We were driving to PNC Park when it was made official: Andrew McCutchen wouldn’t be in the starting lineup for the Pittsburgh Pirates for my birthday. It was a bit surprising initially, but after about ten seconds, damn if it didn’t make sense.
We saw what McCutchen did Wednesday night, and it pissed us off. It probably pissed you off as well. But immediately it was put out of our mind, because it was a rare situation. One of those “damn, that’s a first” moments. We didn’t even include it in our recap, because it’s not how the Bucco’s center fielder plays the game. We gave McCutchen a free pass.
Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle didn’t.
We chalked it up to McCutchen losing focus and taking out his frustrations on his bat rather than running to first on a ball in the dirt after a punchout. Remember the fire and brimstone that happened when Neil Walker didn’t run out an infield fly? We do. It lit a fire under Walker’s ass that seems to still be smoldering.
Hurdle made the right move. He didn’t overlook what McCutchen did, he didn’t look around what Cutch did in the eighth inning. Hurdle told him he would be on the pine. But let’s not anoint Clint Hurdle the King of Pittsburgh. The boss did what bosses do.
He made McCutchen pay.
McCutchen could have been told in private that he screwed up, but this was a message. It’s what Hurdle and the Pirates talk about all the time. And it’s certain the message will be discussed all the way down to the lowest levels of the Pirates’ organization.
Does it make sense? Sure it does. It’s an old-school, blue-collar response to a disgusting situation by a very talented Pirates’ player. Look, everyone realizes baseball players don’t always hustle. They get pissed off. The game of baseball is a frustrating one.
But the game must be played a certain way. Andrew McCutchen didn’t play the game correctly.
And we also know this……it will happen again. A Pirates’ player will do something that comes across as selfish, or wrong, something that will show a lack of hustle, and he will have to pay the piper. A wolfpack mentality in the game of baseball is a difficult concept to develop. It won’t happen overnight. It may never happen in Pittsburgh. But the action Hurdle took to show a player – a star player for the Pirates – that he isn’t bigger than the team is a good thing. It should teach something, we just have no way of knowing if it will stick.
We’d hate to think that the wolfpack mentality Hurdle speaks of is a lost concept on the Pittsburgh Pirates. We seem to recall the Colorado Rockies Clint Hurdle managed grew bored with him. His speeches, pep talks, and his decisions apparently became less and less popular. We also would have to believe that Hurdle learned from his time with the Rox.
Maybe he is doing something different this time around. The Lord knows all of us pray that it will work. What McCutchen did the other night was not the type of action a leader of a team does on a baseball field, and Hurdle took the one action he can take to prevent it from happening again.
But you know what? It will happen again. Hurdle sent the snapshot of how he rolls. Whether the team takes it personally or takes it to heart and changes is on them, but they will never be confused about what the picture looks like.
Today when McCutchen’s benching is talked about in Bradenton, Altoona, Indianapolis and others will it have an effect? Sure it will. Will it stop a player from every getting frustrated again? Hell, no. But the next time a player does get frustrated and decide not to hustle, every Pirates fan knows what the consequence will be.
It’s just a damn shame it rained out the game.
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