I chatted yesterday with Larry Bowa about Andrew McCutchen’s chances of winning the NL MVP award. Bowa played 16 years in the majors as an All-Star shortstop, managed the Padres and Phillies for a total of six seasons and now is an analyst for The MLB Network. The Gnat still preaches the importance of playing with tenacity — a trait he spotted right away in McCutchen. “I can’t even count on one hand the times I haven’t seen him run out a play,” Bowa said. “I look at guys when things aren’t going well (to see if) they giving the same effort. To me, just by watching his mannerisms on the field, you couldn’t tell if he was hitting .330 or .230. He approaches is all the same. That’s important because it tells a lot about the character of a player. Let’s face it, it’s hard to go out there and play at a high level when for the last 20 years (the Pirates) haven’t played .500 ball. That shows me a lot of mental toughness. He has the ability to concentrate in tough times, like in September when the team is out of it. I’m not saying it’s easy to fold up shop, but your concentration level wanes a little bit. But this kid seems to concentrate, doesn’t give away at-bats. If they could surround him with a couple more players, I think it would be an exciting team to watch.”
Bowa wasn’t surprised by McCutchen’s breakout season this year or by the fact that McCutchen is a frontrunner for the MVP. Already this offseason, McCutchen has won a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger and a Players Choice Award as NL most outstanding player. What did catch Bowa a bit off-guard, though, was McCutchen’s power surge — he hit 31 homers and had a .553 slugging percentage this year. “When I played and managed, most center fielders possessed the athleticism and ability to go catch the ball, but not the home run power,” Bowa said. “Usually, you would get the home runs from the flanks, left and right. PNC Park is really not a home-run park, especially for right-handed hitters, but I’ve seen him take balls to straightaway center field, right-center. McCutchen’s a good guy to build your team around. He’s got power, good defense, can steal bases … those are good assets.”
Will that be enough for McCutchen to take home the MVP award next week? Bowa doesn’t think so, and instead gives the edge to Giants catcher Buster Posey. “The reason I lean toward Posey is I look at the position he plays and the fact that they won their division when the Dodgers literally went out and tried to buy a pennant. It’s not a knock on McCutchen or (Ryan) Braun,” Bowa said. “When you look at a most valuable player … Would the Angels have come in third place without Mike Trout in the lineup? Yeah. Would Detroit Tigers have won the division without Miguel Cabrera? No, I don’t think they would’ve even gotten to the playoffs. I don’t think it’s fair, but as a baseball purist, that’s how I look at MVP. I think there should be two awards: best player in the league and most valuable. I do fall into that category, am I’m not saying it’s right, where I look at a team’s success and say, ‘Let’s take him out of the lineup and see where the team would’ve been.’ You could do that with McCutchen, too. Without him, the Pirates probably would’ve been 30 or 40 games under .500. I know it’s not his fault that he’s not playing on the Giants or whatever. I understand that.” The MVP winner announcement will be televised at 6 p.m. Thursday on MLB Network.