ESPN – During his eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Andrew McCutchen thought he’d be the one to decide if he needed to move out of center field. But a few weeks ago, when the time arrived to make that move, he learned something shocking:
He didn’t have a vote.
When the Pirates abruptly informed him last month that he was going to shift over to right field this season, “it wasn’t an ask,” McCutchen said Friday morning, on the first day of what could be his last spring training as a Pirate. “It was more of a ‘say.’ It was ‘I have to move there.'”
And that was difficult to accept, the longtime face of the Pirates admitted Friday — for many reasons.
“That was one of the first times that that was something I wanted to go against,” McCutchen said, on the day he attempted to put his tumultuous, trade-rumor-filled offseason behind him. “It wasn’t something I was ready for or I wanted to do. But as I keep saying that, I’m talking about myself. So I just had to not be as selfish and just accept that that’s what I had to do and move over to right.”
In his entire 12-year professional career, McCutchen has played just one game in right field — for Double-A Altoona in 2006. And that, he conceded, also factored in to his initial resistance to moving.
“I’ve always been in center,” he said. “Since I came up, since my first game here, that’s where I’ve always played.”
Even though he plays in an age when it’s not unusual for players to change positions, he made no secret of the fact that moving away from that spot on the field — and not having a say in it — was difficult to accept.
“It’s more difficult because I feel I can still play it,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m at the end of my career. You know, people like to say, ‘Torii Hunter moved to right.’ Uh, also, Torii Hunter was 35 years old when he moved to right. So at the same time, I’m 30, and I feel like I can still play it.”
After he’d taken the time to process the decision, McCutchen said he came to accept that he couldn’t be selfish if the move was going to improve his team. So two weeks ago, he tweeted a photo of former Pirates right-field legend Roberto Clemente — just to signal that maybe moving to right, for this franchise, wasn’t so bad after all.
“Once I got over the fact that I had to move,” McCutchen said, “the more I started to look at it and get some positivity out of it. And that’s one way to look at it. I’m playing at a position and a spot of a guy that you idolize: Clemente. He set the standard for someone that I would love to be like, even half that guy. So it’s an honor to be out there playing that position.”
Nevertheless, McCutchen made it clear in a 15-minute conversation with the media Friday morning that, in many ways, changing positions was a more painful part of his offseason than the trade rumors he dealt with in early December.
Asked if he was surprised to still find himself a Pirate on the first day of spring training, he said that if he’d been asked that question right before the winter meetings, he’d have said yes. But “as the offseason progressed, things have died down,” he said. “So now I’m just happy to be here.”
McCutchen said he wasn’t upset that the Pirates’ front office never warned him before rumors erupted in December about a potential trade to the Washington Nationals. Asked if he found that disconcerting, he replied, “It’s not, because no one [in any front office] talks to their players around that time. That’s not their job. Their job is to try and build a team.”
He said he had since talked with general manager Neal Huntington and other members of the Pirates’ front office, in mid-December, and “they explained how they felt … and that was that.”
McCutchen knows he could still be traded in midseason if the Pirates aren’t in contention, but he said he refused to speculate on if he will get to fulfill his dream of spending his whole career as a Pirate.
“I don’t think about that,” he said. “I’m trying to focus on right now. If I start thinking about everything else, I’m not going to focus on what’s in front of me. … Who knows what’s going to happen and transpire? We don’t know.”
He said he spent the winter trying to wash away the frustration of a disappointing season, in which he hit a career-low .256, with a .336 on-base percentage and .766 OPS. Now he can’t wait to get back to playing baseball and proving he’s a better player than that.
“Just looking forward to getting out on the field and playing,” he said. “Because I’m sure, as you guys know, you’re all sick of hearing about it, and I am too, just about everything that’s happened. I’m just ready to get my feet out there, ready to show that this is just the beginning of some good stuff.”
For some ungodly reason the Pirates doing this to McCutchen doesn’t surprise me at all. Being a loyal fan of one of the most dog shit run organizations in sports over the past 20+ years has taught me how to prepare for situations like this. And quite frankly, it’s pretty sad that I’m used to this kind of stupidity.
Every Pirate fan in the world can acknowledge the fact that Cutch’s play in center field (as well as at the dish) has deteriorated over the past couple of years. That’s no secret. But for management to have the audacity to publicly embarrass one of the guys that has played a pivotal role in revitalizing a franchise that was once the baseball equivalent of the Cleveland Browns, and help turn them into perennial contenders (up until the Cubs bought an all-star team), is an absolute fucking joke. Could you see an organization like the Angels doing this to Mike Trout in the future? Fuck no. Only Bob Nutting and the Pittsburgh Pirates would do something this fucking dumb.
Maybe it’s me, but I just can’t get over the fact that the Pirates have gone so low to put McCutchen’s name in perpetual trade rumors. Then, the moment they realized they couldn’t find a trade suitor they basically told him he’s right a fielder? What a crock of shit! I’m sure that won’t alter his opinion about his dream to be a “Pirate for life.” And it wasn’t like management said, “Hey, we were maybe thinking about moving you to right field since we feel it’s better suitable to you skill set at this point in your career. Thoughts?” Instead of, “Get used to playing right field because you’re no longer our center fielder!” Put some respek on Cutch’s name for chrissakes! At the bare minimum, this guy is worth a civil conversation about his future before it gets out in the public. If I were Cutch here, I’d contemplate pulling a Derek Bell and going into “Operation Shutdown” mode for at least a year before signing with another team that actually wanted me. Fuck Bob Nutting. It’s about time somebody screws him for once.
P.S. – Is it just me or does Cutch look like he’s aged ten years from dealing with stress all offseason? Hang in there, Cutch. The rest of Pittsburgh still loves ya!