AL takes All-Star Game
Published on -7/16/2014, 10:11 AM
MINNEAPOLIS (MCT) -- The moment was staged for TV. Red Sox manager John Farrell instructed White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez to wait until Fox returned from a commercial break between the third and fourth innings of Tuesday's 85th All-Star Game. Ramirez stepped onto the field at 8:31 p.m. Central time. A lone cameraman trailed him. Frank Sinatra crooned over the loudspeakers.
Derek Jeter, a reluctant participant for this national farewell, acted as if he were surprised. But Major League Baseball, in conjunction with Fox and Jeter, plotted the celebration details before Tuesday's first pitch because the Yankees shortstop loathes gratuitous attention.
So this was no midsummer goodbye like Cal Ripken's or Mariano Rivera's. Its choreography was predictable; Jeter did not want to detract from the game's other players.
"It was an unbelievable moment I will never forget," Jeter said.
His mere presence in this, his 20th and final season as a generation's pacesetter, dwarfed the exhibition, a 5-3 win for the American League. It was contrived, down to the first pitch he hit. Adam Wainwright, the National League's starting pitcher, grooved Jeter two fastballs in the first inning. Jeter smacked the second one with an inside-out swing for a double to right.
"I was going to give him a couple of pipe shots," Wainwright said. "He deserved it. I didn't know he was going to hit a double or I might have changed my mind."
"If he grooved it, thank you," Jeter said. "You've still got to hit it."
The forced narrative thickened when Mike Trout, the 22-year-old superstar from Millville, N.J., who will succeed Jeter as the face of baseball, crushed a triple to left. Jeter scored, Trout flopped headfirst into third base, and pundits hailed it as a divine moment.
Trout was named the game's MVP. He chopped a go-ahead double past Milwaukee's Aramis Ramirez in the fifth inning for his last act in his third All-Star Game. (It may have been foul.) He is 4 for 7 with three extra-base hits in those games.
No one knows whether this was Chase Utley's final occasion on the national stage; the Phillies second baseman did not cheat himself in his first appearance at this event since 2009. Utley rocked Jon Lester's 93-mph fastball for a run-scoring double in the second inning. It was Utley's first double since June 7 _ a span of 144 plate appearances_ and probably a home run in most ballparks.
But Jeter overshadowed them all. The 40-year-old lifetime Yankee addressed his AL teammates before the game and thanked them.
"We should be thanking him for what he brings to the game," Trout said.
"He deserves that, if not more," Utley said. "I think we all know what he's meant to the game of baseball. He will be missed next year."
Jeter went 2 for 2 in his final All-Star Game. He tipped his hat at 6:56 p.m. Central after being introduced, and stabbed an Andrew McCutchen bouncer on the first pitch of the game. McCutchen beat Jeter's throw by a step, and fans groaned because that deviated from the script.
Wainwright placed his glove on the mound and stood behind it when Jeter strode to the plate in the first inning. Jeter shook the hand of Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Bob Sheppard, the famous Yankees public-address man who died in 2010, announced Jeter's presence in a recording. Jeter twice removed his helmet to acknowledge a standing ovation. Then, after a minute, he turned to Lucroy as if to suggest, "That's enough."
The most authentic moment on this cool Minnesota evening happened when Wainwright delivered the first meatball. The sellout crowd yelled Jeter's full name in a four-syllable chant. It sounded like Yankee Stadium.
Wainwright's admission angered those who value the sanctity of the All-Star Game -- which, for television ratings, decides home-field advantage in the World Series -- but Major League Baseball wanted it both ways Tuesday.
"I don't mind it at all," Utley said of Wainwright's grooved pitches.
The Cardinals pitcher later claimed he misspoke. It was but a small distraction.
"How lucky can this sport be to have the icon of this generation turn out to be Derek Jeter?" said Bud Selig, baseball's commissioner. "Amazing."
The script was manipulated Tuesday, but that is tolerable. Jeter commanded such treatment.