Twitter freaked out last night after All-Star pitcher Adam Wainwright kinda sorta said he took it easy on old man Derek Jeter in the MLB All-Star game. After tossing a big fat one across the middle of the plate, which Jeter doubled to send the crowd into a frenzy, Wainwright happened to mention that he grooved the pitch. That’s baseball talk for saying he pitched to Jeter the way you pitch to your six-year-old in Wiffle Ball–nice and easy, so the kid can hit it.
Jeter is playing in the final season of a glorious career. He has played every one of his 20 seasons with the same team (the Yankees, but you know that) while managing to avoid the steroid problems that plagued, it sometimes seems, almost every other big name player of his era. Jeter is fan favorite numero uno–even Red Sox devotees grudgingly give Jeter his due. Wainwright’s comment–that he gave the aged superstar a few pitches “he could handle” in his first at-bat–upset a lot of people who don’t like to see their heroes’ accomplishments undermined. Wainwright said afterwards he was just kidding. “I’m very competitive,” he said, “I’m not intentionally giving up hits.” But what about praising Wainwright for being a nice guy? When Magic Johnson came back and played in an All-Star game after his HIV announcement, everybody passed him the ball and he got the MVP. What’s wrong with tossing Jeter an easy one–in a game that doesn’t count? Goodness knows nobody fluffed one for him during a World Series game, when his career slugging percentage was .449.