I posted the link to the trailer for the new “42” movie last night. Here is again. Watch it, and then join below for a brief discussion:
Since that came out, a couple of topics of conversation have popped up.
First: Do we like what we can see of Harrison Ford’s Branch Rickey? Last night I suggested that it was actual acting instead of Leading Manning from Ford, which is something we haven’t seen from him in ages. But now that I’ve watched it a few times, I’m struck by how his first lines of dialogue — starting at the :30 mark and going through :47 — in the trailer make it seem like he’s doing an impression of Heath Ledger doing The Joker. Interesting choice.
Second: at the 1:03 mark or so, Robinson hits a homer and flips the bat. People on Twitter are wondering — as am I — if bat flipping as a means of defiance was a thing in the 1940s. Or, alternatively, are the filmmakers retconning some attitude to Robinson that wasn’t really there.
It’s all interesting, mostly because Robinson has sorta been canonized in a way that has, regretfully, robbed him of his humanity in the public imagination. Dude probably wasn’t always a saint, whether or not people flipped bats back in the 1940s.
Anyway, now would be a good time for me to go find a good Jackie Robinson biography.
Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”
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.
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: