The Democrats’ state of play

If you follow the horse race that is the Democrat race to the 2020 presidential nomination, you may notice that in the last week several participants have cashed in their chips and called it a campaign: onetime Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak dropped out Sunday, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock withdrew Monday, and Tuesday it was arguably the biggest name yet: California’s Senator Kamala Harris. (To tell you how crowded the field was, I didn’t know perpetual also-ran Wayne Messam had left the race before Thanksgiving until just now as I was writing this.)

With these four departures, the field which had swelled up to 25 participants at one time is now down to 15; however, only five of them have qualified for the next debate this month. (Harris was actually a qualifier, but her campaign ran out of cash.)

I’m going to look at the race now in a little different way. First we need to break the field down into the various constituent groups which make up the Democrat Party, and then we can tier them off into their relative chances for success. These are in alphabetical order of first candidate in the group.

First of all come the old white guys: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders.

Corollary to that group but unique in its own way are the gazillionaires: Michael Bloomberg, John Delaney, and Tom Steyer.

We then have the black contingent, which now consists of Cory Booker and Deval Patrick.

Next up is the gay community, which – insofar as we know – only consists of Pete Buttigieg.

The remaining Hispanic contender is Julian Castro.

Then we have the women: Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Marianne Williamson.

That leaves the Asian guy, Andrew Yang, last. Seems appropriate since a lot of Democrats don’t count Asians as an oppressed minority.

Anyway, there are also tiers of contenders shaping up. The first group are the ones I don’t see even making it to Iowa or New Hampshire. From most likely to be out to maybe they’ll defy this pundit and make it to the caucuses we have John Delaney (a gazillionaire), Michael Bennet (an old white guy), and Marianne Williamson (a woman.)

Next up are the ones I see throwing in the towel after Iowa/New Hampshire: the black guy Deval Patrick, the Hispanic Julian Castro, the Asian guy Andrew Yang, and two ladies: Tulsi Gabbard and Amy Klobuchar.

That leaves us with seven moving forward. Of that seven, I think the three who will be in the weakest position will be the black guy Cory Booker and the remaining two gazillionaires Steyer and Bloomberg. However, I seem to recall Bloomberg’s strategy was to basically ignore the first four states and concentrate on Super Tuesday, so both of them may stay in the game for awhile.

I realize we are a long way out, but the polling is interesting among the first four states. As it stands, both Iowa and New Hampshire have a pecking order where Pete Buttigieg is first, followed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden in fourth. But while Biden seems weak in the first two states, he’s leading the pack in Nevada, South Carolina, and California, just ahead of Elizabeth Warren. So the early Buttigieg momentum is stalled once the contest heads out of the first two states (and by a significant amount, like 15 to nearly 30 points behind Biden.)

One burning question that should concern the Biden camp is the fallout from the Ukraine investigation and the saga surrounding his son Hunter. The press has seemed less than curious about this, particularly in comparison to Donald Trump’s children. (Luckily there are voters taking up the slack.) But it’s his good fortune to have his top-tier peers with their own problems: Bernie probably hits his ceiling of support at 20 percent because he’s yesterday’s news, Warren has her issues with honesty and integrity, and Pete Buttigieg won’t get the black vote because of his hometown issues and his sexual preference. (Remember, Maryland’s gay marriage issue wasn’t a slam dunk because the black community wasn’t its strongest supporter. Only this year has support for the issue passed 50% among blacks.)

Between the top tier four, though, they gather up over 70% of the votes in four of the five key states RealClearPolitics is polling. (In New Hampshire, it’s only 65%.) So the other huge question is whether one of the outside candidates can gather a large enough chunk of the 30% remaining (doubtful) or whether one candidate can coalesce that 30% behind their camp. My guess at the moment is that Elizabeth Warren is the most primed to do so.

If a Warren vs. Trump race comes to pass, I would expect the battleground states will be the four that Hillary Clinton considered her firewall: Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. But the results may be the same: women were already predisposed to vote against Trump, but blacks may be more inclined to vote for Trump (which helps in Michigan). The key is if union workers again back Trump against the wishes of their leadership.

At this stage in the game, though, I think the field will be no more than 10 by the time the ball (or whatever ornament towns across America use) drops on New Year’s Eve.

