In baseball, more than any other sport, it’s hard to credit a single player for a team’s success, much less a franchise’s turnaround. But if ever a case could be made, it’s for Andrew McCutchen. The Pittsburg Pirates’ center fielder made his debut for a laughingstock seven years ago and now, he's leading a perennial contender to its third straight playoff appearance.
After a slow start to the season, caused in part by a bum knee, McCutchen has turned in his sixth consecutive year as the Pirates best hitter. And once again, his name is at the center of the MVP debate. With the Pirates still angling for a division title, something the team hasn’t won in 23 years, McCutchen took time after visiting a Pittsburgh classroom on behalf of New Era to speak to Maxim about his team, his hair and how his status a role model to kids in the steel city.
There’s a decent chance the Pirates will finish the season with the National League's second best record and still have to play in the wild card game. Should the league change the rules so that the wild card game is between the two playoff teams with the worst records?
MLB has always done a good job of adjusting to changes within our sport. We still need to see how some things play out this year before we can talk change.
The MVP debate is flaring up and once again it’s pitting the player with the best player, Bryce Harper, against the best players on the best teams, YoenisCespedes, Anthony Rizzo and you. Do you think the MVP should come from a winning team?
You probably won't believe this, but I really don't worry about it. I want to win a World Series title first and foremost. Winning the MVP two years ago was really cool, but I really want to be able to hold that World Series trophy in my hands. The other stuff takes care of itself.
Who’s your MVP favorite for this year?
I really don't have one. There's a lot of players in both leagues doing some awesome things on the field. Plus there are pitchers in the hunt again out in LA.
That moment you shared with two young Pirates fans in San Diego went viral. That kid you gave your gloves to was almost in tears. Do moments like that still effect you on a personal level?
Big time. It was crazy how that blew up. Those kids were screaming for us all game, and that was really cool to see on the road. Starling Marte gave them a ball the inning before, and no one saw that or talked about it. Part of why we play this game is to keep its legacy and impact going. To make it stronger for the generation that follows us. I really hope those kids are some of the ones that do take this game over someday.
You were with some school kids today for a back to school event. Do you ever think about going back to school? Does any part of you every think about what it would have been like if you’d gone to Florida instead of singing with the Pirates?
I don't think about how life could have been different. I have an amazing wife, loving family, a great job and a home. I think I'm doing alright right now.
Last year, with dreds, you stole 18 bases. This year, without, you’ve stolen seven. Coincidence, or did the dreds make you faster?
Photos by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images