When LeBron James was dominating the NBA Finals series against the young but outmanned Oklahoma City Thunder, every time he would get the ball, fans of the Miami Heat would chant "MVP! MVP!''
That's the cry that can regularly can be heard coming from PNC Park these days as Pittsburgh Pirates fans let the rest of the baseball world know their team has the majors' best player in outfielder Andrew McCutchen.
That's a pretty lofty status to give to a 26-year-old who never has hit over .286 in any previous season, but given McCutchen's numbers as we head to the all-star break, it's hard to argue with those legions of Pirates fans.
His two home runs during Sunday's 13-2 rout of the San Francisco Giants gives McCutchen 18 on the season. His 4 RBIs raised his total to 60. And his three hits in five at-bats pushed his batting average into the stratosphere at .362. Throw in 17 doubles, five triples and 14 stolen bases, and there's no doubt McCutchen is a legitimate candidate to be named the best player in the National League.
But even those impressive numbers don't tell all of his story. He plays hard. He gives an all-out effort on every play.
What sets McCutchen apart is his blinding speed. If he hits a ball into the gap, he doesn't stop running until he reaches third base. Let an opposing hitter hit one the same place and odds are McCutchen will track it down and turn it into a long out.
When McCutchen comes to the plate, the excitement level rises. Whenever he gets on base, it is downright electrifying. The noise and intensity levels go off the chart.
Give Pittsburgh management credit not only for selecting McCutchen in the first round of the 2005 draft but also for signing him in March to a six-year, $51.5 million contract extension. That's a major commitment, but one that may pay great dividends.
Tonight, McCutchen will represent the National League in the Home Run Derby competition. On Tuesday, for the second straight year, he will serve as a member of the National League All-Star team.
Now, back to all this talk of MVP!
Those initials, lest we forget, stand for Most Valuable Player. Can you name another player in the National League that is more valuable to his team this season than McCutchen is to the Pirates? Considering Pittsburgh hasn't had a winning season since 1992 and enters the All-Star break 11 games over .500 and on top of the National League Central Division, I can't.
McCutchen leads the Pirates in virtually every offensive category. He has the most home runs, RBIs and stolen bases, not to mention the highest batting average.
Plus, he has great intangibles. His hustling style of play has become the norm in Pittsburgh. More than any other player, he has helped manager Clint Hurdle set a tone that anything less than an all-out effort won't be tolerated.
Hey LeBron, you're not the only MVP.
Contact Dave Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org