Presenting: The Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2019

For this, the eleventh class of inductees, we seem to be arriving at a stopping point. Two of the three being honored this year were members of the loaded 2014 Shorebird team, and it appears that well may finally be running dry – those few players still knocking around aren’t really regarded as prospects. The same is true for the 2013 crop whose representative this season rounds out the trio.

The Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019 didn’t take long to get set, as Branden Kline overcame a career’s worth of adversity to make his debut April 20. And while it was a feelgood story of an (almost) hometown kid made good necessitated by an unexpected early-season twinbill, the fact that Kline did well enough in that spot appearance to earn a place on the Elias/Hyde Baltimore-to-Norfolk shuttle meant he would be in the conversation for bullpen work in 2020.

Member number 2 may have received his big break a few weeks before the season. In a classic “change of scenery” trade, the Orioles addressed a glut of outfield prospects and the desire for more pitching depth by sending Mike Yastrzemski, whose star had fallen in the Orioles’ eyes thanks to some subpar AAA seasons, to the San Francisco Giants for Tyler Herb, a pitcher whose career seemed to be similarly stuck in the San Francisco organization. And while Herb did little to distinguish himself as Oriole property, the Giants got a steal of a deal that netted them a starting left fielder for the near-term, with several years of team control – one who will likely never leave for a big free agent contract since he won’t be eligible until his age-36 season. Mike made his debut May 25 and stayed with the Giants the rest of the way.

Finally, on August 17, the last piece of the Class of 2019 was put in place when the Orioles called up another pitcher whose career had been sidetracked by frequent injuries. Hunter Harvey only pitched a handful of innings at the big league level, but he was impressive enough to be penciled into the Orioles’ 2020 bullpen, perhaps as a seventh- or eighth-inning pitcher as closer-in-training for when the Orioles return to contention in future seasons.

So it was a class of just three; as such it was my smallest since 2014. The 2013 and 2014 SotWHoF classes were very small as they reflected a talent gap between a group which had either come through Delmarva at the end of the previous decade or were “can’t miss” guys like Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy and the group that began to arrive in 2016 or so as players who played with the Shorebirds in 2014. (The 2015 class was sort of a motley crew of pitchers, several making their debut elsewhere.)

As the players who came through in 2015 and 2016 have worked their way up to the cusp of the Show, the smaller number of Shorebird of the Month honorees beginning in 2017 will make the classes more limited going forward, perhaps maintaining a range of one to four per season.

While my track record is spotty, I continue to make my wild guesses as to who will be in the next class. I believe that, barring injury, we will finally see Ryan Mountcastle arrive in the bigs as one of the Class of 2020 – he was one of just two SotWs added to the Orioles’ 40-man roster. But, from there, the crystal ball clouds up considerably – I don’t see Ryan McKenna being quite ready this coming season after a step backward for the prospect in 2019. (His is a case where the new September roster restriction to 28 players will likely keep him off.)

McKenna and 2017 SotY Alex Wells are Oriole members of a second tier of prospects which also includes 2016 SotY Yermin Mercedes, who has worked his way onto the 40-man roster of the Chicago White Sox, as has Garrett Cleavinger for the Philadelphia Phillies. Jesus Liranzo fell off Pittsburgh’s 40-man but has stayed in the organization, so he’s included in this group.

Then we have a whole host of sleeper picks – guys who inhabit AAA but are considered more as the organizational filler. That group would include graybeards like Wynston Sawyer from way back in 2012, Luis Gonzalez and Mitch Horacek from 2014, and Jomar Reyes and Ademar Rifaela from 2015. All but Reyes have tasted AAA, and all but Reyes became minor-league free agents after 2019. Reyes was once a prime prospect, but he got stuck at Frederick for a few seasons.

Lastly are a few more recent Shorebirds of the Month who could get considered, but realistically are more likely members of the classes of 2021 or 2022. They would be Preston Palmiero, Steven Klimek, Zach Jarrett, Zac Lowther, Tim Naughton, DL Hall, 2018 SotY Brenan Hanifee, Grayson Rodriguez, and 2019 SotY Adam Hall.

