McCutchen rewarded the Pirates by winning the 2013 National League Most Valuable Player award on Thursday and cementing his status as one of the premier talents in a sport filled with incredible young stars.
In addition to McCutchen's efforts on the field, which included a .317/.404/.508 line, 38 doubles, 21 homers, 27 stolen bases and a league-leading 8.2 wins above replacement, his work off the field is something that should be respected and admired.
Think about where we are with athletes right now. Right or wrong, fair or unfair, sports occupy a large sector of the pop-culture spectrum in this country, and athletes are practically required to be perfect citizens and act as role models for kids and young adults.
It is an impossible standard for anyone to live up to, especially in this era of social media where everything ends up on Twitter or YouTube seconds after happening.
Some athletes are able to embrace their role as an ambassador for their sport. Andrew McCutchen falls into that rare category, without question. He has seemingly gone out of his way to make sure the city of Pittsburgh knows that he is their own and has made it his mission to bring the Pirates back to respectability.
For instance, Cutch signed a six-year, $51.5 million contract extension that includes a team option for 2018 with the Pirates in March 2012. The deal is guaranteed to run through his age-30 (2017) or, if his option is picked up, age-31 (2018) seasons.
McCutchen could have hit the market after the 2015 season, where he almost certainly would have become one of the highest-paid players in baseball given his age, positional value and superstar-level performance.
Instead, when asked about the extension at the time, McCutchen stated (via MLB.com):
I know that it's amazing, to be blessed with the talent to perform at the Major League level and to work this deal out. I definitely wanted to be here. I grew up down the road ... you go down 64, make a left at 17, you're in my hometown [Fort Meade, Fla.]. My colors were black and gold in high school; didn't even have to change my colors. It was just meant to be.
A lot of players have signed long-term deals in their pre-arbitration years for financial security, so this isn't exactly something new. But that he did as the Pirates were coming off their 19th consecutive losing season, with no signs of changing, made a loud, clear statement.
Look at players like Evan Longoria with Tampa Bay (2008), Troy Tulowitzki with Colorado (2008) or Grady Sizemore with Cleveland (2006). Those three were, at one point, stars at the level McCutchen is right now, but all of them signed their deals with teams either coming off very successful seasons, or on the verge of turning things around.
The Indians won 93 games in 2005 with Sizemore as their primary leadoff hitter. Tulowitzki was a key part of the Rockies' World Series run in 2007. Longoria signed his extension when all of the Rays' high draft picks came together to make a run to the World Series.
The Pirates saw what McCutchen had to offer, but he was under no obligation to make a commitment to them. A strong love for his adopted city of Pittsburgh and belief the Pirates were moving in the right direction unquestionably played a role.
Everything lined up perfectly in 2013. McCutchen established himself as the best player in the National League on a 94-win Pirates team that made the postseason for the first time since 1992.
Moving off the field, McCutchen has always earned high marks for his character, work ethic and passion for the community around him.
Said one scout shortly after McCutchen's extension, per Jayson Stark and ESPN.com: "What can't he do? Really. I don't know anything the guy can't do. He can run. He can hit. He's got power. He's a good defender at a premium position. And from what everybody says, he's a special person. That's the whole package right there."
That last part about being a special person is vital information.
If you need further proof, McCutchen was the Pirates' 2013 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, "which recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team."
Tom Singer's piece for MLB.com talked about the outfielder's efforts with Habitat For Humanity and "Cutch's Crew," which "mentors at-risk youth and baseball players in the Greater Pittsburgh area."
Singer had a telling quote from McCutchen:
Look at Roberto Clemente, at what he did. I don't want people to know me because I played baseball. I want people to know me for other things I did outside a baseball field. Yeah, Clemente was a great baseball player, but the things he did off the field said more about him. That's the person that I admire, and that's how I want to be.
You don't see or hear a lot of athletes saying the things McCutchen says, then taking action to back it up.
We live in an era when athletes are glorified to a fault. Everyone would love to have all the money, all the fame and all the talent, but only a select few are able to reach that level.
Then we have moments when we are reminded athletes aren't perfect, despite their immense ability on the field or court. These are human beings with flaws, just like you and me.
Miguel Cabrera, the most revered hitter on the planet, has had well-documented issues with alcohol in the past.
Alex Rodriguez was supposed to take back the home run title from Barry Bonds, but he's locked in a legal battle with Major League Baseball for allegedly violating the joint drug agreement and collective bargaining agreement.
Ryan Braun, the 2011 NL MVP, took a 65-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
There are a lot more stories like those coming across the newswire every day. Yet no one pays attention to the athletes like Andrew McCutchen out there doing good for the world, because those don't provide much room for discussion and debate.
None of this is meant to say McCutchen is the only player out there doing good things for the community; he's not. But when you have an athlete like McCutchen getting rewarded for his performance on the baseball field, it's refreshing to talk about something besides statistics.
The MVP award is the tip of the iceberg when measuring McCutchen's true value to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Major League Baseball. Cutch is someone to be respected, admired and revered for the person, and athlete, he is.
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