Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My thoughts on the All-Star Game and Adam Wainwright's pipe shot to Derek Jeter

I totally called it. I was on my way home from Manhattan in the rain, listening to last night's All-Star Game on my Nano radio. And right after some very loud fan called Derek Jeter overrated at the game, Jeter seemed to shut him up with a leadoff double against Adam Wainwright. Squawker Jon texted me that Jeter got a double, and I texted back, "I heard Wainwright got tips from Denny McLain." (Back in the day, McLain grooved one to Mickey Mantle for the Mick's 535th career homer.)

I know people will call me a hater for saying that, but given the Mantle history, as well as the history of Chan Ho Park also grooving one to Cal Ripken, Jr. in Cal's last All-Star Game so he could have a home run, I wasn't the least bit surprised to hear that yes, Adam Wainwright did indeed give Jeter a big ol' cookie. After all, this was going to be Jeter's night, no matter what, from the Bob Sheppard introduction on. And a first-inning groundout just wouldn't do.

And well whaddaya know? My suspicions were right. During the game, Wainwright confirmed the cookie suspicions, telling a group of reporters the following thing:
"I was gonna give him a couple pipe shots. He deserved it," Wainwright said. "I didn't know he was gonna hit a double or I might have changed my mind."
So, the pitcher who shouldn't have been starting the game in the first place (Clayton Kershaw should have been the NL starter), but got the nod because his St. Louis Cardinals' manager, Mike Matheny, was the NL All-Star manager, grooves some "pipe shots" to Jeter, who, with his 2014 .647 OPS, was only in the game as a career honor, not for anything he actually did this season. And people call me cynical?

Of course, once word got out on what Wainwright did, he backtracked so fast there may have been skidmarks on the Target Field turf. So after Ken Rosenthal told All-Star viewers about the pipe shots, the FOX broadcast went into full damage control mode. Wainwright, with an assist from Erin Andrews, appeared on the broadcast, blamed social media for the brouhaha and claimed he was just joking. Oh, please. Nobody misquoted you, buddy, and social media had nothing to do with it. You said it, it got reported. Deal with it.

One of the more alarming things about this story was that fact that so many members of the media wanted Wainwright to have kept his mouth shut to keep up the illusion. The Newark Star-Ledger points out what some of them said on Twitter last night. Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News wrote: "Pretty classless move by Wainwright to say he was grooving pitches to Jeter. Either do it and keep quiet or don't do it at all." Eric Boland of Newsday wrote: "Don't know Wainwright's motivation in talking about grooving one to Jeter but doing ends up detracting from very moment he hoped to produce." And Kim Jones wrote "Dear Adam Wainwright: Pipe down."

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, folks, is what these media people, who should know better, seem to be saying. Gee, and here I thought reporters were supposed to, you know, actually report, and not be cheerleaders for a particular storyline. How embarrassing.

Look, either the All-Star Game counts or it doesn't. If the game doesn't count, then the likes of Wainwright can do all the WWE-type moves he wants to show "Re2pect." (And don't get me started on that self-aggrandizing and downright weird ad campaign -- why would Jeter, the guy who supposedly doesn't like all the attention, agree to have everybody kiss his tuchis in that ad?) But if it does count, and home field advantage in the World Series is riding on it, then Wainwright has to, you know, actually do his job and try to help his team win. If the Cardinals make it to the World Series again this year, I guess they can "thank" Wainwright for his gift basket to Jeter when they don't have home-field advantage.

I did like the tribute to Jeter during the game, not just the cheers before his first at-bat, but when he got taken out at shortstop and saluted the crowd and his fellow players. But most of the rest of the stuff in the coverage last night was over the top. Every single player was not interviewed on any achievement they might have, but how they related to Jeter. Even All-Star MVP Mike Trout only seems to matter because he can replace Jeter as the new "face of baseball." (And how much do you wanna bet that Jeter was all set to get that trophy until Wainwright opened his trap?)

It is more than a little sad to me that Jeter got such a gift -- back in the day, he wouldn't have needed such help. But the problem isn't that Wainwright admitted it. The problem is that he would do so in a game that is actually supposed to be real. And that too many people in the media are okay with such fakeness being used to prop up an illusion.

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