Mike Matheny said choosing Adam Wainwright was a "tough decision."
But really, the decision was obvious.
First, Wainwright deserves the honor of starting for the National League in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night. He boasts the best ERA (1.83) in the majors, is tied for the most wins (12-4) and ranks among major-league leaders in innings pitched, batting average allowed and WHIP.
Second, Wainwright has missed only one start this season. Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, the other leading candidate for the start, spent five weeks on the disabled list.
Finally, and just as important, Matheny earned the right to make the decision by guiding the Cardinals to the World Series. If Kershaw had won Game 6 last October and the Dodgers had gone on to claim the pennant, Don Mattingly would have been in charge of the NL club. Do you really think he would not have named his guy?
All-Star Game coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. CT Tuesday on FOX.
Matheny admitted that being on the same team as Wainwright impacted the decision, as it should have.
"To the degree of what we’re able to see on the basis of leadership right down to the day-in, day-out performance of what Adam has been able to do really is an unfair advantage to the others," Matheny said at a televised news conference in Minneapolis.
Matheny was asked by a Southern California writer if a manager had not spent so much time around Wainwright, would he still have been worthy of starting.
"I believe if the manager wasn’t a Dodger, yeah," Matheny said, adding, "You trust your heart and you trust your gut and you can’t go wrong."
Matheny made another point about his decision that should not be dismissed. For all that Wainwright has accomplished in his nine-year career, perhaps he has not received as much recognition as he should have. This was Wainwright’s third selection to the All-Star Game and he had first halves deserving of starting in the other two. Last year, he was 12-5 with a 2.45 ERA at the break but lost out to hometown favorite Matt Harvey. In 2010, Wainwright was 13-5 with a 2.11 ERA but was passed over in favor of 15-game winner Ubaldo Jimenez.
Additionally, Wainwright had a season worthy of winning the NL Cy Young in 2009 but lost out to Tim Lincecum and he also had runner-up finishes last year and in 2010.
"In some degree, (Adam) has never been given the amount of respect that he is due," Matheny said. "I am honored to be able to put this title on him and watch what he does not just with this but with the remainder of our season."
Wainwright was as humble as you would expect at the presser. Seated beside his manager at the press conference, Wainwright smiled and put his left arm around Matheny after the announcement.
"Aside from having the ability to win two World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals, I think this has got to be one of the highlights of my baseball career," he said. "To this point, just one of the coolest things I could say I ever did was to start a big-league All-Star Game. I’m incredibly happy and fortunate to be placed in this situation. I can’t wait to go out and hopefully lead our National League squad to a victory."
The first batter Wainwright will face is scheduled to be Derek Jeter, the great Yankees shortstop who will lead off for the American League in his final All-Star Game. Wainwright said he never has pitched against Jeter, even in spring training.
"This will be something I can always remember," Wainwright said about the opportunity to face the future Hall of Famer.
He also could have been talking about starting his first All-Star Game, an honor that he deserved, obviously.