Off topic: Kentucky Derby

It’s a strange thing, but I love the Kentucky Derby. I’m not even sure why. Something about the ridiculous hats, the brevity of the race, the Yankee Stadium-like separation of the rich from the masses. And the fact that few things are more compactly fun than betting on horses, particularly if you bet on the Kentucky Derby.

The Derby’s around the corner (May 2nd). I shared an old horse racing story last year, but wanted to retell the story anyways.

Evidently my dad’s buddy, Alan, is well-versed in all things equine, from breeding, to tendencies, etc. A real track-rat, or whatever they call it. He knows horses, period. My dad, a numbers wizard, had me meet them in the Meadowlands to watch the horses run one night. It’s typically quiet midweek, so as we settled in to watch the races, a strange thing started happening.

Alan starts by calling off the horses and how he sees them finishing. This is not anything new if you’ve ever been to a track, but he has raised and trained and owned horses, so he’s got the skill to do this. It’d be like watching a ballgame with a professional scout, telling/pointing out things you’d never see or notice. My dad is calling off the odds and he starts matching odds with the horses, getting rather exotic with the bets. This is no simple “$5 on the #3 horse to win” sorta thing. This is multiple exactas and trifectas, designed, on the fly, without paper, to create arbitrage situations where, so long as the picks of the horses are right, they cannot lose money. Now, the horses aren’t always right but that happens. I’m watching this develop and seeing how they have developed this system over a decade or so and I am speechless. They created as complex a trading system as they have on Wall Street, except it’s for horses, not financial instruments.

This goes on, all night, race after race. And they are winning. Big. Expect here’s the rub: The never place a bet with the house. They have a 3rd buddy who never goes with them who acts as the house and they settle up at the end of each season, over dinner. The bets are a few bucks each, up to $20 per race, depending on how many and how complex the bets get. If they actually walked to the window and made these bets, they’d have paid for college for all the kids, and then some. But for them, it’s not about the money (and this is my dad, mind you. Go figure, right?), but rather the challenge to pick the horse and design the perfect bets. As the years have gone by, they have honed their separate skills into a finely-tuned gambling machine.

My parents moved out West a few years back so this has faded into the ether, but it jumped into my head this afternoon, so there ya go.

Back to our regularly scheduled baseball programming. Continue reading Off topic: Kentucky Derby

There's been an Irabu sighting

This took my breath away:

Nikkan Sports is reporting noted fat toad Hideki Irabu is working out in LA and aiming to resume his career in the US independent leagues some time this season. The article says that he’s played in amateur games and is hitting 90 mph on the gun in his workouts.

Hideki Irabu is the Japanese Sidney Ponson. I hate them both with a special kinda venom!

If only he winds up in Kansas City, my life will be complete.

belated h/t to Ron Rollins, international correspondant extraordinaire

Continue reading There's been an Irabu sighting

ESPN's East Coast Bias

ESPN has an East Coast Bias. Boo-freak’-hoo. Wanna know why:

Last season, Red Sox-Yankees drew ESPN’s three highest game ratings… a Mets-Yankees game was fourth. Vince Doria, ESPN senior vice president, notes the Yankees and Red Sox outrate West Coast teams even in West Coast TV markets: “It’s not a question of bias. It’s trying to discern what most of our viewers are interested in.

So bash the network, MLB on XM, whatever you listen to…. but know there’s a reason for the relentless ECB: RATINGS. And ratings = MONEY. And you know what it’s all about, dontchya?

Continue reading ESPN's East Coast Bias

Wang To Pitch In Extended Spring Training

Looking to get Chien-Ming Wang some work in a game-type setting, the Yankees will have him throw an extended spring training game on Thursday. From Kat O’Brien: Wang, who will remain on the Yankees active roster, is scheduled to throw 100 pitches in front of Yankees Tampa-based officials Mark Newman and Nardi Contreras. This way, Joe Girardi explained, Wang can attempt to figure out what’s wrong pitching in game conditions as opposed to more bullpen sessions. Part of the problem has been that Wang has looked good in the bullpen between starts and before games, but has struggled in games. Continue reading Wang To Pitch In Extended Spring Training

Nady Does Not Require Surgery

WFAN is reporting that Xavier Nady will not require surgery on his injured right elbow. He will do rehab to nurse a strained ligament back to health, with the time frame still unclear. He will not miss the remainder of the season. Update: Jon Heyman is reporting Witchcraft 13: Blood of the Chosen video that the rehab is likely to take “a period of weeks.” The fact that the discussion is not in terms of months seems like a good sign. In an entirely unrelated note that I would like to mention here for no particular purpose, Ken Rosenthal checks Continue reading Nady Does Not Require Surgery

The Ticket Price Problem

Jaon at IIATMS runs through the factors that contributed to the premium tickets to games at the new Yankees Stadium going unsold: The economy tanked Personal wealth linked to the capital markets tanked Jobs disappeared Government bailout of Wall Street behemoths Many, many Wall Street financial institutions merged/disappeared Many “feeder” industries reliant on Wall Street (like the lawyers) to pay their hourly rates suffered Tactical error: The Yanks failed to realize that there were thresholds that firms could spend entertaining clients and the tickets (and dinner and car services) would put the firms over the threshold, making the expense non-reimbursable. Continue reading The Ticket Price Problem

The embarrassment of the rich

We’re seeing the first signs of a collossal embarrassment for the NY Yankees. We’ve discussed this ad nauseum last season and this off-season: the out-pricing of the “average” fan while chasing the ultra-rich/corporate “attendees”. I call them attendees as they are generally not fans like you and I, but rather using the game as a lure for future business/favors. Yankee Stadium, for all its $1.5 billion glory, is circling towards a caste system that threatens to treat its most loyal fans the worst. In what other industry would an organization seek to price out its best customers and treat them like second class citizens?

[In prior years, I’d get some tickets free and pay for others. It wasn’t cheap, but I was lucky enough to be able to afford to take the family to the game and not crimp my budget. This year, however, will be different. The cost/value ratio for attending a game at Yankee Stadium, for a family of four, is getting silly. I can try to get the cheap seats, but even those are going for $50+++ a seat. Plus parking (unless MetroNorth is running), food, goodies. I’ll do it but maybe only once this year and that’s a shame. My boys love going to the games and I love taking them.]

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Minor Notes: Brackman Strong

Andrew Brackman Goes 6, No Walks Following two starts where he was effective, but not dominant, Brackman finally breezed through a lineup last night. He struck out 8 and walked none in 6 innings, allowing 2 earned runs. Brackman has a long way to go, but a few more starts like this could push him to Tampa fairly quickly. He’s throwing at his old velocity, and inducing plenty of ground outs, so really control is all that is left for him to accomplish. Brackman has managed to get fairly deep into each game he has played, even though I’d guess Continue reading Minor Notes: Brackman Strong