Andrew McCutchen walked to the podium, brushed back his trademark dreadlocks, unfolded a sheet of paper and took a deep breath.
The Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star center fielder looked across the massive ballroom at the Dapper Dan Awards – think Pittsburgh’s version of the ESPYs – while accepting the 2012 Sportsman of the Year honor in January and cleared his throat.
“I don’t do this a lot,” McCutchen said.
Maybe, but he better get used to it. It kind of comes with the territory when you become the face of a franchise, particularly one in desperate need of a karmic turnaround.
It wasn’t always this way. Some of the greatest players in the history of the game have worn Pittsburgh’s black-and-gold. Roberto Clemente. Honus Wagner. Willie Stargell. Barry Bonds.
Pittsburgh management insists the days of being a farm system for teams with deeper pockets are over.
Perhaps more importantly, McCutchen does too. That’s why he agreed to a six-year, $51-million contract extension last spring, a deal that looks like a bargain after the dazzling McCutchen put together one of the finest seasons in recent memory.
He hit .327 with 31 homers and 96 RBIs in 2012, made his second straight All-Star team and won both a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove. He also helped Pittsburgh to tie its best record since Bonds left.
McCutchen is serious about returning Pittsburgh to the postseason.
“He’s going to do everything in his power to make this franchise as successful as it can be,” owner Bob Nutting said.
Clearing the bases
St. Louis shortstop Rafael Furcal returned to the Cardinals’ spring training complex for the first time since undergoing ligament replacement surgery last week. … New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was scratched from Tuesday’s game with a sore ankle.