The Question

You asked me questions on Twitter. So I shall answer them.

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Q: Why won’t Doctor Manhattan wear pants?

Either (a) because his character was used by Alan Moore in “Watchmen” as a vehicle to explore the real world implications of a super-powered being and how his near-omnipotence would naturally cause him to detach himself from the ugly, flawed reality of humanity, in terms of his personal interactions, his duties to protect mankind and even, in the case of his ever-shrinking costume, his adherence to its social conventions and mores; or (b) he’s a blogger.

Q: Who’s your AL ROTY?

I haven’t really thought too hard about this yet. Hellickson, maybe? Pineda? I’ve kind of ignored this to be honest. I should probably think about it at some point.

Q: Why does Fredi Gonzalez hate me? Did I kill a relative of his in battle perhaps?

Mr. Kimbrel, I’ve told you, please keep your complaints in the clubhouse. I’m sure there’s a good reason why Fredi won’t use you in the ninth inning of a tie game on the road against the best team in baseball, and I’m guessing it’s more his problem than yours.

Q: What are your opinions on Rod Allen and Mario Impemba?

I don’t really watch a ton of Tigers games to be honest. When I do, I don’t take special notice of those two one way or the other. Like most broadcasters, they fall in that vast middle range of not so bad and not spectacular. Which is fine, thanks, because they don’t distract me from the game, which is basically the most important part of the deal for me.

Q: Why does a baker’s dozen contain 13 items? Was this invented because someone was bad at math?

It’s a very complicated story having to do with the Assize of Bread and Ale and  hexagonal close packing, each of which inspired bakers to make 13 of whatever tasty morsel they were baking, rather than 12. But really, should we be in the business of questioning it when someone gives us an extra donut?

Q: I pray you didn’t see Bachmann talk about energy.

This refers, of course, to the GOP presidential debate last night. Which, no, I did not watch.  I caught some highlights this morning however and, setting aside my personal politics, I will note that the crowd’s spontaneous applause of the mere mention of the fact that Texas has executed 234 people was absolutely sickening. Even if you’re a death penalty supporter, how is that cheer-worthy? And that’s before you get into the fact that Texas has almost certainly executed innocent men. I personally oppose the death penalty, but I would hope that even those who differ from me in that regard would view it as a regrettable and difficult act that, even when properly applied, is a sad thing.  At least pretend that taking a life is something worth serious and solemn consideration, OK? Let’s not treat the bodies of both the innocent and the guilty as political red meat.  And speaking of the death penalty:

Q: Should making bad movies or records be punishable by death?

That would be sad, but for different reasons. Sure, I appreciate good movies and good records, but I have gotten an awful lot of enjoyment in life — more than I care to admit — from bad pop culture and art. And not just from an ironic “so bad it’s good” point of view, though there has been a lot of that.  There are a lot of fun movies and albums that are, from an objective, critical point of view, bad. But they’re still fun!  I think the movie version of “Clue” starring Tim Curry was savaged by the critics, but I always watch it if it’s on. There are approximately 100 early 80s synth-pop songs on my iPod that, critically speaking, are best described as “a really, really, really poor-man’s Roxy Music,” but I love it anyway. Eat it up like candy.  In contrast, there are a lot of albums and movies [cough] Radiohead [cough] and [cough] Lars von Trier [cough] that are absolute ordeals to endure, even if one can appreciate their artistic merit. I certainly hope that there’s room for art and schlock in everyone’s life.  Each one helps you appreciate the charms of the other.

Q: Favorite & least-favorite episodes of ST:TOS.

Worth noting: today is the 45th anniversary of the premiere of “Star Trek.” I do hope you celebrate responsibly.

Anyway, I never obsessed over the original series. I came to Star Trek through the movies in the early 80s and then via Next Generation, so going back and watching TOS was always more of an academic exercise for me than something I just ate up. So you won’t be surprised, then, that my selections here are pretty obvious: Best: “City on the Edge of Forever.” Worst: “Spock’s Brain.”  I’m sure there’s nuance to the whole series that would make hard core people quibble with my choices here, but it’s just on a level on which I’ve never operated.

Q: Strasburg – Greatest pitcher ever? Or greatest pitcher there will ever be?

Not yet the best ever. In order it goes: Walter Johnson, Ditka, Maddux, Vance Worley, Ditka and then Strasburg.

Q: My girlfriend just started law school and yells at me when I make jokes while she’s studying. When do I run?

Hmm. Hard for me to say. I have little experience with this as I never really studied all that much in law school. Which explains a lot of the past 16 years of my life. I dunno, a couple of weeks before her student loans come due?

Q: Matt Cain or Herman Cain?

Based on the one interview I did of Matt Cain, I will give Herman points in the “engaging conversationalist” department. And anyone who runs a chain of pizza joints has to have even better stories waiting to be told.

