Andrew McCutchen #22 of the San Francisco Giants waits on deck in the fifth inning of Friday night's game (Getty Images)
Good for Andrew McCutchen.
He got a long and well-deserved standing ovation from 34,000 fans on his return to PNCPark on Friday night. The Pirates put together a nice video tribute and put it up on the big screen.
Probably quite a few goose bumps and maybe even some tears in the stands.
Except that it stinks.
It was another big crowd at PNCPark that showed up for the wrong reason. This time it was McCutchen, who’s, you know, not a Pirate.
For most of the games since the park opened in 2001 it’s been about food, fireworks, the view, post-game concerts, the visiting team or some other promotion.
Except for a three-year window from 2013-2015, the Pirates drew way more fans than they deserved.
The turnout Friday night was a shining example of everything that’s wrong with major league baseball.
Isn’t it a little ridiculous that the Pirates got what might be their biggest crowd of the year because so many people wanted to show a player, who was sent away, how glad they were to see him back?
McCutchen coming back “home” was the lead story on the local newscasts and the No. 1 topic on all the talk shows.
We were told that he’s a generational player — one of the greatest Pirates of all time.
We were told what a good guy he is and how much he contributed to the community off the field.
So why is he playing for the San Francisco Giants?
He’s 31 and ready to sign a new contract that the Pirates didn’t think that they could afford. The media did a nice job of selling the idea that it was actually a smart deal by the Pirates. Because, as everybody knows, when a guy turns 31 and may have shown some signs of slowing down, it’s time to cut the cord — not sign him to a long-term deal.
That, unfortunately, is a steaming pile of horse manure.
It may be true in 2018, but not because of his age. It’s because of where he was playing and major league baseball’s stupid economics.
Save your debate about whether the Nutting family is cheap, but I’m always a little uncomfortable when spending someone else’s money.
McCutchen plays for the Giants because MLB doesn’t have a salary cap.
It’s a good thing the Pirates didn’t feel the need to trade Roberto Clemente when he turned 31. He had 202 hits, batted .317 and won a Gold Glove that year. The next year, he had the highest batting average of his career (.357) and won a batting title. He slowed down a little at 33 and hit only .291 but came back and hit .345 at 34. I think everybody knows what he did in 1971 at 36.
Willie Stargell showed signs of slowing down at 28 when he batted only .237. Good thing the Pirates kept him around after he turned 31 in 1971. He batted .295 with 48 home runs and 125 RBIs. Two years later he hit .299 with 44 home runs and 119 RBIs. I think everybody remembers what he did in 1979 when he was 37.
Good thing McCutchen’s new team didn’t get rid of Willie Mays when he turned 31. He played in 162 games and hit .304 with 49 home runs and 141 RBI. The next three years he hit 38, 47 and 52 home runs and won Gold Gloves.
Andrew McCutchen should still be a Pirate. He’s not playing for another team for any reason other than MLB’s economic stupidity. The scene at PNCPark on Friday night was every bit as sad as it was heartwarming.
• There’s plenty of room for analysis when it comes to the Penguins being knocked out in the second round by the Washington Capitals. But here’s a pretty simple explanation: The Capitals are pretty good.
They’re 9-2 in their last 11 playoff games after easily beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on Friday night.
The series has a long way to go, but I’m not sure I buy what seems to be the consensus among Penguins fans and local media that the Capitals have no chance.
• It’s been brought to my attention that organized co-ed kickball has become a popular activity among adult men. (I know. I don’t get out much.) Please tell me that grown men still also play in competitive softball leagues in the summer and only play co-ed kickball to meet women.
Otherwise, I have serious doubts about the future of my gender.
• A Manhattan Assembly woman has introduced a bill in the New York Legislature that would ban high school rifle teams.
And, for good measure, she threw in archery. Linda Rosenthal says she did it after she heard that the Parkland, Fla., shooter had honed his gun skills through a school-sponsored program.
“Schools should not be supporting the spread of gun culture in society,” she said.
No explanation was given for archery being banned.