It has been stunning to see the number of Adam Wainwright apologists who’ve chimed in since the St. Louis pitcher’s All-Star Game “pipe shot” controversy Tuesday. Absolutely stunning.
We’ve been treated to the trotting out of phrases like “there is a difference between throwing a batting practice pitch and throwing a major league fastball over the black,” “Derek could have hit it to second base,” and “Wainwright seems like a nice guy and if he chose to tee one up for a retiring icon, where's the harm?”
]The Cardinals’ (and National League) skipper (an admitted “bland” person) contributed the obligatory “taken out of context” line.
One writer referred to Wainwright’s actions as “a proud baseball tribute,” pointing to a Bert Blyleven “batting practice fastball” which Brian Downing muscled into an infield single on the final at bat of his career, before riding “off into retirement on his motorcycle.” Thirty seconds of research tells us that the Texas Rangers and California Angels were in fourth place, 19 games out of first place and fifth place, 24 games back respectively, on the final day of the season, October 4, 1992. That’s not apples and oranges; it’s cars and coconuts.
Another writer went so far as to split hairs on the definition of “grooved fastball” to suit his argument precisely.
While “pipe shot” and “grooved fastball” may be the chosen words for the occasion, this is what happened: Derek Jeter stepped to the plate for his second-to-last or third-to-last All-Star Game at bat ever, the opposing pitcher removed his glove to join in a rousing round of applause, and then threw as hittable a pitch as he could possibly muster right down Broadway.
Jeter, a New Yorker by trade, recognized the offering and ripped it into the right field corner. The American League scored three in the first off Wainwright and went on to win 5-3, thereby securing 2014 World Series home field advantage for the AL pennant winner in the process.
Wainwright “misspoke” to reporters mid-game, mea culpa’d via Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews in the eighth inning, and benefited from scores of journalists defending him afterwards and throughout the next day.
And I am #Pissed! The Cardinal Way, my ass. Enough with the baseball’s “unwritten rules” already, at least until such time as scribes are paid by the word to chronicle them. What do you say to a discussion of the actual written rules for a change?
Three outs to a side. Three strikes and you’re out. A batsman is equipped with the only assistance required; usually a Louisville Slugger or a Rawlings. A pitcher may throw a curve, a split or a knuckler, but not a spitball. There may be crying but there is no “rover” in baseball. The object of the game, even in an exhibition, is to win. Players without such an objective have been banned for life.
The All-Star Game determining home field in the Series is a dumb rule, but it’s a rule; a written rule. Who is Adam Wainwright, even with the throwing of a single pitch at less than 100 percent effort, to decide on something of importance to so many, quite possibly including 24 of his own St. Louis teammates?
Home field advantage in the World Series is a big deal. Without it Wainwright’s Cards were losers in 2013 (and one could argue that they are losers now). It doesn’t always work out that way, obviously, and the NL champion is not doomed to failure this October, but it’s called home field advantage for a reason.
The Cardinal Way? Give me a break. Dodgers’ Hall of Famer and two-time ASG winner Don Drysdale, after being made to wait for Jeter, would've brushed the retiring-legend back with his first pitch, thrown strikes on the outside corner with the next two, brushed him back again with a fourth pitch, and then retired the batter any way he could with a fifth. Or just drilled him with the first pitch.
The Dodgers open second-half play with Wainwright and company in St. Louis Friday at 5:15 p.m., Dan Haren versus Lance Lynn. Zack Greinke goes against “undecided” Saturday at 1:05 p.m., with Clayton Kershaw facing “undecided” Sunday at 5:00 p.m. on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball (which means no blackout in L.A.).
Perhaps Matheny will be decisive in choosing Wainwright for a weekend matchup with a more successful NL All-Star pitcher. Three up, three down from both men. If so, we’ll be watching the pitch selection closely when NL All-Star Dee Gordon steps to the plate to face him.
And remember, glove conquers all.