I have also found that, with the additional coaching positions being placed at various levels including the major leagues, there may be a need to add a coaches’ wing to the SotWHoF. For example, Kyle Hudson, a member of the Class of 2011 as a player, may well be inducted as a coach as he has reached the AAA level with the Cleveland organization. There’s precedent for non-playing personnel to be a Shorebird of the Week (for my 100th SotW I selected then-manager Ryan Minor as a way to honor his longtime contributions) so there probably should be a place for coaches and/or managers who reach the Show.

With the publication of this post, the SotWHoF will once again be a live, public page. One new wrinkle you will notice: I have added information on how the player was acquired by the Orioles and, where needed, the team with which he made his debut. It’s interesting to see how teams come together.

A stone of years: monoblogue turns 14

Izzy Stradlin of Guns n’ Roses once sang, “You don’t get back 14 years in just one day,” and that’s probably true for a blog post, too. (Good song on a pretty good record, “Use Your Illusion II” – although I liked Illusion I a little better. Can you believe that double album will be 30 years old in 2021?)

But as I contemplate what a long, strange trip it’s been, it’s also apparent that so much has changed: not just the presentation as arranged by the blog theme (which is still the Twenty Sixteen theme I adopted about a year ago) but what’s placed on the site. I just used to put up SO much political stuff like press releases and analysis of races, but now I do more lengthy and meaty diatribes about the world as it is and how it should be.

So I have come pretty much full circle: now monoblogue is actually more like how it was when I first started, before I got a little too proud and before I bought into the theory that the only way to build an audience was by posting ultra-frequently. I thought I could be somebody just based on building the popularity of this website, but that task was something I tried and failed to do since it was a singular effort put together by a guy who rarely had two nickels to rub together let alone a promotions budget. So my content creation had to suffer, and eventually I just got sick of curating that crap.

Unfortunately, as I sit here I still get the feeling that I placed myself into a couple too many boxes. However, I remain a believer in the philosophy that politics should be the part-time profession of caring Americans, so on this blog you’ll always find the political somewhere: 2019 wasn’t an election year except at a local level but it has featured the runup to the 2020 balloting. It’s something I’ve had my take on every so often as it develops.

I’ve also retained my passion about the Shorebirds, and one thing I really loved doing the research on was my fantasy baseball team. With 2020 coming up, I can have the fun of working on that with a few new players and a slimmed-down roster (you’ll see what I mean.) Come spring I may be forced to revamp a little bit about Shorebird of the Month because of the changes at Perdue Stadium making it tougher to get my photos, but I will cross that bridge when I get to it.

But this website will soon undergo one somewhat significant change. Just as writing something every day began to become a chore I almost dreaded doing, the same goes for monoblogue music. Since the end of September I’ve had one review in my queue to do but I just don’t feel like it. For awhile I was living with the excuse that I had bad internet service (moving out into the country comes with that disadvantage to be sure) but I’ve since rectified that and don’t have to live off my phone’s hotspot. Sometime in December I will finally put up that review – my first since July – and select one final top 5 before I put monoblogue music mostly to bed except maybe for some follow-up reviews on previous top 5 bands (and I make no promises on that.) The reviews had a pretty good five-plus year run but like a lot of series in the past I just got tired of the concept. (I’m not tired of Weekend of Local Rock, either, but then again I never put my photos from Casting Crowns up. I think six weeks is past its expiration date.)

To be perfectly honest, I’d also like to get rid of some of the previous notions about my website. One transition I’m planning to make in the coming weeks is changing my Rise and Fall site to an author-based site for promotion of all my works, past, present, and future. And since this website is one of those works, has spawned 5,000-plus posts, was the germ of inspiration for my first book (So We May Breathe Free, 2012), and led to several other of my writing jobs, it’s an important piece going forward that demands the best content. These music reviews weren’t making the cut.

And in order to put a better foot forward, I’m also working slowly on something I promised last year – it’s made a lot easier thanks to a trove of photo disks I found over the summer. I’ve done about ten posts so far and once I work on Shorebird of the Week posts (which generally only needed one photo) the backlog of about 200 posts where photos were lost will quickly begin to dwindle. That is a good thing and it’s brought back a lot of memories.

So I’m not getting back 14 years in just one day, but I don’t have to: the good memories are already right here. Now I’m ready to start year number 15.

