Hype, Humility and Homers

When Andrew McCutchen hit his first career grand slam on Wednesday, I was surprised. Not that he hit it — he’s been on fire this season — but that it was his first.

Cutch, as everyone calls him, has been the face of the Pirates for the past few seasons. He’s a powerhouse hitter and outfielder. Most importantly, he genuinely enjoys playing baseball.

Last season, he went through a slump. A thumb injury gave him some trouble, and Clint Hurdle moved him from third to second in the lineup. His batting average didn’t rise past .250, and he didn’t look like he was having as much fun as usual. People started wondering if he was past his prime. But when asked about his “struggles,” Cutch laughed it off. He grew up in poverty, so a rough baseball season didn’t count as a struggle to him. This is just my opinion, but the world of sports needs more people like Cutch who can put things into perspective like that.

This year, the resounding cry in Pittsburgh has been “Cutch is back.” He is indeed back to having multi-hit and multi-RBI games. Part of that is because, for some reason, he hit really well as sixth in the lineup before Hurdle moved him back to third. Part of it is probably because the Bucs’ best hitter last season, Starling Marte, served an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use, and Cutch picked up a lot of the slack there. Another part of it is just that he got out of his head and found his enjoyment of the game again. But he didn’t revel in the spotlight once he got it back. It’s such a cliché to say that a player is just doing his best to help the ball club (shameless reference to Bull Durham, a hilarious baseball movie), but Cutch actually does that.

I’ve heard people say Cutch is overrated, and I will always disagree. There are few players as humble as he is, and that’s why he deserves the hype — in addition to how great of a player he is, of course.

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