One popular reason for the inability of the Pirates to win at home consistently is that they try too hard there, but when Andrew McCutchen failed to run out dropped third strike on Wednesday night, it wasn't the solution that manager Clint Hurdle had in mind.
Xavier Paul will replace McCutchen in center field and the leadoff spot in the series finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers this evening.
“Yeah, it's a manager's decision,” Hurdle said. “I know that our players clearly understand what's important to me. As we create an identity of who we are and what kind of team we [are], there are certain things that need to be done.”
"I blame it on me," said McCutchen, who went hitless in four at-bats. "I was frustrated at the time."
Earlier this season, shortstop Ronny Cedeno was benched for the same reason. When the most talented player on the team is called out, however, it tends to carry more weight.
“I talked with Andrew today, and he understands,” Hurdle said. “You can't look past it. You can't stick your head in the sand whether he's Ronny Cedeno or Andrew McCutchen...There are certain things that are non-negotiable along those lines.
This wasn't the first time that McCutchen lacked focus and effort on the homestand. On a play last week, after Jose Tabata had reached base on an infield hit with two outs, McCutchen eased up on the basepaths and was tagged out without a slide at home plate. More recently, he ran at less than full speed on a routine ground ball.
McCutchen doesn't have a league-wide reputation for this sort of thing yet, and as a potential franchise player, it's imperative that he doesn't get one.
As one National League scout told me today, “I have always seen him hustle, but if he did not play hard, Hurdle did the right thing. I hope he learns a lesson.”