Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ring, Brackman, Burnett Take Home Gold

The final results have been tallied, the medals have been awarded, and the national anthems have been played. The 2010 Yankee Arcade Olympics have concluded. Here are the results, courtesy of Chad Jennings. Please note that no bronze medals were awarded as part of Hal Steinbrenner's budgetary constraint efforts.
Pop-a-Shot Basketball
Gold: Royce Ring
Silver: Mark Melancon
Congratulations guys, these are the only competitions you're likely to win this spring as the Yankee bullpen crunch has you both on the outside looking in. I had pegged the side arming Ring as a the Skee Ball favorite earlier today. No words as to whether that throwing motion translated to Pop-a-Shot and saw him shooting free throws Rick Barry style. Former collegiate basketball players Andrew Brackman and Randy Winn did not place.
Skee Ball:
Gold: Andrew Brackman
Silver: Eduardo Nunez
Brackman was a heavy favorite in basketball, but managed to medal in Skee Ball. The guy is like the Bo Jackson of arcade games. And since he had the accuracy to win the Skee Ball tournament, we can all expect great improvements upon his 26 wild pitches, 10 HBP, and 6.4 BB/9 from last year. Nunez made 33 errors at Trenton last year and rated at minus fifteen runs per 150 according to Total Zone, so he has experience in bouncing his throws to a target.
IndyCar Racing:
Gold: A.J. Burnett
Silver: Dana Cavalea
I figured Burnett as more of a NASCAR guy, but racing is racing I suppose. Dana Cavalea is the Yankees Strength and Conditioning coach.

Last year's billiard champion, Mariano Rivera, failed to medal, proving the he is in fact human. Of course, at 40 years old he likely grew up with primitive gaming systems like ColecoVision and Commodore 64, so he was working with a handicap today.

That's it for today Fackers. Jennings has pictures here and here. We'll be back tomorrow with real live baseball. Amen to that. We started the day with The Boss and we ended it talking about an arcade. I suppose I have to embed this now:

Keep On Trucks-ing

As Alex Belth pointed out this morning, you can feel baseball getting closer. The air is starting to smell like spring just a little bit. I don't need to turn on my headlights on my drive home from work at the end of the day. Daylight Savings Time begins twelve days from now; the Spring Equinox comes six days later. Spring Training games start tomorrow.

Elsewhere in the world, the other rites of spring are taking place. The NHL trade deadline is tomorrow. NCAA Conference Tournaments begin over the next week and March Madness will soon follow.

For me, another rite of spring is the Allman Brothers Band's annual NYC residency. As we detailed last June, the ABB is vacating the Beacon Theater this year and heading waaaaay uptown to the United Palace Theatre for thirteen shows beginning March 11th.

Derek Trucks will be part of it, as he has been since joining the band at twenty years old following the 1999 Beacon run. We've talked about Derek quite often here, including detailing his family ties to former Tigers, Browns, White Sox, and A's pitcher, as well as the oldest living former Yankee, Virgil Trucks.

At MLB.com Saturday, Peter Gammons took an extended look at Virgil's career, in a great column that details how Derek's baseball fandom spurred him to seek out the relative he had never met:
Virgil Trucks had just turned 91 two years ago when this boyish kid who looked as if he were 20 showed up at his door. The kid introduced himself as Derek Trucks, Virgil's nephew's son, and they spent the day tying together the frayed generations of Trucks, of baseball stories Derek loved hearing, and music that Virgil says he didn't fully understand.

For years, Derek had Virgil "Fire" Trucks' baseball card on the back of his guitar, with the Allman Brothers or The Derek Trucks Band, with his wife Susan Tedeschi, playing lead on the Eric Clapton tour, backing Buddy Guy. That he told Virgil, and that Derek's uncle Butch, who has been the Allman's drummer since they formed in 1969, has often had another baseball card on his drums. "I haven't listened to the Allman Brothers too much," says Virgil. "They don't play them much on the Birmingham station."

When Virgil was told that Derek has a 1952 Tiger uniform with Virgil's 23 hanging in a trophy case, he said, "maybe I should start listening to the Allmans a little more."
For the Gammons haters out there - and you know I'm not one of them - you can take solace in the fact that Peter incorrectly claims Derek is Virgil's great-nephew. As we posted here in December, with thanks to Derek's cousin Vaylor, Virgil is the first cousin of Derek's grandfather, making them third cousins twice removed. That's the type of hard-hitting analysis you Fackers get here, something a Ford Frick Award winner can't bring you.

That notwithstanding, it's a great column. Head over and give it read. Just be sure to ignore the part about how the family of Derek's wife Susan Tedeschi are long-time Red Sox season ticket holders, or how they're taking their eight year old son to Red Sox camp this week. Hey - nobody's perfect.
As Jay detailed after we attended the Derek Trucks Band's concert at The Egg in December, the dTb is now on an extended hiatus. Derek and Susan are forming a new band, which at present appears to feature a rotating cast of musicians. They have dates scheduled through the spring and into summer, including stops as part of outstanding line ups at the Wanee Music Festival in Florida and the Mountain Jam in Hunter, NY.

Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis

An Arcade Tournament, a dark horse candidate that we didn't even handicap this morning, wins the day. Chad Jennings has the details. The team will participate in three events: skee ball, pop-a-shot basketball, and an Indy racing game.

Former NC State basketball player Andrew Brackman is the odds-on favorite for pop-a-shot. But the big fellas rarely do well from the charity stripe, so we may see a surpise contender emerge.

Side-arming lefty Royce Ring presumably would have the advantage in skee ball, but given Mo's control it wouldn't surprise me if he bullseyed every toss.

Jesus Montero's father is a mechanic, and Jesus dabbles in engine building, so I would imagine he has the inside track for Indy racing. I just hope A-Rod has learned his lesson and doesn't try to text while he's racing.

Poor Joba is stuck home with flu like symptoms, but he'll likely have some good games there to keep himself entertained.

Keeping Score On The Lake

As the Yankees try to recapture the magic of their team-building outing last year, Joe Girardi doesn't have many activities to choose from if he wants to go a different route than a pool tournament. Finding something that sixty guys could compete in that doesn't involve significant injury risk is no easy task. As Matt conveyed before, that narrows it down to stuff like lawn games, shuffle board and laser tag. What else? Go-karts? Golf? Curling? Darts? A poker tournament? Fishing...?

It wasn't an official outing, but last year during Spring Training A.J. Burnett took a few teammates fishing with him in his boat. Having played in Florida for six years before leaving for Toronto and been an avid fisherman, it would be safe to assume that Burnett knows a couple of decent spots. If David Robertson were in change, that's what he'd do.

Joe Girardi probably wouldn't pick angling as the team's activity due to the cost, liability and logistics of it all, but if he did, they'd have a good way to keep score. Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times recently proposed some simple sabermetric-style stats that could be used for fishing (h/t BBTF):
Think of fishing by the numbers in the tradition of the 1977 Baseball Abstract, Bill James' 68-page spark to the sabermetrics revolution in baseball.

A similar method should work to compare performances of competitive fishermen.

Numbers are the measuring stick of baseball across time. James just took it past the basics of wins and losses, strikeouts, batting average, ERA and homers.

We already have the basic statistics of fishing (equivalent of average, ERA) with tournament victories, career earnings and Classic titles. But we can dig deeper to compare fishermen.
Bowman goes on to explain some intuitive metrics that place the weight of the catch and money earned in the context of the tournament they were recorded in. Not all competitions would benefit from increased statistical analysis, but pro fishing seems like it would be one of them. Tournaments held in different areas and under varying conditions can yield drastically different overall catches, similar to how certain eras in baseball have been characterized by higher or lower run scoring environments.

Analyzing the fisherman's results would be useful, but even more interesting would be the data on the fish. If there was a way to easily capture basic info about the circumstances a fish was caught under, a big enough sample might yield some interesting trends. Things like the depth of the strike, water and air temperature, type and color of lure, amount of sunlight, barometric pressure, time of year, etc., would lend valuable insight into fish behavior. Having that data available would close the gap between those who have been figuring things out via trial and error over long periods of time and those who have much less experience. That would be bad news for fish, but good for the casual fisherman.

Of course, this is impractical for a few reasons. First, you'd need a universal form to record the data and distributing them would be tough. Secondly, pro fisherman are notoriously reluctant to give away their tactics, lest they tip off their opponents and lose their competitive advantage. Consequently, you'd have to enlist average anglers to gather data, most of whom probably don't want (or are too drunk) to waste their time writing a bunch of numbers after they flip a largemouth bass or rainbow trout over the side of their boat or onto the bank.

However, while it wouldn't be practical on a wide level, perhaps individual fishing guides could distinguish themselves by diligently recording results and analyzing them over a long period of time. It's possible, but I think that fishing is probably stuck in a place where baseball was for a long time, where common knowledge, conventional wisdom, intuition and superstition go relatively unchallenged as the main sources of strategy.

Field Trip Day At Yankee Camp

Good morning Fackers. Today marks another milestone as we move closer to real live baseball, as it's the final day before Spring Training games begin. The Yankees will not spend the day doing pitcher's fielding practice, throwing bullpens, and taking BP. Instead, trying to recapture the success of last spring's team building exercise, the team will play hooky today and take a little field trip for some sort of mystery competition.

Last year it was a pool tournament, so I doubt they'll repeat that this year. Reports from earlier in the spring ruled out bowling and paintball as too much of an injury risk. So what does that leave? Shuffleboard? Bocce? Laser tag? Mini golf? Ping pong? What do you think Fackers? Leave your ideas in the comments.

I can't take credit for the idea below, as Peter Abraham ran with this last year upon the recommendation of Connie Schwab in the Yankees' media department. I don't think they'll end up in a pool hall again today, but the general idea still applies. And far be it from me to pass up an opportunity to embed a Springsteen video.

We're gonna play some pool, skip some school, act real cool
Stay out all night, it's gonna feel all right