The cards turned up in Andrew McCutchen's favor right from the get-go Thursday.
His PlayStation 4, which wasn't supposed to be released until today, arrived a day early. After setting up that video game device, it was off to get his hair done -- "Had to be a little bit of a diva" -- and then to PNC Park, where his good fortune continued.
McCutchen, the Pirates' All-Star center fielder, won the National League Most Valuable Player Award after the conclusion of a stellar season.
"I'm floating right now," he said Thursday night during a news conference at PNC Park.
McCutchen bested Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, the other two finalists. McCutchen received 28 out of a possible 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Goldschmidt came in second despite not receiving a first-place vote, and Molina, who got the other two first-place votes, came in third.
"I definitely didn't expect it to be a landslide with those other guys, Goldschmidt and Molina," McCutchen said. "They're great candidates."
Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera won his second consecutive American League MVP award, receiving 23 of a possible 30 first-place votes. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout finished second, again, with five first-place votes. Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was third.
McCutchen, 27, hit .317 with a .404 on-base percentage, 21 home runs and 27 stolen bases in 157 games this season. He became the first Pirates player to win the MVP since Barry Bonds in 1992.
"This is a tremendous honor, not only for Andrew and his family, but for the Pittsburgh Pirates," general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement. "Since making his major league debut in 2009, he has been a great ambassador for the game of baseball. The Pirates organization is extremely proud of his focus and commitment, not just to the team, but to the entire Pittsburgh community."
In previous years, McCutchen had envisioned this type of performance from himself, but not necessarily the accolades that would follow.
"It was just me being the best player I could possibly be," he said. "Wherever that took me, that's where it took me."
He joined Bonds, who also won in 1990, Willie Stargell in 1979, Dave Parker in 1978, Roberto Clemente in 1966 and Dick Groat in 1960 as Pirates who have won the MVP. Stargell shared the 1979 award with Keith Hernandez when the voting ended in a tie. Paul Waner won in 1927, before the BBWAA started issuing the award in 1931.
"That's unbelievable to be even mentioned in that," McCutchen said of the previous Pirates winners. "To be a part of that elite group, it's going to go in the history books and be there for years to come for people to look back at."
Goldschmidt hit .302 with 36 home runs, tied for the NL lead with Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Goldschmidt's .551 slugging percentage and .952 on-base plus slugging percentage led the NL, as did his OPS+, which adjusts for league and park factors.
"He definitely showed us when he came and played against us here in Pittsburgh what he was capable of doing," McCutchen said.
Molina hit .319, tied for the third-best average in the league, with 12 home runs. His 2.1 defensive wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.com, ranked eighth in the NL. Wins above replacement, or WAR, is an all-encompassing metric that attempts to quantify how many wins a player added or subtracted compared to the average replacement player.
According to Fangraphs.com, McCutchen led the NL with an 8.2 WAR. Goldschmidt finished fourth with a 6.4, Molina sixth at 5.6.
Last season, McCutchen finished third in the voting behind San Francisco's Buster Posey and Milwaukee's Ryan Braun. McCutchen had a better offensive season in 2012 than he did this year, and he understood the effect the Pirates' success this season had on his win. The team finished second in the NL Central, ending a string of 20 consecutive losing seasons -- a record for North American professional sports -- and made the playoffs.
"It had a lot to do with that," McCutchen said. "Especially considering the numbers I had, all around, they were down from last year. I ended up being in third place from there. It definitely had to do with our team success as well. I wouldn't have been able to do it without those guys."
McCutchen is no stranger to good performance but said it took him some time to believe in his abilities and understand how to unleash them. "If you would have told me years ago that I would have had the opportunity to do this, I might have been a little skeptical, because I didn't know really what I was capable of doing."
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG First Published November 14, 2013 6:53 PM