Most valuable season: McCutchen and Hurdle awards are only a start

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Pirates fans knew by the way it ended that this was a most valuable season. But to have center fielder Andrew McCutchen and manager Clint Hurdle receive the league’s top honors for their individual performances is more proof that 2013 was something special.

Mr. McCutchen’s landslide win in the National League Most Valuable Player voting (28 of 30 first-place votes) by the Baseball Writers Association was as impressive as his work on the field. He finished the year with a .317 batting average, a .404 on-base percentage, 21 home runs and 27 stolen bases. But his most impressive stat may have come in a different category.

Andrew McCutchen is only the sixth Pirate in history to be named an MVP by the writers — after Dick Groat, Roberto Clemente, Dave Parker, Willie Stargell and Barry Bonds. That’s impressive company for a 27-year-old.

His manager, Clint Hurdle, had an amazing year of his own, snapping the team’s two-decade streak of losing seasons and getting the Pirates into the playoffs, which put him in even rarer company. On Tuesday, the baseball writers named him the National League’s Manager of the Year (25 first-place votes out of 30), an award taken by only one other Pirate, Jim Leyland.

These personal accolades are milestones in two outstanding careers, but they are also symbols of something bigger — that the Pirates are back as a team of contenders, that this past year was a season on which to build and that the future of winning baseball in Pittsburgh is very, very bright.

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