The 2014 MLB All-Star Game quickly became a tribute to New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Playing in his final season, Jeter earned the fan vote to start for the American League squad. Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell decided that Jeter should bat first for the team. Opposing pitcher Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals seemed to think that Jeter deserved a moment.
It was reported by various sites and reporters, including freelance writer Patrick Borzi, that Wainwright admitted to "grooving" the pitch that Jeter laced for a double to start the game.
Some fans and writers found this statement alarming. Some supported the idea. Ultimately, it reopens the debate on whether the game itself should count for something.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig decided that the game should count for something after the 2002 Midsummer Classic ended in a tie after 11 innings. Since then, the winning league has earned home-field advantage in the World Series. After that decision, it has been said that the game "matters."
Fans who watched the game on Fox were reminded constantly that it would be Jeter's last. Jeter was interviewed frequently, featured in commercials and was discussed consistently throughout the game by the broadcast team. Some fans seemed frustrated by it.
But the fans voted for Jeter to start the game. He was not selected by his peers or by a manager; he was voted in by the fans. Using that as a barometer, it is easy to conclude that the majority of baseball fans wanted to see Jeter take the field in Minnesota during his last season.
Jeter is one of the most iconic players of his generation. That said, he is not the superstar player he once was. Fans voted for him based on nostalgia. The fans put Jeter into the All-Star Game to get the opportunity to witness yet another moment from the man they call the Captain.
When he came to bat, Wainwright put his glove down and stood behind the pitching mound to witness the moment for himself. He smiled and applauded and paid respect to a player who is one of the best of this generation. Then, for the first time in his career, Wainwright took the mound to face Derek Jeter.
Since then, reports say he admitted to throwing a fastball in the middle of the plate to allow Jeter the chance at an All-Star moment. Later in the night, Wainwright would deny that he threw such a pitch and claimed his comments were "missaid."
Wainwright plays for a team that many experts expect to be competitive through October. His team is currently one game back from the Milwaukee Brewers for the National League Central division lead. As much as any other athlete at the game, Wainwright stood to benefit from a victory for his league.
Ultimately, the All-Star Game is for the fans. They vote for the starters. They choose who takes the field. They wanted to see Jeter. Wainwright simply gave the fans what they wanted.
Over the course of 162 games, fans see players that are intense. Players get thrown out of games. Benches clear in fights between clubs. For one Tuesday night in July, fans get to watch the joy of baseball. The players enjoy themselves. They laugh and joke with each other. The game becomes fun again.
Adam Wainwright may have thrown a pitch in the middle of the plate to Derek Jeter. If he did, it shows that this game does, in fact, "matter." However, home-field advantage may not be as important to the players as those moments they create and share with the fans.
Indeed, the game matters on an entirely different level.