himself might point out, it may be time to, “Exit stage left” with all the when, where and how in regards to the future of McCutchen. Hey, “Heavens to Murgatroyd,” enough already,” “Cause you’ve been mean to me, and I’ve been good to you, and I’ve been oh so strong…”
The bat of McCutchen is beginning to heat up again, but this is no accident. Why? Because for years, NL Central pitchers pitched around McCutchen, and when that appeared to be taking more of a risk than was necessary, they began to throw at him.
See, walking him was not good enough and I’ll tell you why.
When you walk a player intentionally or pitch around a player, the key is to make that individual as uncomfortable as possible. Pitchers were throwing at his head, ankles, knees or whatever body part was available and it appeared that most of the time umpires turned a blind eye in regards to him being “assaulted” at the plate, and viewed those tactics as just a part of baseball. On June 28, 2015, before the All-Star break, McCutchen had already been plunked 40 times. At that point he was quoted by Dave Brown in a piece written and posted on CBSSports.com that, “Maybe I need to dropkick a pitcher. Maybe that will scare them into not throwing at me.”
He was, of course, joking at the time, but he still conveyed the seriousness of being hit by baseballs usually traveling in excess of 90 miles per hour.
Most of us don’t really get to know the personal nuances of professional athletes, so only the Pirates, McCutchen and the “Shadow” really knows what really transpired regarding the trade rumors concerning McCutchen and why or why he was or wasn’t on the chopping block of the Bucs.
Fans have approached me with vivid recollections of fighting for seats behind the first base side of the infield when former Pirates infielder Pedro Alvarez was saddled with the burden of playing third or first. The fans would jokingly point out that he was likely to overthrow the ball into the stands when he played third base and he would more than likely misplay the ball when he was on the receiving end at first base, so always have your glove ready. You had more of a chance to catch a ball compliments of Mr. Alvarez than you would have to snag a random foul ball.
The Pirates were patient with Alvarez. Hopefully, they will exhibit the same understanding regarding McCutchen, if not he may have to, “Dippy doo, run, run, run” to another team, taking his talents and leadership with him.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741.)
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