The Mid-Summer Classic was a celebration of the storied career of Derek Jeter more than a typical All-Star game but will a grooved pitch to the retiring Yankee affect the MLB odds in October?
Derek Jeter played in his 14th and final All-Star game and his inclusion was more a celebration of his body of work throughout his career rather than anything he has done on the field this season or last. It was an event to honor a truly fine ambassador of the sport and a good guy to boot. The superstars of Major League Baseball assembled to play a game but it was also a ceremony honoring one of the greatest Yankees to ever don the pinstripes.
The National League’s starting pitcher Adam Wainwright understood the gravity of the occasion and decided to honor Jeter in his own way. He grooved a 91 MPH fastball down the pipe and Jeter gave the ball a ride as he has done countless times throughout his storied career. Jeter wound up on second base and the fans went wild. It was a moment scripted right out of a Hollywood movie and all that was needed was a knowing wink by Wainwright before he released the ball. The crowd loved it, Yankees fans loved it and personally I loved it. Perhaps the only people who didn’t love it were the punters who bet the National League as one of their MLB picks last night.
But the issue at hand is that this leadoff double proved to be the catalyst for a three-run inning as Mike Trout, the game’s eventual MVP, tripled in Jeter and Miguel Cabrera blasted a two-run homer to vault the American League to a 3-0 lead. The NL would eventually knot the game at three, taking Wainwright off the hook for the loss, but the Junior Circuit wound up winning the game anyway by the score of 5-3 which delivered home field advantage to whichever team becomes the American League entry into the 2014 World Series.
And here’s the rub ladies and gentleman. Wainwright may have changed the complexion of the game by consciously throwing a batting practice pitch to an historic player out of a sense of honor and respect. Before realizing the Twitter universe was blowing up, his postgame press conference did little to disabuse anyone of the notion that this was not in fact a ceremonial pitch but rather a good piece of hitting on an ill-advised pitch. Wainwright stated that before the fateful pitch was delivered this conversation transpired:
"He told me, 'Let's go,' and I told him no. It's the only time I'll ever tell Derek Jeter no."
And then Wainwright continued:
"I was going to give him a couple of pipe shots. 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."
Wainwright eventually realized his good deed was being construed as a lack of respect for the game and a pity pitch for a once great player. He commented thusly as he attempted to backtrack from his previous statements:
"If I'm going to get taken to the slaughterhouse for saying a stupid phrase, then I deserve it. 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."
World Series Betting Odds
This entire controversy is exacerbated no doubt by the fact that the league that wins the All-Star game will benefit by having home field advantage. Doing a quick check of those offshore sportsbooks that are dealing MLB odds on the Fall Classic it appears the American League team, whoever it may be, is now the odds on favorite to take home the title of World Series Champs.
Ladbrokes has installed the American League as -129 betting favorites over the National League this coming October. So if you believe that one game on foreign soil is enough to doom the NL entry then perhaps you should plunk down a few bucks on the American League in your future MLB picks. However, it should also be noted that great teams overcome adversity and a home field advantage can dissipate with the swing of a bat.
If you are reading this then chances are you’re a sports gambler and in order to win money over the long haul you must cut your heartstrings and bet with your mind. Statistics, matchups, injury reports and yes, home field all come into play. Who knows what would have happened had Wainwright approached this one at-bat like all the others? Jeter may very well have tagged a 95 mile-per-hour fastball for a homerun instead of a double. It was one pitch and in all fairness, Wainwright subsequently got hammered by Trout and Cabrera in that inning. Conversely, he may have struck Jeter out and the fireworks that followed by Trout and Cabrera may have never materialized, leading to a National League victory. We will never know.
I’d like you to suspend your cynicism for a moment because every once in a while karma happens. You know, what you put into the circle eventually comes around. Call me maudlin, cheesy or a hopeless romantic but I believe Wainwright did exactly what we would all stand up and cheer about had this been played out on the silver screen. We would applaud it because deep down we know that virtues such as respect and honor trump most everything else.
They say no one is bigger than The Game itself. And that is true but every once in a while there is a moment that transcends sports and competition. It’s a bigger picture than the one in vivid color beaming into your living room on that 52-inch flat screen. Adam Wainwright is a hero in my book and I only regret he didn’t own his decision. The haters got to him and he took cover in the wake of the criticism. Here’s what he should have said:
“Derek Jeter is an icon and he will be remembered long after this game is forgotten. Tonight may have been the last time he’s granted a national stage and this was an opportunity for him to deliver to an entire nation the kind of thrill he’s provided Yankees fans for a generation. The man still had to hit the ball and he did just that. Was it my best pitch? Maybe not but was it the right pitch? Absolutely”
End of story.