You would think that the New York Yankees would be the last franchise in baseball to benefit from intentional generosity by opponents. Apparently not.
On Tuesday night, St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright joined Denny McLain, Detroit’s long-ago pitching star, in deciding to assist a Yankees legend late in his career.
In 1968, McLain had a five-run lead late in what would be his 31st victory. There was a week left in Mickey Mantle’s last season and he was tied with Jimmy Foxx for third all-time at 534 home runs.
McLain grooved a couple of fastballs, before Mantle got the hint and broke the tie with Foxx.
Move forward to a spectacular Tuesday night at Target Field. Much of the buildup for the 85th All-Star Game centered on the Yankees’ Derek Jeter starting at shortstop for the American League in his final season.
Wainwright was chosen by his manager in St. Louis, Mike Matheny, as the National League starter over the phenomenal Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It didn’t work out so well. Jeter opened the bottom of the first with a double to right field, Mike Trout followed with a booming triple and, with one out, Miguel Cabrera lined a home run to left.
Wainwright met the media outside the National League clubhouse shortly after giving up those three runs and followed his lousy pitching with a low-class move, offering up this as his plan for Jeter’s leadoff at-bat:
“I was going to give him a couple of pipe shots, just because he deserved it. I didn’t know he was going to hit a double or I would have changed my mind on that.
“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.”
Wainwright doesn’t have a reputation for being a moron, but he certainly took that role on an otherwise splendid night: two hits for Jeter; an MVP night for Trout, the game’s new super-duper-star; and a save for hometown guy Glen Perkins in a 5-3 victory for the AL.
The emotional highlight came when Jeter went to his position for the top of the fourth, then AL manager John Farrell sent out Alexei Ramirez to replace him.
The overflow crowd announced at 41,048 rose and cheered Jeter on his journey to the front of the dugout, where he stood and waved for a minute, and then brought him back out for a curtain call.
Things could not have gone much better for Jeter in his final All-Star Game, except for Wainwright shooting off his mouth. Even as he talked about Trout’s triple and Cabrera’s home run, Wainwright went back to it:
“If you go back to where the pitch that Cabrera hit out of the park, he’s a Nintendo-type player … Inside, off the plate, nobody keeps that ball fair. I did not make a good pitch to Jeter, but I told you I was going to give him one to hit …
“The pitch to Trout, it was off the plate away. Sometimes, unfortunately, you tip your hat to these guys.’’
And then Wainwright again took away the tip of the hat, saying, “I was hoping [the ‘pipe shot’] would be the first pitch and he would take it, and I could say, ‘OK, I piped him one and he didn’t swing.’ But I spiked it in the dirt, so I gave him one more shot and he didn’t miss it.
“Nothing surprised me about him. He’s a great player.’’
There was also no surprise in the ninth inning when Wainwright surfaced to do a television interview on Fox with Erin Andrews, trying to escape from what he would admit was a self-inflicted controversy.
Wainwright was backtracking again in the postgame clubhouse, saying: “I totally created something here that I did not want to create. Sometimes I get a little carried away …. I never give one-word answers. I go into depth on things.
“When Derek Jeter was up, I went ball one on him. The worst thing you can do to a leadoff hitter is go 2-0. I’m definitely trying to throw a strike. I’m definitely not trying to give up a hit.
“I don’t know what else to say. It’s the truth.’’
Too late, friend. A 27.00 ERA and the moron prize … that’s a bad night.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org