Major League Baseball | St. Louis Cardinals

Matheny Made Only Choice He Could in Wainwright

On Monday, Adam Wainwright was named the National League’s starting pitcher for this year’s All-Star Game, and I don’t know how the city of Los Angeles didn’t shut down. I don’t know how public schools in Cincinnati are still open or how the entire transit system in New York didn’t go off line.

Wainwright over Clayton Kershaw? Impossible. Blasphemy. It’s a crime, really. Mike Matheny should be forced to sit in a dark room without food or water while watching every one of Kershaw’s pitches this season until he comes to his senses. Total injustice, what’s been done here.

Adam Wainwright 2
Adam Wainwright

If you think I’m being over-the-top, then you should have been on Twitter when Matheny made the announcement. For about 30 minutes it was Matheny, Pete Rose and Barry Bonds, in that order, when it came to all-time biggest baseball villains. Fans and media members alike were flabbergasted that Matheny would choose Wainwright over Kershaw and weren’t shy with their criticism.

My reaction? Win a pennant, and then you can start whoever you want in the All-Star Game. As soon as the Cardinals put the finishing touches on their victory over the Dodgers in the 2013 NLCS, it became Matheny’s decision as to whom he wanted to start on Tuesday night in Minnesota. He had every right to scribble Adam Wainwright’s name in black ink, red Sharpie or concrete onto his lineup card.

The response to Matheny’s decision to name Wainwright his starter is almost comical. You would think he cheated the game with some of the things that are being written. For starters, it’s not as if he chose Edwin Jackson to start the game; Wainwright has the lowest ERA in baseball, is tied for the most wins and has thrown the second-most innings (138) to Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto (143 2/3). Granted, Kershaw has been sensational. Had he not been hurt, maybe his numbers would have trumped Wainwright’s, but his injury situation shouldn’t be held against Waino, either.

This isn’t going to sit well with some people, but it’s reality: Politics also came into play here. On Tuesday, Matheny will manage the National League in the 2014 MLB All-Star Game. Come Wednesday morning, Matheny goes back to being the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. When you consider all that Wainwright has done for his club over the last year and a half, it’s hard to fault Matheny for choosing to honor him over Kershaw, especially with the numbers being as close as they were in the first half.

The Cards’ clubhouse is full of professionals who approach the game the right way. It’s not as if Matheny would have had a mutiny on his hands had he picked Kershaw over Wainwright. But it still would have been difficult to preach about unity and loyalty in St. Louis after paying tribute to another team’s ace in Minnesota. Criticize all you want, but how many of us would have come to the exact same decision had we been in Matheny’s shoes?

All of this fuss is overblown anyway. It’s a nice honor for Wainwright, but this storyline will be dead by the second or third inning when Kershaw enters the game. It’s not like Kershaw is now forced into All-Star Game purgatory, never to be seen or heard from again. He’s one of the best arms in baseball, if not the best. Barring a devastating injury, he’ll likely have multiple chances to start an All-Star Game before his career is over.

What’s funny is that people will be griping about different pitchers at this time next year, too. Maybe Cardinal fans will be on the other side of the coin in 2015. The All-Star Game fosters debate because it’s an imperfect setup with an imperfect voting system. Not everyone is going to be happy.

But Kershaw will be fine. The world will be fine. Matheny’s decision to name Wainwright his starter is hardly the greatest injustice in baseball history.

Now let’s re-open Los Angeles.