Sabtu, 18 Juni 2011

Pirates' anger nice to see

Saturday, June 18, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 11: Andrew McCutchen(notes) #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a two RBI double in the third inning against the New York Mets during the game on June 11, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND — The Pirates' clubhouse was still abuzz Friday about Major League Baseball changing Andrew McCutchen's two-run double from six days earlier into an error and, in the process, erasing his 15-game hitting streak.

I'll be candid here: That doesn't move me much. As McCutchen told me, "It's not like I was chasing Joe DiMaggio."

No, he wasn't. Even if the streak had stretched through the 5-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Friday night at Progressive Field — McCutchen went 0 for 4 — he would have been, oh, just 40 shy of Joltin' Joe's famed 56.

But here's what did move me: McCutchen's teammates were angry about it. And I mean vein-popping angry.

What a refreshing change from the malaise of recent years.

Even second baseman Neil Walker, maybe the most affable guy on the planet, raised his voice when raising the topic unsolicited.

"It's just wrong," Walker said. "Look, Cutch is a team-first guy, and we all know the most important thing is that he hit the ball hard, and those two runs helped us win the game. But you feel for him because we all know what was going on. To change that in a 15-game hitting streak ... that's tough, man."

"It's hard to explain," pitcher Paul Maholm said. "Cutch didn't deserve that."

You could tell McCutchen appreciated it all.

"It makes me feel good that my teammates are behind me, that they saw what I had going," he said. "They were just as mad as I was when they found out."

A difference from the past?

"Oh, yeah, by far," he said. "Everybody's behind you now. I mean, this is kind of an individual thing, but my teammates know I'm not a selfish player. And they know a long hitting streak is hard to get."

The decision by MLB's five-member panel was ridiculous, by the way, so let's rewind to the third inning last Saturday at PNC Park, where the Pirates beat the Mets, 3-2.

With two out and two aboard, McCutchen solidly bounced an R.A. Dickey knuckleball to Murphy's right. Murphy, usually a first baseman, took one long stride toward the line, dipped down, then had the ball carom off his knee and into foul territory. Tony Krizmanich, one of four official scorers who work at PNC Park, correctly ruled it a double and two RBIs.

The Mets appealed, hoping to spare Dickey the damage to his ERA. The panel, which must agree unanimously on overturning a scorer's decision, did so Thursday during the Pirates' game in Houston. McCutchen and the team found out afterward from manager Clint Hurdle, and the anger immediately followed.

Who could blame them?

» A ball hit solidly that goes more than a step to a third baseman's backhand side almost always requires the "above-ordinary effort" official scorers use to delineate whether a play should have been made.

» Even with a clean pick, Murphy had no realistic force plays at third or second, with Jose Tabata and Josh Harrison, respectively, sprinting in plenty of time to be safe. That meant a throw across the diamond was Murphy's only option, and McCutchen is one of the fastest men in baseball. "It's at least a bang-bang play," Walker said. "If it's not a double, it has to be a single and an error."

» As a couple players explained, the PNC Park infield grass is so tall that it can put a violent bend on grounders that get pulled to either side. "That thing moved," pitcher Jeff Karstens said.

» None of the panel's members was at the game, so none had the irreplaceable live feel of the play. Only Krizmanich had that, and the panel's criteria for overturning a scorer's decision is that it must be "clearly erroneous." It's laughable to suggest this met that criteria.

That bugged Hurdle the most.

"I was very surprised that it was unanimous," he said. "I don't see it as unanimous. I don't see it as a homer call. I don't see any of that. I saw a guy give an above-ordinary effort at third base, lay out, and the ball took a little bounce at the end. Where does he go with the ball if he catches it? The play's over."

What Hurdle liked, just as I did, was hearing his players back McCutchen.

"It speaks volumes that they care about one another," Hurdle said. "And it's not a selfish care. It's a collective care. They care about Andrew, and they feel like that decision violated him."

Although no one would share, a few players had their own theory about why McCutchen was hosed.

I'm guessing the theory is related to those seven letters stitched across the front of their jerseys.

Read more: Kovacevic: Pirates' anger nice to see - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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