st. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Pittsburgh born in the 1990s His Pirates For his fans, childhood was a never-ending series of failed seasons. Pittsburgh native David Bednar grew up to be the team’s closer, but he didn’t root for the winner until his freshman year at Lafayette in 2013.
“It’s such a big sports town here, and what he’s done for baseball and the city of Pittsburgh is what he really brought it up. Now he’s back — it’s so cool.”
The 36-year-old McCutchen won the National League Most Valuable Player award after an engaging 2013 season with a wild-card game victory over Cincinnati. A ballpark illuminated by the Allegheny River. The fans were dressed in black like the players. The stands pulsed so hard that a Reds pitcher dropped the ball right there on the mound, making it too wobbly to even pitch.
McCutchen wanted it to last forever. He signed a long-term contract and bought a house in the suburbs. He took the Pirates to two more Wild Card games and won baseball’s Community Service Award, named after Holy Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente. McCutchen was a worthy successor, both on and off the field, but then he disappeared.
Ahead of the 2018 season, the thrifty Pirates traded their highest-paid player, McCutchen, to San Francisco, along with many others in midfield, including the Giants, Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers. , sent him on an endless journey.
McCutchen didn’t want that kind of future for himself. He tried not to look back at the team he once led.
“The reason I couldn’t keep up with them was because of my state of mind at the time. In a way, I was forced to go where you weren’t asking.” His family there. “I never asked for a trade. I never said I wanted to be. was difficult.”
For the most part, they’ve lost, falling to where McCutchen found himself in 2009 as a rookie. In his five years without McCutchen, the Pirates have lost 121 more games than they have won, always finishing last or second to last in the NL Central.
The Pirates went 62-100 last season. However, they signed third baseman Kebrian Hayes to an eight-year, $70 million contract extension. They saw potential in other young players, including Roancy Contreras and Mitch Keller, shortstop O’Neil Cruz and outfielder Jack Swinski. They knew they had a superstar in Brian Reynolds, the switch-hitting outfielder they acquired in exchange for McCutchen.
“There was a lot of faith in this team, a lot of faith that we were better than our records would suggest,” said Steve Saunders, the team’s assistant general manager.
To mark the organization’s transition from building to winning, the Pirates sought stabilizers. The lineup includes Choi Ji-man, Austin Hedges, Carlos Santana, and the pitching staff includes Rich Hill, Vince Velázquez, and Jarlyn Garcia. While these signings came with little risk (totaling about $27 million, all on his one-year deal), the capper he was McCutchen. They signed a one-year, $5 million deal.
“In this book I’ve been writing in my head, I’ve always wanted to go back to Pittsburgh,” said McCutchen, who had six home runs and a .804 on-base percentage and slugging percentage in Saturday’s game. rice field. “Even when I was gone, I hoped to get the chance to get there — and not just come back, but to thrive and have the team do well. Turn around again.” What I was able to do meant a lot to me.”
The home opener in Pittsburgh was filled with nostalgia. McCutchen’s mother, Petrina, sang the national anthem while AJ Burnett threw the first pitch to Russell his Martin to avenge a battery from his team in the 2013 playoffs. McCutchen was his third hitter, hitting a home run in his first home of his series and he went 5-for-9.
“From the beginning, we knew this wasn’t going to be a farewell tour,” said fourth-year manager Derek Shelton, who signed a contract extension in April. I mean, you see him running the base, and Choi has been playing more DH lately because of injuries, but when he played in the outfield earlier this year, he was very good. was playing well in
Shelton continues: A professional hitter was needed to increase the lineup. So now there are guys hitting the middle of our order and not hitting the kids there. “
The Pirates had a .291 on-base percentage last season, ranking 28th in the majors. This year, until Saturday, the .329 OBP put him in 10th place. They also led the majors with 45, more than half of their total from 2022. The staff’s earned run average of 3.71 was 10th in the majors. Last season he was 4.66 and he was 26th.
It was the best start ever for the Pirates. The team won 20 of his first 30 games for the first time since his 1992 headlining with Barry Bonds. It was Reynolds who signed the club’s first ever nine-figure deal in April for an eight-year, $106.75 million extension.
“I believe in my teammates and staff and what we’re building here,” Reynolds said. “We have a lot of good, young, dynamic players and the staff really cares. I like the players and I like the city.”
Through Saturday, Reynolds hit 5 homers in . 923 OPS and ranked fourth in the NL in total bases. Despite the losing streak, the Pirates went 20-14 to keep him in first place in the NL Central.
“Everybody would be lying if they specifically said they saw this happening. But everyone here knew we were good,” Reynolds said. “Certainly, there are still many seasons left, but it’s not necessarily a big surprise to us — if it is, it’s a welcome surprise.”
Before Wednesday’s game (game 2 of 3 here), McCutchen said the Rays’ series would be a test of sorts for the Pirates (“We really need to figure out where we are as a team. I can see it,” he said.) After just four runs in the series, the result was disappointing.
But some of the Pirates’ distinguishing traits, such as solid at-bats and offensive baserunning, should be relatively slump-resistant, and McCutchen said the team’s best quality is understanding its strengths and being proud of them. He said that he was thinking about
“We don’t play old games,” he said. “We play new, we play fun, we play fast. And I think that’s been very beneficial to us.”
new, fun, fast. It’s a fitting slogan for players who are familiar with Pirates’ past and present.