Q:  If Chipper Jones was a tree which kind of tree would he be?

That mighty oak from the front yard of your childhood home that got a touch of some blight a few years ago and slowly started to split, decay, crumble and die. But we’ll always remember the oak.

Q: If Prince Fielder leaves in free agency, is Milwaukee still a good team?

Of course it is. Ryan Braun is still there, and as this year has shown, there is more to the team than just Fielder and Braun.  In the NL Central, you can win with one offensive superstar and a serviceable supporting cast.

Q: In your time in Foggy Bottom ever have a Burl Ives from Lindy’s?

Three years at George Washington University and I never went there. Ever. My wife worked up at DuPont Circle at the time, so any post-class eating and drinking was usually done up that way. I’m having a hard time picturing ingesting something called “a Burl Ives,” though. Would it taste like a blue tail fly?

Q: Seriously, how much longer can yanks keep trotting out Burnett? Wouldn’t you rather see a Killer B or Bababooey or my cat?

Given that the playoffs are a lock and none of the Yankees’ “Killer B” pitching prospects would be expected to contribute anything of substance in the playoffs, there’s no sense in it. Either A.J. or Hughes will go to the pen soon enough. It’s not like the Yankees have lost much ground to anyone for having Burnett out there, no matter how frustrating he is.

Q: What’s your stupidest baseball memorabilia purchase? Mine = Canseco rookie card in “40/40 Club” plaque for $50 (back in 89).

Probably that Carl Yastrzemski card. With the big sideburns. My buddies wanted me to go in with them and get a copy of “Radioactive Man #1” but I went with the card. Not sure I made the right choice. I mean, what possibly could have gone wrong with owning 1/3 of a classic comic book?

Q: One item from Schmidts for the rest of your life: Cream Puff or Bahama Mama?

This refers to Schmidt’s Sausage Haus here in beautiful Columbus, Ohio. If you like beer, sausage and cream puffs — and if you don’t, I really don’t want to know you — you need to go to Schmidt’s if you’re ever in the 614. Yeah, I said “the 614.” Wanna fight about it?  As for your question, I’ve had good beer many places and I’ve had good sausage many places as well. The cream puffs, though, oh mommy, those are good.

Q: What do you think of Oasis (the band)?

Two great albums out of the gate and then all of their inspiration seemed to disappear in a haze of cocaine, ego, pretentiousness and celebrity bloat. Now, at least two of those things helped make those first two albums great and are fabulous for the purposes of rock and roll on general principles, but you can’t have all four or you’ll sink like a stone.

Q: So, have you seen any good movies lately?

I watched “Casablanca” last week. Does that count? If not, the late summer/early fall movie season is not made for 38-year-old people. I think the last movie I saw in the theater that I really liked was “Super 8.”  I don’t go to a ton of movies, though.

Q: What’s your favorite Batman graphic novel?

Can you count “Year One?”  I read it in one sitting, but I know it was originally released post-Crisis as a serial reboot.  If you can’t count that, I’m going obvious with “Dark Knight Returns.”

Q: Have you ever been to Cooperstown?

Once, when I was about nine-years-old. I remember it fairly well, though obviously that was a long damn time ago and a return visit is overdue. It’s like nine or ten hours in the car from me, so for road trip purposes I’d need to take three whole days, and that’s if I just wanted to do one day in the museum. So, really, I need to plan.

Q: Saints +4 at Packers. Who ya got?

The sheer number of craps I don’t give about that sort of thing could fill up a large convention center.

Q: Who is more badass … Mike from Breaking Bad, or Vic Mackey?

I never watched “The Shield.” I’m told I missed out. Mike’s pretty damn bad, but really: 90% of his badassness comes while dealing with Mr. White and Jesse, and those two aren’t exactly the most formidable foes on the planet. I did like Mike’s work in the back of the chicken truck a couple of weeks ago, though.

Q: Your life is on the line. Five innings. Wakefield or A.J.?

If I’m going to die, I’d rather have it be because I trusted a knuckleballer. Which, while insane, is what I’d be compelled to do.

Q: What American League contending team would you choose to play your Atlanta Braves in the World Series?

Right now I don’t like the Braves against anybody, so that’s tough. The Angels maybe? Do they count?

Q: Choosing between full back tattoos: Giant robotic dragon or evil wizard riding a unicorn? But not some pansy unicorn!

I really don’t see how you could go wrong with either of those choices, Senator.

Q: Does the light ever hit Mookie just right and you think maybe, just maybe, she is the milkman’s kid?

Nah. She looks way, way too much like me once you go feature-by-feature and control for the hair and the glasses. Sometimes I wonder about the boy, though. Not that I truly doubt he’s my son. I just wonder about him. Kid’s not right. At all. He’s lately taken to writing all of his school work in backwards “Yoda speak.”  Like, on the first day he had to draw a picture and write a sentence about how he felt about school starting and he wrote “nervous, I was.” Speaking of the boy …

Q: What are you doing to make sure Carlo doesn’t become a Phillies fan during their current run of success?

