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Pirates outfielder McCutchen captures National League MVP

| Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, 7:00 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen watches his single during the third inning against the Cardinals on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen pauses while answering questions after being named the 2013 National League MVP on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen smiles after being named the 2013 National League MVP on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen answers a question during a news conference after being named the 2013 National League MVP on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen smiles as he enters the media room at PNC Park after being named the 2013 National League MVP on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen smiles while answering questions after being named the 2013 National League MVP on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen takes the field during introductions before Game 3 of the National League Divisional Series against the Cardinals on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, at PNC Park.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker celebrates a 5-3 win with Andrew McCutchen against the Cardinals on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen robs the Cardinals' Adron Chambers with a catch at the outfield wall Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen watches his solo home run in front of Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan aduring the third inning Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen drives in a run with a hit during the eighth inning against the Cubs on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen makes a sliding catch in left center against the Cardinals on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, in Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen talks with team owner Bob Nutting in the dugout before a game against the Cubs on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Umpire Dana DeMuth signals the out after Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen robbed the Cubs' Junior Lake of a hit during the seventh inning Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen scores past Diamondbacks catcher Tuffy Gosewisch during the first inning Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen drives in a run with a single during the first inning against the Rockies on Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen drives in a run with a single during the third inning against the Rockies on Friday, Aug. 2, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen makes a sliding catch to rob the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter during the 10th inning Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen signals to the dugout after hitting a double during the first inning against the Cubs on Wednesday May 22, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen makes a diving catch during the second inning against the Cardinals on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen makes a sliding catch to rob the Brewers' Jean Segura during the second inning Friday, June 28, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen celebrates his triple during the sixth inning against the Phillies in front of third-base umpire Jerry Meals on Wednesday, July 3, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen scores past Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz during the fifth inning Wednesday, July 3, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen steals second base during the sixth inning against the Brewers on Saturday, June 29, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen steals second base ahead of the tag by Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro on Thursday, May 23, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen doubles in a run during the sixth inning against the Braves on Saturday, April 20, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen breaks his bat on a double during the sixth inning against the Cardinals on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen doubles during the sixth inning against the Astros on Saturday, May 18, 2013, at PNC Park.

The physical tools always have been there for center fielder Andrew McCutchen: speed, power, quick hands, strong wrists, the patience to wait for a pitcher to make a mistake and the ability to instantly recognize when it happens.

To become a truly elite player, the kind who wins MVP awards, McCutchen needed more. It wasn't enough to be the brightest star in the Pirates' clubhouse. He needed to become its leader.

“We talked (last winter) about him embarking on that,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “And Andrew has grown into that role.”

His physical tools enabled McCutchen to win the National League MVP Award. His leadership let him earn it.

On Thursday, McCutchen became the sixth league MVP in Pirates history since the award was introduced in 1931. He received 409 points — netting 28 of 30 first-place votes — in balloting conducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

“Years ago, if you'd have told me I could do this, I might have been a little skeptical because I didn't really know what I was capable of doing,” said McCutchen, 27. “It took me some time to really believe in myself. Now it's starting to show.”

Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt finished second with 242 points. St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was third with 219 points, including two first-place votes.

McCutchen joins former Pirates winners Barry Bonds (1990 and '92), Roberto Clemente (1966), Willie Stargell (1979), Dave Parker (1978) and Dick Groat (1960). In 1927, Paul Waner received the NL MVP Citation, a precursor of the official BBWAA award.

“That's unbelievable to be part of that elite group,” McCutchen said. “It's an honor for me to be there and be mentioned with those guys.”

To kill time before the announcement, McCutchen spent part of the afternoon playing video games with Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who won the American League MVP.

“The PlayStation 4 releases (Friday), but I got mine a day early,” McCutchen said, grinning. “I didn't do a lot, but I did enough to keep my mind off (the award).”

During the season McCutchen was all business. On Sept. 24 the Pirates clinched their first playoff berth since 1992 and celebrated in the visitors' clubhouse at Wrigley Field. Before the first champagne cork was popped, McCutchen reminded his teammates there was more work to be done.

It was one of several times this season McCutchen spoke up, something he hesitated to do earlier in his career.

“I've never been a real vocal type,” McCutchen said. “I'll say something when I feel it needs to be said. I know people will listen when I have things to say because we all respect each other.”

McCutchen got off to a slow start and was batting .247 at the end of April. From that point on, however, he hit at a .336 clip — that highest rate among NL players with at least 450 at-bats in that span.

McCutchen finished with a .317 batting average (seventh-best in the league) and set career highs in doubles (38) and on-base percentage (.404). He became the sixth player in franchise history to hit 100 homers and steal 100 bases in his career.

“He is the most dynamic player, or at least among the top three, in baseball,” Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said. “His speed is unbelievable. He hits for a high average, gets on base all the time, scores runs and his defense is second to none. He's the leader of that team.”

McCutchen batted .333 (7 for 21) during the playoffs. The Cardinals, who edged the Pirates in the NL Division Series, knew they had to contain McCutchen.

“He had an MVP type of year,” Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran said. “The Pirates are where they are because of his numbers and the type of player he is.”

McCutchen is among 10 major leaguers nominated for the 49th annual Hutch Award, which honors a player who demonstrates courage, dedication and honor in the face of adversity in his personal and/or professional life. The winner will be announced Jan. 30.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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