As of Friday morning, Andrew McCutchen was pretty much the best baseball player on the planet. The Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder tops the list of NL MVP candidates, leading the league in batting average (.373), slugging percentage (.632), runs scored (72) and total bases (237). That and the fact he has the Pirates in postseason contention are plenty, but there's more to than baseball to this polite and fashionable 25-year-old, who broke from a routinely strenuous workout at Wrigley Field before a recent Cubs game to chat it up in an Answer Man session.
David Brown: Does leading the league in batting average feel different in August than it does in May or June?
Andrew McCutchen: I feel like leading the league is leading the league, regardless of when it is. If you're first in anything, take pride in it. You enjoy it. If you're first, you're first. So I don't look at it any different, really. It's more about being consistent, and not falling off as much. I'd like to keep it going and heat up here again.
DB: You've been photographed wearing the socks you have on now. They appear to be taken from a baby zebra. Are these Zubaz socks? What's the story?
AM: They're just socks that I've seen. I'm kind of "RG3," man. I like wearing different socks. I find a socks shop when I'm walking around. If I see some socks I like, I'll go in and buy 'em and I'll wear 'em during the game.
DB: RG3 [Robert Griffin III of the Redskins] has a thing about socks?
AM: [Surprised] Yeah! If you don't know about it, he's the same way. He wears anything, man. He's wearing Hello Kitty socks, or something like that, when he's out in the field practicing.
DB: Are these your coolest socks yet?
AM: Nah, last year, I had some cool ones. Looked like Chuck Taylors [basketball shoes]. Pretty neat. I have a LOT of different socks. During the regular season, that's how I am. I'm over the black socks or plain white. The rest of the world, you can't really see them unless I'm pulling them up. Or unless you slide and your pants come up. Or if I'm home and the cameras just happen to be on them.
DB: And these zebra socks are regulation because they're Pirate colors?
AM: I don't know if they're regulation. I don't think they have anything against whatever color socks you wear as long as they're not showing. I wear long pants [down to the shoes]. So if you don't see 'em, I guess it really doesn't matter.
DB: Where'd you get the zebra socks?
AM: In Baltimore. We were playing the Orioles.
DB: Remember the same of the store?
AM: Just a socks shop.
DB: There are "socks shops" just for weird socks?
AM: Oh, yeah. Many [towns] just have socks shops. They're everywhere.
DB: Your older brother from another mother, Daniel McCutchen, is back with the Bucs. Are you going to hang out with him more this time, maybe take advantage of him being around?
AM: It's good to see him. Haven't had time to do anything with him yet. He brings a little spark to the bullpen. He's good for them because he keeps people loose, he keeps them laughing. All of us. He's a gamer.
DB: The famous 19-inning game against the Braves last season. I'm not gonna ask you about Jerry Meals' call, but I will ask you, Did you hear the little girl screaming "Let's Go Pi-rates!" from her seat over and over again? It was easy to hear her on TV.
AM: I vaguely remember that. I don't remember too much because the game was so long, but I've seen her on TV on a show about the greatest fans, or something like that. And they'll show that girl screaming like that during the whole game. It's good to have fans like that, especially being a young age, cheering for our team.
DB: No temptation whatsoever to go into the stands and politely ask her to stop?
AM: Like I said, I don't remember [laughs]. I don't think anybody should mind a little girl screaming for her team for 19 innings because you're not going to see that everywhere.
DB: OK, fair enough. Getting back to Jerry Meals' call. What do you think of expanding instant replay? Bud Selig has said he doesn't hear people clamoring for it. Do we need more video replay?
AM: It depends on the situation. I like the way it is with the home runs. I feel like it's made a big difference. Anything else, I don't know. I feel like you don't want to take away everything of the game that happens on the field. It's just a game. Sometimes, you're not going to have calls go your way. I guess it would make a difference if it was, say, playoff games. World Series games, if they expanded it then, to make it as perfect as they can, I'd be for that. But as the regular season goes, I don't think it should be altered.
DB: An ESPN the Magazine article references your offseason training regimen. Lemme quote: "Two-a-day conditioning sessions and the yoga and the pool sprints and the pushups with the 50 pounds of chains wrapped around your torso." What were you doing to yourself there?
