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McCutchen one of three finalists for NL MVP

Pirates star, already Players Choice winner, competing with Molina, Goldschmidt

In a late-season conversation about qualifications for being chosen the National League's Most Valuable Player, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle offered his own definition of the title.

"The MVP is the baddest dude in the league," Hurdle had said, quickly adding, "Andrew McCutchen is the baddest dude in this league."

It is not yet known whether voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America completely agree, but McCutchen was recognized as one of the three baddest dudes in the NL last week, when he was announced as one of three finalists for the award.

Hurdle himself claimed NL Manager of the Year honors on Tuesday, topping fellow finalists Don Mattingly of the Dodgers and Fredi Gonzalez of the Braves.

The NL MVP Award will be rolled out during an MLB Network broadcast at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday.

So many of the high points of the Pirates' 94-win season harkened back to 1992, their previous winning season, and their 2013 award finalists could score a couple of more flashbacks. Barry Bonds and Jim Leyland that year were the team's last MVP and Manager of the Year.

McCutchen's co-finalists are St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina and Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Coincidentally -- since the voting bodies are completely different -- they were also the three finalists for the Players Choice Award as NL Outstanding Player, which went to McCutchen.

Last week, in fact, McCutchen became the third back-to-back recipient of that Players Choice Award, which has been presented since 1993. Bonds (2001-02) and Albert Pujols (2008-09) were also chosen MVP in each of those years.

McCutchen broke that trend a year ago, when he finished third in the NL balloting, behind Buster Posey and Ryan Braun. McCutchen had drawn one first-place vote while totaling 245 points to Molina's 241.

It's worth noting that there is no continuity in voting for the BBWAA awards. The awards for which they vote are rotated annually among the writers, so the electorate for any particular award is totally revised from one year to the next.

So it remains to be seen if this year's MVP voters appreciate some of the subtler assets both McCutchen and Molina bring over the overwhelming power numbers of Goldschmidt.

The D-backs player had 36 homers (tying the Bucs' Pedro Alvarez for the league lead) and his 125 RBIs were 16 more than that of anyone else in the NL.

So the MVP will either come from a .500 club (Arizona finished 81-81) or have the fewest RBIs of any winner of the league's most prestigious award since Kirk Gibson in 1988. Himself a player renowned for playing with an edge and with intangibles, Gibson had 76 RBIs in his MVP season for the Dodgers.

McCutchen drove in 84 runs with a modest total of 21 homers; Molina, who missed two weeks in August with a knee injury, had 12 homers and 80 RBIs.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Andrew McCutchen