Did Wainwright let up on Jeter?


MINNEAPOLIS -- The 2014 All-Star Game was one big love poem to Derek Jeter, and National League starting pitcher Adam Wainwright did more than any other player on the premises to advance the feel-good storyline.

As Jeter strolled toward home plate in the bottom of the first inning, Wainwright laid his glove on the mound, took a walk toward second base and joined in the wall-to-wall applause at Target Field. When Jeter finally dug his left toe in the box and got down to business, the pitcher-batter staredown turned into a test of wills.

"He told me, 'Let's go,' and I told him no," Wainwright said later. "It's the only time I'll ever tell Derek Jeter no."

So it was almost impossible to comprehend how Wainwright's show of respect would quickly be forgotten, a celebration would elicit controversy, and the pitcher's well-intentioned mix of candor and good humor would somehow brand him as the villain of the evening. In this age of instant information dissemination and rapid reactions, Wainwright learned the hard way that too much honesty can turn a stand-up guy into a Twitter piƱata.

Shortly after giving up an opposite-field double to Jeter, a triple to Mike Trout and a home run to Miguel Cabrera that helped propel the American League to a 5-3 victory over the National League, Wainwright inadvertently stepped in it big-time. While reflecting on Jeter's at-bat, he provided one detail too many.

"I was going to give him a couple of pipe shots," Wainwright said. "He deserved it. I didn't know he was going to hit a double or 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 bit better."

Chances are the negative fallout from the event will blow over relatively quickly. But this much is certain: Wainwright's biggest claim to fame in New York will no longer be freezing Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran with a curveball in the ninth inning of Game 7 in the 2006 National League Championship Series.

Wainwright will undoubtedly be subjected to his share of criticism over the coming days. He will be accused of raining on Jeter's parade, of cheapening the Captain's moment and of undermining the integrity of the All-Star Game. He understands that better than anyone, which is why he spent the better part of 10 minutes after the game flogging himself for his bad judgment.

He referred to himself as a "knucklehead" and an "idiot" while simultaneously expressing regret that his choice of words might have taken away from Jeter's big moment.

"If I'm going to get taken to the slaughterhouse for saying a stupid phrase, then I deserve it," Wainwright said. "If you can't laugh at yourself when you mess up, then you're going to continue to mess up. And you know what? I messed up. But I didn't try to let him get a hit. I messed up by speaking afterward."

For all the mixed messages and confusion that Wainwright elicited Tuesday, he probably did Major League Baseball a favor by exposing the massive problems inherent with what the All-Star Game has become in recent years. If there were any doubt, commissioner Bud Selig's "This One Counts" initiative has outlived its usefulness and needs to be put to rest before the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati.

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