AM: It was one of the workouts I did when I was over at IMG Academy [in Bradenton, Fla.]. I just tried to raise my level of training to the highest point that I could. I wanted to work hard there so, going into spring training, I knew I'd be physically and mentally ready for whatever came at me. That's how I went into the season and I have no regrets about it.
DB: Did they ever combine the chains and the swimming?
AM: Nah, unless you want to drown, no one's really going to do that one [laughs]. There's no need to prepare you for that. But they had some effective workouts, and good people pushing me.
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DB: Why did you wait so long to tell everyone that you are the voice of Cleveland Brown?
AM: No one really asked [laughs]. But someone asked and it went from there.
DB: What would Cleveland say right now if he were here?
AM: I can't. You can look it up on Twitter, on YouTube [laughs].
DB: You're not tempted to call Pedro Alvarez "Peter"?
AM: Nah. I'm familiar with anything that has to do with the show, but I don't really talk to anyone in that voice [laughs].
DB: How dangerous is it for a guy in Pittsburgh to associate with a man named Cleveland Brown, given the Steelers rivalry?
AM: Well, if you don't know the show, it could be a little dangerous. Just don't jump the gun and bash me. But I think Cleveland Brown the guy is familiar enough with everyone.
DB: You've met Mike Tomlin, coach of the Steelers. Does he look as much like actor Omar Epps in person as he does on TV?
AM: That's pretty funny. He kind of does. He does resemble him. They share some traits. I can see it. It is pretty funny, though. I never heard that until just now [laughs].
DB: He's been seen in an Andrew McCutchen jersey. Conversely, will you walk around wearing a headset, calling plays, emulating coach Tomlin?
AM: Not me. But it's cool that he comes around to the games and he wears the jersey though. It's good to see the support. It's cool to know someone, a head coach like that, who'll come down and watch a game every now and then and he'll wear my jersey. It's an honor to me.
DB: He ever try to convince you to try and return kicks for the Steelers?
AM: I don't think [Pirates brass] Neal Huntington and Bob Nutting would be too fond of that, so I don't think you'll ever see that happen. I'd like to think I could do it, though.
DB: With the 'do rag and the braids, if you added an eye patch, would you look just like the Jolly Roger?
AM: Well, first off, they're dreadlocks. They're not braids. Those are two different things. Just want to get that clarified [laughs]. But that look could maybe work. I've never done it for Halloween, but maybe one of these years I probably will.
DB: Reportedly, you haven't had a haircut in five years, so if we freed your braids...
DB: Shoot, I had "braids" written from before.
DB: So if we freed your dreadlocks, how massive of an Afro are we talking?
AM: All right, another school on the dreadlocks: You can't free them, you can't let them out. That's why they're called "locks." Once the hair is locked up, you can't unravel it. So there's really nothing else I could do. If don't want it anymore someday, if I wanted to do something new, I'd have to cut it off. That's all I could do.
DB: So, there's no key to the dreadlocks.
AM: Right. Once they're locked, they're locked. Once you grow them out, you're done. And if you don't want them anymore, you have to shave it all off.
DB: I've never apologized for being so white before, but I feel pretty white right now. I'm sorry.
AM: Haha. That's OK. It's all right. A lot of people don't know. It's OK.
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DB: Knowing what you know now, could you have thrown out Sid Bream in the 1992 NLCS. Not as a 6-year-old, I mean, but now.
AM: I feel like that's just an insult to Barry Bonds! If that's the question. Barry Bonds had a pretty good arm, man. If he couldn't do it, not too many people could.
DB: You're not a Hall of Fame voter, but you're a baseball fan should Barry Bonds be in Cooperstown?
AM: Considering what he's done, he should have the opportunity. He's one of the best hitters in baseball history. He did a whole lot of other things than home runs. He's won some batting titles, or came close. Some MVPs. Not too many people have done what he did.
DB: What did you learn about yourself this time at the All-Star game, Home Run Derby included, other than never, ever to complain in public again about waiting for an airplane?
AM: Haha. Yeah. I was able to have a lot more fun this time. I knew I was going to make the team and it wouldn't be as an injury replacement, like in the year prior when a couple people got hurt. This year, I was able to prepare myself and I had a lot of fun. And hey, who wouldn't like to have a three-hour layover trying to get to an awesome place like the All-Star game? Not too many people would get upset over that.
