Derek Jeter smacked a double to right field off National League starter Adam Wainwright in the bottom of the first inning of Tuesday night’s MLB All-Star Game at Target Field. Jeter then came around to score on a Mike Trout triple in what became a three-run opening frame for the American League.
Wainwright met with reporters after his one-inning outing and admitted that he purposely gave Jeter a hittable pitch in the shortstop’s final Midsummer Classic. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports …
There are a couple of major issues here … 1. It defeats the purpose of grooving a pitch to honor a guy if you then acknowledge publicly that you grooved that pitch. 2. However dumb the rule may be — and it is indeed very dumb — winning the All-Star Game means earning homefield advantage for the World Series that same season, and Wainwright’s Cardinals are a year-by-year mainstay in the National League playoff picture.
FOLLOWUP: Adam Wainwright to Erin Andrews: “I didn’t want Derek Jeter to get a hit”
MORE FROM HBT: Derek Jeter’s final, wonderful All-Star Game ends in the fourth inning
Did Adam Wainwright take away from Derek Jeter?
In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.
Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”
Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.
I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.