The Pittsburgh Pirates are 53-52 and just three games back in the Wild Card race. So if seems like an odd time to sit Andrew McCutchen for an entire series – which the Pirates are doing for their three-game set against the Braves – that’s because it is.
Then again, maybe it isn’t. McCutchen went 1-for-12 this past weekend, as the Pirates were swept in Milwaukee, and is now hitting just .241 with 15 homers, 43 RBIs and a .311 OBP on the season.
Only 29, McCutchen is still in his prime, but he isn’t playing like it. Why is the former MVP struggling to mightily?
“I do not miss those 0-for-20s, I can promise you,” former World Series champion Chipper Jones said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I went to the first game (Tuesday), and I wondered where Cutch was. I asked some of the guys on the Braves throughout the game (if he was hurt). I knew he wasn’t having a typical McCutchen-type year, and look, you’re not going to do it every single year. You’re going to go through mini slumps and struggle with your confidence, things like that. I think right around when I was 30 or so, I hit .245 for an entire year, so you’re going to go into funks. It is surprising because he is such a great player and has been a perennial All-Star, a perennial MVP candidate, to see him struggle as much as he has this year.”
Jones, in fact, wonders if McCutchen is injured.
“I got to think there’s something that might be nagging him to a certain extent,” he said. “I know Bobby (Cox) would come up to me every once in a while and say, ‘Hey, look, you’ve played 50 games in a row and we’ve got a 17-game stretch where we don’t have any days off and you look tired. You look like you might need a day.’ But that was it. That’s all you got. To be honest with you, in the ninth inning of a tie ball game on your off day, you better be ready to pinch hit. But for an extended period of time, that’s what makes me think there’s a little something else that could possibly be nagging him.”
Jones, an eight-time All-Star, was also asked about a player he competed against for many years: Mike Piazza. He wasn’t the most athletic guy in the world, but Piazza is a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest to ever do it.
“You could say the same thing about somebody like Greg Maddux,” Jones said. “He didn’t have any kind of athletic ability whatsoever, but you put him 60 feet, six inches from home plate and he could do some special things. No, Mike, he might not have been the greatest defensive catcher in the world, but let me tell you something: When he was in that batter’s box and he had a piece of wood in his hand, he was to be feared. You’re talking about probably the best offensive catcher that any of us have ever seen. Probably rivals right up there with a Johnny Bench.”
Piazza famously hit a game-winning home run against the Braves in the Mets’ first game after 9/11.
“Playing in New York City and being able to experience that homer that he hit after 9/11, I get asked all the time (about) some of my lasting memories from New York throughout my career, and that is certainly at the top of the list – and there’s not even a close second,” Jones said. “I was standing in left field in a 2-2 ball game in the eighth inning when he stepped to the plate, and there’s been about 10 or 15 times during the course of my career where I had a premonition of something that was going to happen, and he was walking to the plate and I was thinking to myself, ‘He’s going to hit a home run right here, and the roof is going to come off of this place.’ When he hit it, he hit a bomb off of Steve Karsay and it landed up in the scaffolding in left-center field. I never even moved. I looked at Andruw (Jones) and I was in amazement. It was just one of those spine-tingling moments. It’ll live in infamy like you said. It might not have won a championship like a Joe Carter home run in Toronto, but for the well-being of an entire city and the Northeast itself, that was one of the biggest home runs ever hit.”