DB: When Prince Fielder said he was still learning how to slide, people made fun of him for it. Is it really all that hard?
AM: If you get the random person trying to go out and do it, yes it is. If someone's not really done it much and you tell them, "Now go to that base and slide," I guarantee not too many people would be able to do it on the first couple tries. Sometimes you get stuck up in there [laughs].
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DB: Where does #BUCN come from?
AM: It's something I made up.
DB: It's a secret?
AM (Voice gets quiet): I wouldn't say it's much of a secret. If you're a Pirates fan, if you're a Bucs fan, you're "BUCN." And that's what I'm all about. It has a lot of different meaning to it. But for the most part, that's it.
DB: It doesn't have anything to do with the "Call of Duty" video game? Someone suggested to me that maybe it was your call sign on the game.
AM: Nah. Not really. Nothing to do with that.
DB: Are there people who make a living playing "Call of Duty" and could you be one of those people?
AM: There probably are gamers out there, maybe the people who get paid to test out the games. I don't think I could do that. I think, recently, somebody just died from playing the game for an extended period of time. And I think he ended up dying.
DB: You're not that much of a player.
AM: I'm definitely not that guy. I'm definitely not going to be able to get paid for playing video games.
DB: Did Brad Lincoln ever teach you how to shoot a gun for real?
AM: Nah ... I mean, I've already known how. Maybe a bow and arrow. He never taught me that. If I wanted to know, he could have. If I wanted to know. I'm not that much of a hunter.
DB: Lincoln was just traded. Do players dislike the trading deadline as much as writers seem to?
AM: You hate to watch people who've been here for years, and who helped you get to where you are, you hate to watch them leave. A lot of people who brought a lot to the team, you've developed relationships with them, they end up leaving for another team. It definitely is a sad day. It's like with anyone you might meet. Not just in baseball. Co-workers, or whatever it is. If they get a promotion or get moved to another city, you've developed relationships with those guys and it's hard to see them go. So you're going to be upset. But at the same time, you're not going to take that out on the people coming here.
DB: It's complicated.
AM: It is complicated. But it's a game. And all they're doing is trying to win.
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DB: What makes State College of Florida at Manatee-Sarasota — adorably nicknamed Manatee Jr. College — such a tough opponent for major-league teams during spring training?
AM: Well, we don't play them anymore.
DB: Because they beat you, presumably?
AM: I don't remember. When was that? '07?
DB: It was 2009. The Orioles lost to them this year.
AM: It was a long time ago. Was I in the big leagues yet? Whenever it was, I think, one, we hadn't even started our season yet. They're already into their baseball mode. Two, we're really not playing our starters. Three [laughs] ... It's one of those games where, if you win, you were supposed to. So you've got a little pressure on you.
DB: Not the good kind of pressure.
AM: No. They're not even supposed to get a hit off you. But it's baseball and people are going to get hits and score runs and sometimes someone's going to win who wasn't supposed to. So to speak.
DB: Who's the best outfielder in baseball?
AM: You know I'm going to say myself. That's just the way I look at it. I could have told you that when I was 18, that I was the best player. And not out of cockiness but confidence. That's kind of how I was taught to be and that's how I've always been.
DB: You can really back it up now, though. It's bona fide!
AM: I could still do a little better, though. I can always do more.
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Previous Answer Men (and Woman):
2012 • Aaron Boone
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2009 • Shane Victorino • Carlos Pena • Jay Bruce • Joe Nathan • Joe Maddon • Joakim Soria • Joey Votto • Tom Glavine • Adrian and Edgar Gonzalez • Chris Volstad • Paul Konerko • Edwin Jackson • Mark DeRosa • Tim Lincecum • Dave Righetti • Pedro Martinez • Denard Span • Cal Ripken
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2008 • Hunter Pence • Justin Morneau • David Wright • Erin Andrews • Andy Van Slyke • Derek Jeter • Bob Uecker • Bert Blyleven • Torii Hunter • Joba Chamberlain • Larry Bowa • Zack Greinke • Kerry Wood • Huston Street • Josh Hamilton • Milton Bradley • CC Sabathia • Mike Mussina • Jason Bay • Cole Hamels • Ron Santo • Francisco Rodriguez • Ryan Dempster • Evan Longoria