Time to indulge our ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ consumerism

This is the sixth annual edition put out by the folks at the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

This is always a good post for Black Friday.

It’s been several years now since I scratched an itch to promote our American manufacturing by joining a (sadly ill-fated) venture called American Certified. One thing that short foray gave me, though, was a place on the mailing list of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a union-backed promoter of (you guessed it) American manufacturing. Its president Scott Paul is perhaps among those I’ve most quoted on this site, and arguably first among non-Maryland non-politicians.

The AAM has, over the last several years, created what they call their “Made in America Gift Guide.” It actually worked well hand-in-hand with an effort by the Patriot Voices group (the people who keep two-time Presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum in the news on occasion) called the Made in the U.S.A. Christmas Challenge, but that challenge has seemed to go by the wayside, leaving AAM as the sole purveyor and promoter of American-made Christmas gifts.

This is year 6 for AAM and they picked at least one item from each state – 83 overall by my count. I thought Delaware’s selected entry this year was a little bit off the wall, but then again RAPA ships its scrapple around the country during holiday time (November to February.) It may not be the gift for everyone on your list, but I’m sure there are some who now live in other regions of the country who wouldn’t mind a taste of home.

But in a neat piece of irony (and no pun intended) the selected Maryland gift comes from an Eastern Shore company called Butter Pat Industries. Their claim to fame? Hand-crafted cast iron skillets, which have drawn the attention and raves from cooking aficionados. (That’s why I’ve never heard of them, since I burn water.)

Since I quote him so often, here’s what AAM’s Scott Paul had to say:

Everything on this year’s list is new, and many of the ideas came from readers like you.

We think there’s something for everyone on your gift list. Our team made sure to include a mix of items at a variety of price points.

If everyone in the United States spent $64 of their holiday budget on American-made products, it would support 200,000 new factory jobs! But we know it can be hard to find Made in America goods in big box stores or at the local mall.

By putting together this list, we hope to shine a spotlight on some great companies who support local jobs and their communities — and make it easier for folks like you to find great American-made gifts during the busy holiday season.

Scott Paul, Alliance for American Manufacturing press release, November 26, 2019.

Of course, they also strive to not repeat gifts from year to year so Delaware’s list has varied nicely over the years: baby accessories, unglazed cookware, handcrafted gifts and furnishings, Jell-O mix (!), and – of course – Dogfish Head ales. (Too bad they didn’t give the late lamented 16 Mile brewery the same love.) The Eastern Shore has also been represented in Maryland’s selection on a couple previous occasions, including Paul Reed Smith guitars.

So if one of your Christmas goals is to shop local, this guide is a pretty good place to begin. And the job you save may be that of someone you know.

Happy Thanksgiving 2019

It’s that time of year again. Unlike most of the rest of the world these days, I keep the holidays in order and don’t think about Christmas until Thanksgiving is over. So today I’m going to count my blessings.

First and foremost is being married to my wife. Even though this didn’t happen until comparatively late in life, everything occurs in the Lord’s time. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to meet her when we were both far younger – perhaps it would have saved us both a lot of heartache. But then again we may not have been attracted to each other for whatever reason, so – as I said – things occur in the Lord’s time, not mine. And since it was a package deal I got to watch her daughter grow up and become a pretty good adult.

The second big blessing is a home of our own, one which placed us in the First State for the first time. It’s not brand new and it’s not fancy, but it’s the first time I’ve lived in a house that wasn’t standing when Jimmy Carter was president. (I suppose the apartment I lived in for two years wasn’t either, but that was an apartment.)

Another blessing that’s come over the last year or so is the extended family of our church small group. My family is spread out from Ohio to Missouri to Florida, so I don’t often see them. These folks are the surrogates who keep me grounded.

I have also had the blessing of finishing and marketing my book, The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party. Now I’m not going to lie to you and claim it’s been a best seller (although there’s still time) but I have received the opportunity to speak to audiences in 13 different states, not counting podcasts and the like. Tomorrow I wrap up the radio tour with an internet radio show, which I suppose covers the other 37 states, right?

So when we gather around the table this evening (generally Kim’s family eats around supper time as opposed to my growing up with dinner during the Lions game) and say the blessing, I have a lot for which to be thankful. Hopefully you can say the same.

