Batman

And That Happened: SPECIAL BEN AFFLECK AS BATMAN EDITION

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Before the scores, some important Batman news. You may want to scroll down past this, because I’m gonna take a bit of time here.

In case you missed it last night, Ben Affleck has been cast as the Dark Knight in the upcoming Batman/Superman movie. Many people alerted me to this news last night the way you might alert a mother that her child has died. They tried to break it gently. They made sure that I was not in distress as I tried to process the news. When they saw me in a state less than tears, they assumed I was in the denial stage of the grieving process. It was quite the scene.

But while I thank my friends, real and virtual, for thinking of me and assuming that I would utterly lose it at the thought of Affleck as Batman, I’m really OK with it. Why? Because — and please brace yourself for some Real Talk — Christian Bale wasn’t anything extraordinary or irreplaceable as Batman. There, I said it.

“Batman Begins” was an incredible movie and, in it, Bale was fantastic. He played the young Bruce Wayne wonderfully and helped connect a, let’s admit it, somewhat silly character to us as viewers. It was real acting from a guy who is an incredible actor. “The Dark Knight” was an even better movie. Just perfect on almost every level. But Bale was nowhere near the best part of that movie. His growly voice as Batman may have been faithful to certain comic book interpretations and may have made sense in the “real world” version of Batman that Christopher Nolan was going for, but it was distracting. And his Bruce Wayne scenes, while fine, didn’t exactly require Oscar-level acting. You can almost see Bale getting a bit bored with the Wayne stuff at times. He’s above it.

“Dark Knight Rises” was a pretty bad movie. Let us not pretend it wasn’t. Some cool scenes and set pieces, but it was pretty weak. You may bristle at this — and, like a kid brother, I may defend it to outsiders who don’t understand that Batman is awesome overall — but among friends we need to be honest about the fact that it was a pile compared to the other two. And, I would argue, compared to the two Michael Keaton Batman movies in at least certain respects.

So: no, this isn’t like hiring Jack Lemmon to play Don Corleone in “Godfather Part II.” This isn’t like getting Robin Williams to play Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs II: Electric Boogaloo.” Affleck has dark hair and a square jaw and as we saw in “Argo” he can play it straight and act like a real adult and not be some stereotypical Boston goon like we often consider him to be. He’ll be fine.

We survived Val Kilmer and George Clooney. We can survive Ben Affleck. End of rant.

[exhales, sits back, stares emptily into middle distance]

Dodgers 6, Marlins 0: Clayton Kershaw (8 IP, 5 H, 0 ER) is like Doctor Manhattan. So superior and gifted that the mortals bore and disappoint him. He’s likely considering going to another planet to find new challenges for himself. He didn’t even have his best stuff yesterday and no one could really touch him. It’s almost unfair.

Pirates 10, Giants 5: Quite the disaster for the Giants as Matt Cain left early after taking a comebacker off his right arm. Thankfully X-Rays were negative. The bullpen, sadly, was pretty negative for the Giants too. And while ten runs and a win was nice for the Pirates, they have to be worried about Jeff Locke, who is looking increasingly gassed and ineffective as the season winds down.

Reds 2, Diamondbacks 1: Four wild pitches for Arizona, a couple which set up the Reds run in the third and another that actually scored the winning run in the eighth. The Reds took three of four from the Dbacks, effectively burying them in the wild card race, one figures.

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 3: A lot of the people who think it’s a longshot for the Yankees to get back into the race and make the playoffs think this because the starting pitching has been so poopy lately. As such, seeing Andy Pettitte allow one run over six innings has to be, at the very least, encouraging. The Yanks have won five in a row and ten of twelve. A-Rod for MVP.

Twins 7, Tigers 6:  Chris Herrmann had a couple of RBI doubles, one of which was aided by Austin Jackson misplaying the ball. The Twins take two of three from Detroit.

Nationals 5, Cubs 4: Stephen Strasburg was one out from a complete game but then he ran out of gas and had some defensive miscues behind him allowing the Cubs to rally for three runs. Four innings later Denard Span doubled and some small ball scored him for the go-ahead and, ultimately, winning run.

White Sox 4, Royals 3: Chicago fought back from a three-run deficit to force extras and then Conor Gillaspie socked a homer in the 12th. Pretty sure that’s the first time I ever used the phrase “socked a homer” in my life. Weird.

Phillies 5, Rockies 4: Philly scored four of their five runs in the last two innings, capped with Domonic Brown’s walkoff single. Oh, remember yesterday when I suggested that a walkoff sac fly was the least exciting walkoff event? I’m now thinking a walkoff balk qualifies. By definition it requires the absolute bare minimum of movement to happen. Like, a simple flinch could make it happen. Would love to see a World Series end on a walkoff balk. Joe Buck would probably capture that moment for the ages.

Cardinals 6, Braves 2: Joe Kelly wasn’t sharp but he was effective. Jordan Schafer was 0 for 5 with two strikeouts leading off for Atlanta. The Braves are gonna miss Jason Heyward something fierce.

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: