By John Perrotto
It was used to be that a major-league player who joined the 30-30 club had done something very special by hitting 30 home runs and stealing 30 bases in the same season.
Then players began to get bigger, faster and stronger in the 1980s and 1990, whether it was by legal means or otherwise. Suddenly, it seemed the 30-30 club was no longer so exclusive.
So when Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen reached the 20-20 club for first time in his three-year career earlier this week, it was only natural to wonder if it was a really big deal.
McCutchen, for his part, didn’t do anything special to mark the occasion.
“It’s just another step on the road to where I want to get,” McCutchen said.
McCutchen was an All-Star for the first time this season and he seems more interested in marking championships as milestones on his major-league journey rather than individual accomplishments. However, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle doesn’t downplay McCutchen being a 20-20 man.
“It’s a special feat. It’s been a special feat in any era,” Hurdle said. “It speaks to his skill set, a young player in his second full season. It’s an accomplishment, but to put up numbers you have to play every day and that’s something Cutch does for us. He shows up every day and doesn’t give up anything when he’s out there, either in the outfield running down balls or in at-bats. He’s got great focus and great determination.”
McCutchen has exactly 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases going into Friday afternoon’s opener of a three-game series against the Cubs. He plans on adding to both totals in the season’s final month.
“Getting 20-20 is definitely a steppingstone for me,” McCutchen said. “I’ve still got a lot of ball to play, though, so I’m still going to continue to go out there and play hard and try to finish up strong.”
McCutchen is the eighth Pirates player to reach 20-20, joining Dave Parker, Barry Bonds, Andy Van Slyke, Al Martin, Kevin Young, Jason Bay and Nate McLouth. The player scouts keep comparing McCutchen to, though, is Bonds, at least when the all-time home run leader was in his younger days with the Pirates from 1986-92.
“He really does remind you of Barry,” said one scout who covers the Pirates. “He’s got that wiry strength like Barry had before he went to San Francisco and just became massive. He’s got that great speed on the bases like Barry did and he covers a lot of ground like Barry did. Obviously, McCutchen isn’t going to hit 762 homers like Barry but he’s strong enough to hit the ball out to any part of the park and I don’t think we’ve seen all of his power yet.”
The next logical step in McCutchen’s progression would a 30-30 season and the scouts are almost unanimous in their belief that he will reach that level.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen next year,” one scout said. “He’s just 24 years old and he’s getter better all the time. I know saying the sky is the limit is such a cliché but it fits in this case.”
John Perrotto has covered the Pirates and Major League Baseball since 1988.