MINNEAPOLIS -- As you've surely heard by now, Cardinals ace and National League starting pitcher Adam Wainwright in essence admitted to grooving a couple of pitches to Derek Jeter, who wound up hitting a leadoff double in his final All-Star Game. After a social-media backlash, Wainwright back-tracked on his initial comments, but those words remain his words.
In any event, Jeter would later notch a single off Reds right-hander Alfredo Simon. After his outing was done, here's what Simon had to say about that:
“I tried to get him out, but if he got a base hit, it's no big deal. It's the All-Star Game. I'm happy for him."
Noticing an undercurrent here? [I]t's no big deal. It's the All-Star Game. Although many players go through the motions during All-Star week of feigning seriousness and a sense of purpose, most don't really care about the All-Star Game. They're absolutely right not to care.
The goings-on with Jeter on Tuesday night -- pitches being grooved, hits off his bat almost being welcomed by the pitcher on the mound -- proves that players aren't serious about the game. They realize that it's factually an exhibition, and it's a game heralded by mascots on the red carpet and mic'd-up Disney Channel personalities playing softball. The only thing serious about the All-Star Game is Bud Selig's most famous contrivance -- that the outcome shall determine home-field advantage in the World Series.
I break no news when I point out that it's a lurch toward manufactured importance and one woefully out of step with everything else about the All-Star Game. We've known this for some time, but Tuesday night's events reminded us in a very clear way. There's a structure in place designed to make players care about the game, and they still don't. If they did, Wainwright wouldn't have presented Jeter with such a consenting pitch, and Simon would have at least cared a little that he himself gave up a hit to the Captain.
If we must yoke home-field advantage to something, then yoke it to best overall record. It wouldn't be entirely fair, since the leagues never match up in terms of quality and strength, but at least it gives the best teams incentive to play out the regular season even with the division in hand, and at least it's dependent upon games that count in the standings.
On Tuesday night, though, we were reminded that home-field advantage in the World Series is decided by a game in which managers try to get as many players into the game as possible -- not unlike a Wednesday night Little League game. On the other hand, you don't commonly see grooved pitches in a Wednesday night Little League game, so perhaps the comparison oversells the seriousness of the AL's 5-3 victory.
But, hey, the game counts and stuff. Just not to anyone who plays it.