Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Thanks for the Memories

I've been thinking a lot about what to post, what to say.  Trading Cutch hit me far, far harder than I had expected.  I haven't even followed the team that closely over the last two seasons.  But Andrew McCutchen provided me with the best seasons of baseball I've experienced in my 30 years.

When I learned about the Nate McLouth trade, I was initially angry and frustrated.  But anger quickly gave way to excitement when I heard they had also called up Andrew McCutchen from AAA, and he would be starting later that day.  The Pirates had an odd habit of calling up top prospects for home day games.  It was the summer of 2009.  I was heading into my senior year of college, and lived about a 15 minute walk from PNC Park.  I remember the excitement as I walked to the game alone, feeling like I was part of a small group of people who knew they were going to see the start of something special that day.

It didn't take long to realize this player was something special.  I was at his three homer run game that August.  And to this day my favorite Cutch memory came on a walk-off game late in a meaningless season.
It perfectly summarizes what I and Pittsburgh love about him.  The sheer joy and excitement playing the game.  The leap as he approaches the plate, frozen mid-air like Superman, is still etched in my brain.

Andrew McCutchen was one of my favorite players, but just as much for what he did off the field as on.  He was heavily involved in the community, in real and meaningful ways that were beyond the "man of the year" fluff that the major sports do these days.  He was always kind and giving with fans, especially early in his career.  I remember one year at Piratefest, I think it was 2007, I got to the front of the line and put a couple of pictures down for Andrew to sign.  After signing the first in blue, without me saying anything beyond "Hi, Andrew," he switched to a silver Sharpie and signed the second photo, which had a darker background.  It was so subtle and inconsequential.  He could have easily signed both photos in the same color and I would have been just as happy.  But that extra thoughtfulness stuck with me.

As a Pirate fan, I'm feeling a lot of things right now.  Anger, frustration, aimlessness.  But I'm thankful.  Thankful for three magic seasons from 2013-2015 in a lifetime that has seen the team lose far, far more than they have won.  Thankful that I got to see nine seasons of what very well may be the best baseball player to ever play in my city, and that much of it came during a period in my life when I had the flexibility to see lots of baseball games in person.

But more than anything, I'm thankful for some of the greatest baseball I've ever had the privilege of watching.


12 comments:

  1. As a Cubs fan, I should be glad that Cutch is out of our division. However, I find myself a bit sad too, as Andrew seemed like a guy cut from the same cloth as Chipper, George Brett, Ernie Banks - by that, I mean, identified with only one club. It'll be super strange to see him in a Giants uniform. I guess that's just how the cookie crumbles in today's game.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean. I felt the same way when Pujols left the Cards. Heck, the guy named his kid Steel. What more can you ask for?

      I still have trouble buying the argument that the Pirates couldn't afford to keep Cutch. The bigger issue is that this is a tear down without any real plan on how to rebuild. I think there are some more frustrating years ahead for Pirate fans.

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  2. Such an odd feeling that he is no longer a Pirate. The Pirates are in some weird transition right now with no way knowing if they are rebuilding or still going for it. Blaming ownership is a very old/tired argument, but it is also likely still the issue with the Pirates. Consensus is the team is making a good bit of money but has shown no inclination to keep up with spending patterns around the league.

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    1. There's just something that feels very Littlefield-esque about this, minus some of the gross incompetence. But it's death by 1000 paper cuts that got us here. Mediocre drafting, refusing to compete for any Latin American top talent, always chasing reclamation projects when you had a playoff caliber team, standing pat at the trade deadline in '14 and '15. It's impossible to know where ownership directives start and poor decision making by management begins. But this weird no-man's land doesn't seem like the greatest idea.

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  3. Sorry to hear he was traded. Kind of like here in Tampa with Longoria. Hopefully brighter days are ahead for the Pirates.

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    1. Thanks, Jeremy. It's definitely a tough time to be a small market team.

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  4. It's always sad to hear about these kinds of trades. Cutch might end up having some solid years in San Francisco... but he'll always be a Pirate to me.

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    1. All in all, we were lucky to have him for 9 seasons. Some of the ideas I've seen tossed around for the next labor negotiation are players becoming free agents after 3 or 4 seasons.

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  5. Sorry that your team is undergoing this stage of tearing the team apart. Great players are hard to come by & Cutch definitely fits that description.

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    1. It's the cycle of the game for small market teams, but replacing a player of that caliber is going to be pretty tough without a complete rebuild.

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  6. Cutch isn't just a great player, but just seems like a really good dude. I'm not a full Bucco fan, but like to see them do well since they're sorta the "neighbor team" and not as pretentious as Pens and Steelers. Going to be weird to see him play elsewhere.

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    1. He did a lot of work in the community, and did stuff beyond just the "showing up and posing for some pictures" that a lot of big stars do. That always said a lot about him as a person to me.

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