Andrew McCutchen returns to Pittsburgh

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The San Francisco Giants head to PNC Park to face the Pittsburgh Pirates this weekend. It’ll be the first time Andrew McCutchen returns to Pittsburgh as a visitor. You have to figure he’ll get a pretty warm reception when he comes to the plate for the first time.

McCutchen, of course, starred for the Pirates for the first nine seasons of his career, winning the NL MVP Award in 2013 and, arguably, putting up a better season the following year when he came in third in the voting. He was, without question, the face of the franchise and a quite likable one at that while he wore the black and gold. The dude loved Pittsburgh so much he named his son, born last fall, Steel.

While a lot of former stars return to boos, it wasn’t like McCutchen chose to go. The Pirates traded him to the Giants on Jan. 15 for reliever Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds. It was not a popular deal among the Pirate fan base, who saw the trade as the biggest in a series of moves they perceived to be aimed more at cutting payroll and improving the team’s bottom line than in trying to build a winning Pirates team.

Not that the Pirates have been bad this year. They’re 21-16, a game out of first in the NL Central, and head into the series winners of three in a row and four of their last five. The Giants, meanwhile, who traded for McCutchen in a “win-now” move, are 19-19 and just dropped four in a row to the Phillies. The best laid plans, etc. etc.

NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic spoke to McCutchen about his return to the Steel City. He certainly sounds eager to return. As for the fans: it should be a nice moment when the P.A. announcer calls out his name.

Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay lead newcomers on the 2019 Hall of Fame ballot

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The Baseball Hall of Fame has released its ballot for 2019.

The newcomers to the ballot, two of whom I presume will be first-ballot inductees, include Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay:

  • Roy Halladay
  • Todd Helton
  • Andy Pettitte
  • Mariano Rivera
  • Rick Ankiel
  • Jason Bay
  • Lance Berkman
  • Freddy Garcia
  • Jon Garland
  • Travis Hafner
  • Ted Lilly
  • Derek Lowe
  • Darren Oliver
  • Roy Oswalt
  • Juan Pierre
  • Placido Polanco
  • Miguel Tejada
  • Vernon Wells
  • Kevin Youkilis
  • Michael Young

Given his PED associations — and the writers’ curious soft touch about them when it comes to him vs. other players who got caught up in that stuff — Pettite will be an interesting case which we will, without question, be talking about more between now and the end of January. There will be more than mere novelty votes thrown at Helton, Berkman, Tejada, Youkilis and Young, but I don’t suspect they’ll make it or even come particularly close. Everyone else will either be one-and-done or receive negligible or even non-existent support.

The holdovers from last year’s ballot, with vote percentage from 2018:

Edgar Martinez (70.4%)
Mike Mussina (63.5%)
Roger Clemens (57.3%)
Barry Bonds (56.4%)
Curt Schilling (51.2%)
Omar Vizquel (37.0%)
Larry Walker (34.1%)
Fred McGriff (23.2%)
Manny Ramirez (22.0%)
Jeff Kent (14.5%)
Gary Sheffield (11.1%)
Billy Wagner (11.1%)
Scott Rolen (10.2%)
Sammy Sosa (7.8%)
Andruw Jones (7.3%)

This is Edgar Martinez’s last year on the ballot. He’s so close to the 75% threshold that one hopes — and suspects — that he’ll get over the line in 2019, especially given that four guys were cleared off the ballot last year. It should be a move-ahead year for Mike Mussina too, who has suffered from criminally low support given his numbers and the era in which they came. That Jack Morris is now in should further strengthen his case given that he was a far, far better pitcher than Morris.

The rest of the candidates all either have long-discussed PED-associations that should prevent them from getting the required support, were too far out in vote totals last year to expect them to spring to 75% support in a single ballot or are Curt Schilling, who basically everyone hates.

Results of the voting will be revealed on January 22nd and, of course, we’ll be talking at length about this year’s ballot over the next two months. At the outset, though, I’ll go with a gut prediction: Rivera, Halladay, Martinez and Mussina will be inducted.

Your predictions start now.