The guardians of Baseball America are denouncing Adam Wainwright. They’re calling him a cheap facilitator for grooving hittable pitches to Derek Jeter in his All-Star Game farewell — and calling him a dumb ass for publicly admitting as much.
“I was going to give him a couple pipe shots. He deserved it,’’ said the St. Louis Cardinals ace, unapologetic after a Jeter double led to a three-run first inning in the American League’s 5-3 victory. “I didn’t know he going to hit a double, or else I would have changed my mind. I thought he was going to hit something hard to the right side for a single or an out. I probably should have pitched him a little better than that.’’
Personally, I’d rather thank Wainwright today.
I want to think him for revealing the spirit of what the All-Star Game is, opposed to the absurdity of what Major League Baseball has tried to make it represent.
For much too long, a dozen years now, Bud Selig has tried to absolve himself for the folly that was the infamous 7-7 tie — remember when he threw up his hands, in his hometown of Milwaukee — by injecting meaning into the game. “This Time It Counts,’’ he said, declaring that the winner of the All-Star Game also would win home-field advantage for that league in the World Series. For a man who grossly underreacted to the PED Era, it was a ridiculous overreaction. The All-Star winner could have counted as a small percentage of a much larger pie, including the results of interleague play, to determine Series homefield. But Bud wanted it his way. As usual, he didn’t apply enough brainpower.
You can’t require all 30 teams to be represented by at least one All-Star, unworthy as some are, and make the game count for such heavy stakes. And you can’t have an all-out tribute night for Jeter, or Mariano Rivera and Cal Ripken before him, without the showcase possibly impacting the integrity of the actual game. When Wainwright admitted immediately after his stint that he gave Jeter “a couple pipe shots,’’ all integrity was gone — not only for Jeter’s grand moment but for the game itself. Is this a real sport or pro wrestling?
And considering the home team has won the last 10 Game 7s in a World Series, well, Selig has screwed up yet again.
Bud’s minions quickly got to Wainwright and had him exercise damage control. “What I meant to say was I’m intentionally trying to throw a strike to get him out. It’s what I do most of the time, almost all the time,” he said after the game. “`Piping one’ is the wrong window for that. It really is. If I’m going to get taken to the slaughterhouse for saying a stupid phrase, then I deserve it. What can you do?”
Jeter was taken aback at first, as he should have been as the consummate competitor. Then, typically, he thought about minimizing the media damage. “He grooved them? I don’t know, man,’’ he said. “If he grooved it, thank you. You’ve still got to hit it. I appreciate it if that’s what he did. Thank you.’’
Baseball has serious problems — mostly, an audience that is growing old and isn’t watching on TV. When the new commissioner arrives, he will have a stack of issues more important than the All-Star farce. But this one can be fixed very quickly. Create a formula — involving interleague play results, the regular-season records of the two Series teams and the result of the All-Star Game. Put it in a blender, turn on the button, see how it comes out. That would have been a sensible solution all along.
Instead, after a night intended to honor a monumental career, we’re talking about grooved pitches. Please go away, Mr. Selig.