MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 15: National League All-Star Adam Wainwright #50 of the St. Louis Cardinals places his glove on the mound and waits as Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees comes up to bat for the first time during the 85th MLB All-Star Game at Target Field on July 15, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Updated: July 16, 2014 10:55AM
MINNEAPOLIS—Blame it on Derek Jeter.
It was supposed to be his night, anyway.
Sure, Alexei Ramirez physically replaced Jeter at shortstop after three innings of Tuesday’s All-Star Game.
And yes, Mike Trout completed the Face of the Game handoff with a double, triple and two RBI to give the American League its 5-3 victory.
But Jeter, as much distracting as dominant, was the difference.
His presence in his final All-Star Game appearance made for an unlikely first inning, a healthy bit of controversy and Jeter lounging in the dugout for the final six innings with that wry smile on his face. You know, the one after he feigns getting hit with a pitch and sells it to an umpire like a diving World Cupper.
Or when we’ve seen him go over to compliment a young player who just got to second base, smile, pat the kid on the butt — then proceed to sneak back in behind him and pick him off.
Jeter, the master of granting just about very interview request and never giving up one iota of information that might help you beat the New York Yankees or get a glimpse into his private life.
Every second of the lengthy ovations and heartfelt tributes all week were well-deserved.
And, in the end, did St. Derek hoodwink the National League?
Let’s get it out there. NL pitcher Adam Wainwright grooved the pitch that Jeter laced for a double leading off the bottom of the first. Wainwright admitted it.
“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 might have changed my mind.”
Wainwright immediately found himself in the middle of a social media debate not as much about what he did as for owning up to it. Then, during an eighth inning interview on Fox he tried to end what he called a “distraction” and said his humor was misconstrued.
“I feel terribly about this,” he said. “I don’t want to take any credit away from what Derek Jeter did. It was mis-said.
“If anything has taken away from this moment, I sincerely apologize.”
We still don’t know if Chan Ho Park meatballed the 2001 home run to Cal Ripken at Seattle in the Orioles legend’s final All-Star Game. Suspect what you might, but Ripken got his moment and his MVP. And baseball got one its Field of Dreams moments in an era when business and cynicism often dominate.
This time, Wainwright was simply honest â(euro) “ maybe painfully honest, judging from the look on his face when he went on TV.
Regardless, it was a difference-maker in a game that’s supposed to count. And it certainly counts more right now for Wainwright’s Cardinals than, say, the Red Sox team that used that home advantage reward against St. Louis in last year’s World Series.
But some AL team will benefit.
Wainwright did the expected, respectful thing as Jeter stepped into the batter’s box to start the bottom of the first. Wainwright was behind the mound and catcher Jonathan Lucroy outside the catcher’s box joining in the lengthy standing ovation.
An appropriate gesture but hardly how a vintage Wainwright game begins.
There was that fastball to Jeter. Fine, even if it also is not how ultra-competitive Wainwright usually starts.
Next up was Mike Trout, who’s taking seriously this Face of the Game stuff. Apparently, he can’t wait.
His triple nearly left the yard in right field. And not to be lost in glitz of Jeter’s night was that Trout’s second hit of the game â(euro) “ a fifth-inning double â(euro) “ was smack in the middle of the two-run fifth that actually provided the decisive runs.
Oh, no, Wainwright wasn’t serving up beach balls to Trout. But you don’t have to miss by much for this kid to punish you, don’t have to be more than a fraction off your game.
Justin Verlander at the top of his Cy Young-winning form two years ago in Kansas City admittedly let the moment get to him for a decisive five-run first inning in a run-of-the-mill All-Star Game.
What do you expect from Wainwright in this situation?
He did manage to strike out Robinson Cano but Miguel Cabrera completed Wainwright’s punishment with a laser-beam homer just over the wall in left field.
There could have been more.
When Jeter led off the third, Alfredo Simon was ready to pitch. Jeter exchanged pleasantries with plate umpire Gary Cederstom, then took his time getting into the box as another ovation rolled through the crowd.
Soak it in, Derek, as you should. But don’t underestimate an element of gamesmanship here.
Simon followed with a wild pitch. Nah, he wasn’t off his game either.
Simon got through the inning despite two balls scorched far harder than Jeter’s and maybe just as hard as the hits Wainwright allowed after Jeter got on in the first.
The NL actually wiped out the three-run deficit before the decisive fifth and, thus, actually outscored the AL after that first inning.
It was too late. And, of course, it’s all Jeter’s fault.