David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since 1991, when he started covering New York City
MINNEAPOLIS - So after all the fuss about this being Derek Jeter's last All-Star Game, the brilliantly-crafted Nike commercial, the gushing praise from the sport's best players, the countless sonnets written in honor of the Yankees' captain, we're now supposed to get on Adam Wainwright for giving him another going-away present?
His only mistake was admitting it.
If the Cardinals wanted to win this game so badly, maybe National League manager Mike Matheny should have started the best pitcher on the planet, Clayton Kershaw, over his own guy last night. Would Kershaw have served up a cookie for Jeter? Maybe not.
What we do know is that Jeter began a three-run first inning by lashing Wainwright's second pitch inside the rightfield line for a double.
Typical Jeter, we thought. Seizing the moment, coming through on the big stage. Another money shot from a money player.
Or so we believed.
Turns out, a few innings later, Wainwright stood in a hallway outside the visitors' clubhouse and told us it was all a fake. He wanted Jeter to get a hit. Preferably a single. You know, something a little less damaging. So after spiking the opening fastball, Wainwright said he grooved a 90-mph cutter that Jeter could handle.
"I was gonna give him a couple pipe shots," Wainwright said later. "He deserved it. I didn't realize he was going to get a double or else I would have changed my mind."
What was Wainwright saying exactly? That he didn't think a 40-year-old shortstop playing on a surgically-repaired ankle could rip him for extra bases? We wouldn't go quite that far. Wainwright also talked about how much it meant to finally pitch to Jeter for the first time.
Sounds like Wainwright got a little too carried away, a bit wrapped up in the Derek Jeter Moment. He's human. Like we mentioned, the major blunder was copping to it, which Wainwright apparently realized after getting wind of the backlash.
A few innings later, Fox gave Wainwright the chance to recant. To save himself from, well, himself. Wainwright took full advantage -- with an assist from Erin Andrews.
"Sometimes my humor gets taken the wrong way," he said. "I feel terrible about this. It's a distraction and I do not want to be a distraction. I wanted it to be all for Derek, so if anything has taken away from his moment, then I sincerely apologize."
First off, I was standing among the 20 or so reporters listening to Wainwright talk about that Jeter at-bat. He did not appear to be joking. In describing what went on during that first inning, Wainwright emphasized how much he wanted Jeter to enjoy the whole scene, the standing ovation, which is why he placed his glove down on the mound, walked back onto the grass -- and clapped along with everyone else at Target Field.
Again, there's no crime in that.
Wainwright seems like a nice guy, and if he chose to tee one up for a retiring icon, where's the harm? But he was probably feeling chapped after giving up an RBI triple to Mike Trout and a homer to Miguel Cabrera.
"I'm guessing people will think I'm trying to give up home runs to Miguel Cabrera, too, next," Wainwright told Fox. "I did not want Derek Jeter to get a hit."
If so, that makes him the only one -- but we don't believe that anyway. We'll take Wainwright's unscripted comments over the made-for-TV version. Much later, after the game, Wainwright even called himself an "idiot" for his initial remarks.
But for the last word on the subject, we'll leave it to Jeter, who has been putting out fires in the Bronx for 20 years. When asked about Wainwright serving him a "pipe shot" on that double, Jeter first laughed, then did what Jeter does best. Smile likes he's in on the joke.
"If he grooved it, thank you," Jeter said. "Still have to hit it."