Mehno: McCutchen’s return goes smoothly

Commentary

PITTSBURGH — Thanks, Cutch.

That was the theme of Andrew McCutchen’s return to PNC Park Friday night, and the unofficial Cutch Night went off without a hitch.

There were the requisite video tributes, extended standing ovations and a lopsided Pirates’ victory. McCutchen hit a double and threw a runner out at the plate, but neither play really affected the outcome.

All divorces should end so amicably.

McCutchen’s return popped the biggest crowd so far this season as people took the opportunity to thank McCutchen for his years with the Pirates. He was the center piece of their lineup when the 20-year losing streak finally ended with three consecutive post-season appearances.

Lost in the emotion of his departure and return is the fact that the long-term contract he signed with the Pirates worked out perfectly. The Pirates got the very best years of his career and very little of the decline. The timing was perfect and the cost was reasonable.

Both sides have moved on to new relationships. The Pirates have added Corey Dickerson and reconfigured Starling Marte to center field. McCutchen has a new life with the Giants, batting second and playing right field, two things that were issues when the Pirates sought to implement them.

McCutchen leaves town after this afternoon’s game. The Pirates move forward with their new lineup.

The reunion worked out just as well as McCutchen’s contract did for the Pirates.

The move to make

If Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford wants to do coach Mike Sullivan a favor, he’ll make every effort to trade Phil Kessel this summer.

Kessel is a talented offensive player, which means there’s a market for him. There are a lot of teams where he would instantly upgrade the ability to score goals.

The other side is he’s the kind of pain in the neck that Advil can’t help. His work habits and efforts can be spotty. He’s the kind of player the Penguins often had in the old days — he can coast because of his talent. Sometimes he does.

When Rick Tocchet was an assistant coach, a big part of his responsibility was handling Kessel. The two developed a rapport, and Sullivan was happy to delegate that particular responsibility.

With Tocchet gone to the head coaching job in Phoenix, more of the Kessel duty fell to Sullivan. That wasn’t a happy experience.

This isn’t about “getting rid of” Kessel as much as it’s using an asset to fill a need. If the Penguins can deal Kessel to upgrade their defense, they should consider doing it.

Oh no

Rockefeller Center, corporate headquarters of NBC, is right across Fifth Avenue from St. Patrick Cathedral in Manhattan.

You have a feeling a lot of NBC executives are visiting church daily to pray that the network doesn’t wind up with a Winnipeg-Tampa Bay final for the Stanley Cup.

Prime time?

If you’re really old (Hi!), you remember when Monday Night Football was an event.

Now it’s just another game played on a different day. The NFL steers the best games to Sunday nights, which is a much bigger deal in the league’s TV package.

Jon Gruden left TV to coach the Oakland Raiders, and play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough was dropped.

ESPN announced last week that the new Monday Night Football announcing crew is Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten, Booger McFarland (field level analyst) and Lisa Salters.

Booger McFarland?

Like a lot of things, Monday Night Football isn’t quite what it used to be.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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