I guess I’m just going to hope that he stops being a screwup.

Q: What’s your opinion on Newsradio? Was it really that funny? Or was it the fact that I was in my 7th year of college?

I should go back and watch it. I have a feeling it would hold up because, at heart, it was all about witty banter with occasional gonzo plot elements, and those tend to do better than relationship shows or family shows. I wonder if it’s any accident that the first three of these that popped into my head were all set in media: Mary Tyler Moore, WKRP and Newsradio.  There’s got to be something to that.

Q: Better Dylan backing band: The Hawks/The Band or Rolling Thunder?

Between those two I’ll take The Hawks, circa the British tour that gave us the Royal Albert Hall bootleg. Overall, though, he has never played with a tighter band than the Tony Garnier-led outfit who he’s toured and recorded with for the past 10-12 years.

Q: How worried are you about the Braves without Jurrjens and Hanson at 100%?

We’re way past worried. I may have actually shot past panicked and went straight into “acceptance” mode. Really, I expect very little from these guys at the moment. They have really one gameplan with which they can make some playoff noise, and without those two at 100%, that gameplan is inoperative.

Q: What is your stance on the use of “we” when talking about your favorite team?

I try to avoid it as much as possible. The single biggest problem of sports fandom is when people start identifying too closely with their rooting interests. If they affect your mood and disposition — if you take criticism of them as personal slights that you feel obligated to defend — you have a problem. I occasionally let a “we” slip though, but not if i can help it.

Q: Would you rather Mookie ask you to buy “Watch the Throne” or Eminem’s latest?

I’m still having trouble getting my mind around the fact that she likes the “Kidz Bop” albums.  In some ways I’ll be relieved when she gets into that kind of stuff because I can at least relate to it on some level.

Q: Favorite Graeter’s flavor? And how is Graeter’s ice cream not better than pie?

For those unaware, Graeter’s is the Cincinnati-based but Columbus-ubiquitous ice cream joint that makes the most FANTASTIC ice cream around. At least as far as traditional stuff goes. There are crazy joints around here like Jeni’s Splendid which is just as awesome, but for other reasons such as Thai Chili ice cream and that sort of thing. Really, we are totally spoiled from an ice cream perspective here in Central Ohio.  As for Graeter’s, I like any of the chocolate chip flavors. Mostly because Graeter’s definition of “chocolate chip” is “a three inch long, one inch thick slab of awesome dark chocolate just stuck in the middle of the ice cream.”  Eat around that and then eat the “chip” and you’re in some upper echelon of Heaven.

Q: For my newborn son I am going to buy him a case of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot to age for his 21st birthday. Bourbon suggestion?

I don’t recommend laying down a bourbon for 21 years. Wait until he turns 21 and then buy him a fresh bottle of Blanton’s. Or, if you insist on some connection between his birth and his 21st birthday, get a fresh bottle of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve when he turns 20. They age that stuff for 20 years before releasing it, which is basically unprecedented. If you get it when he’ s 20 and drink it when he’s 21, you have yourself a bottle of something that was made when he was born.

Q: What is your favorite Pixies song and why? Number 13 Baby?

That’s a great choice. So dramatic, and I loves it when Black Francis gets all dramatic. That one is in the conversation. It’s being considered. Others: “Gouge Away,” “Where is my Mind,” and just to throw a Kim song in there, “Gigantic.”

Q:  Are you stocked up on bourbon, Craig, for the hell that your Braves are stumbling into? These birds are ready to soar. How ’bout Skip Shoemaker? He’s got like 20-something singles and a bucket of runs since the start of August. But it’s not not the baseball side of things that El Bravos have to worry about. TLR mind control is in full effect. He leaves a trail of rage everywhere he stares – a kind of scorched earth deal. It’s those sunglasses. The Cowards (opposite of Braves, right?) enter St. Louis a happy, pleasant little bunch. Young and excited. Getting healthier. And Go Chipper’s knee! But they leave with infighting. Uggla starts flexing. Kimbrel gets swirlied. The whole thing collapses. I guess this really isn’t a question. I hope you’re abusing NyQuil.

That came from HBT’s own Drew Silva, in a series of tweets, who took advantage of me checking out sick early yesterday to go and find himself a pair of big boy pants. And I suppose he looks OK in them. I wish I had a response to any of this, but unfortunately I have some NBC meetings to attend. You know, personnel, compensation, cost-cutting measures. That sort of thing. Perhaps I’ll be able to respond to him in substance on that personal blog of his he’ll likely feel compelled to start in about two weeks (pending his decision on how he wants to cash out his vacation time).

That’s it for this week, folks. Next week we’ll see who else thinks they’re so smart.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: