May 10, 2018 San Francisco Giants' Andrew McCutchen watches his three-run home run against the Los Angeles Angels during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, April 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
"The fans … the fans, man. I don't even know what to say. They just erupted. ... They're showing their appreciation for me, that's humbling. But then it just kept … going. And going, and going. It kept going until there was nothing that I could do but tip my cap. Until there was nothing left for me but to acknowledge it, and embrace it. And for a moment, even — savor it.”
— Andrew McCutchen, in The Players' Tribune, on his last at-bat at PNC Park
Nothing in our city is as awkward as a fan favorite returning to his adopted hometown wearing the colors of another team and town.
Nothing in our city could be more cathartic than embracing these Pirates while celebrating Cutch.
Andrew McCutchen, former face of the Pirates, deserves nothing less than Pittsburgh's best.
But so do these Pirates.
When McCutchen steps to the batter's box Friday wearing the San Francisco Giants' road grays trimmed in black and orange, he should be received with open arms and a roaring ovation.
One that should resemble what he described in his final game at PNC Park against the Baltimore Orioles in September.
McCutchen called that the ovation of his life.
He deserves another.
So, savor this weekend as one to celebrate the man who was the embodiment of a magical run that rebonded Pittsburgh with the Pirates.
Savor it as a weekend to remember that moment when McCutchen smiled to the heavens when celebrating that 82nd victory in 2013 to end the two-decade drought from a winning season.
Savor it as a weekend to show appreciation for a generational talent who helped generations of Pittsburghers fall back in love with baseball, for a five-time All-Star and the Bucs' first NL MVP since Barry Bonds.
But this could also serve as a weekend where Pittsburghers can show their appreciation for McCutchen and start to make peace with being Pirates fans again after an agonizing offseason.
When the Pirates traded McCutchen, we rightly believed it ripped the heart and soul out of their team. But the Pirates have reinvented themselves and here they are at 21-16, a half-game out of first place heading into Thursday night's games.
You can cheer your Bucs, too, just as loud and proud.
These Pirates deserve as much from their fans.
There doesn't have to be an internal conflict. It doesn't negate Pirates owner Bob Nutting saying he wanted McCutchen to be a Pirate for life and never so much as making an offer, but this weekend is the perfect time to make peace with the notion that McCutchen moving on was inevitable.
That McCutchen wanted to wear one hat for his entire career and be synonymous with the city is admirable, even more so that he made Pittsburgh his home. But it comes down to this: The Pirates weren't willing to pay him market value, and he wasn't willing to accept another hometown discount.
McCutchen has moved on, embracing his new team and town. Maybe that's what he had to do, to get past his disappointment. Maybe it's time Pittsburgh does the same, instead of putting a favorite player ahead of its favorite team. Ironic, isn't it, that McCutchen could be the best draw for the Pirates this season?
McCutchen deserves another ovation to savor, one that tells him he will always be a Pirate for life.