Oh, and one more thing to be thankful about: having those of you who still care enough to stop by my little corner of the internet. It’s not the largest number ever but each one is one more than I would have had without the website. On Sunday I’ll do that navel-gazing since it will be 14 years of monoblogue.

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

A problem with democracy

What if you have an election and nobody shows up?

That seems to be the case in Delmar, as the little town too big for one state had only 28 residents bother to show up for the town election held on Tuesday. And if you think this was because the elections were walkovers, it sounds like at least the mayor’s office was contested. (I would think at least one were contested, otherwise the election would be cancelled.) By the way, congratulations to Karen Wells for another successful election.

Nor is it a case of Delmar just being a speck on the map – according to one report there are 1,987 registered voters in the city so that means turnout weighed in at about 1.4 percent. Sorry to be so blunt, but that is pathetic. And it’s nothing new – the 2015 election only drew 41 voters.

Obviously I’m no expert on Delmar’s city code, but it seems to me that poor turnout like that would be a good reason to re-evaluate the whole election situation. It’s fine to have off-year elections, but perhaps they need to place their balloting on the same election day most other people are aware of, the first Tuesday in November. Granted, you run the risk of being overshadowed by Salisbury’s election when both run concurrently but perhaps that will bring the event to mind for more than 2 percent of the voting public.

Look, while this was a Delmar, Maryland election it’s worth noting in my case that here in Delaware it’s more like the system I grew up with in Ohio where there are elections for something each year: local offices and school boards in odd-numbered years, and state and federal offices in even-numbered years. Whichever state you’re in, it’s the responsibility of a good citizen to participate in this republic by voting at each opportunity – even if you don’t like the candidates (oftentimes I do not) and even if it’s not the most convenient thing to do. We just can’t abide as a nation when 1.4% voter turnout is met with a shrug of the shoulders.

A new way to vacuum from our wallets

Over the years from time to time I have written about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate compact ostensibly to address climate change (under the mistaken belief mankind can significantly affect that natural phenomenon) but one which in reality acts as a wealth redistributor in most of its member states.

But thanks to the sharp-eyed folks at the Delaware Freedom Coalition – who noticed a small article in one of the New Jersey Patch websites (they’re still around?) – we now know that these same states and three others (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) are trying to do the same thing with your gasoline. In the words of the Connecticut-based Hartford Courant, which is linked in the Patch article:

The concept calls for a regional cap-and-trade plan that would raise money that would be used to combat climate change at a time when President Donald Trump’s administration is seeking to weaken standards for automobile emissions. For example, the money would help in improving electric-car charging and investing in mass transit as ways to reduce emissions.

“Connecticut among states studying regional gas tax,” Christopher Keating, Hartford Courant, October 25, 2019.

[In an unrelated move, Delaware Rep. Krista Griffith already proposed a measure this year to allow the public usage of state-owned electric car charging stations, a bill that fell one Senate vote short of passage (two Senators were absent at the time of the vote.) That’s certain to come back in 2020, but the proceeds from this proposed gas tax could be earmarked to reimburse state agencies for a similar public use.]

However, this wouldn’t be a per-gallon tax or a sales tax on gasoline, the methods by which most of us pay our automotive toll to the state. Instead, it appears (according to published reports here and here) that the toll would be paid at the wholesale level, which has led that industry to oppose the new tax. If it were adopted, though, they have suggested some improvements. Otherwise, much like RGGI member state utilities are saddled with the additional cost and red tape of compliance, the petroleum industry will become the new whipping boy for Radical Green.

This is just another case of passing the buck. And as Forbes contributor David Blackmon opines, “we see states like these twelve spending tens of millions of dollars and years upon years studying and developing deceptive approaches like this in order to give governors and other politicians the political cover they need to still be re-elected after voting the new, hidden tax into law.” Now in states like Maryland and (unfortunately) Delaware, there are enough people who have been fooled to keep voting in these people regardless of what they do or “accomplish” in office on so-called climate change. But the concept could fall apart if enough states balk at the idea, and public comment has been surprisingly fierce against the idea once people are made aware of it. (Apparently people in Maine are since that small state provides the majority of public comments.)

If people wish to purchase electric cars, part of the consideration has to be the infrastructure (or lack thereof) for refueling as well as other needs. Setting aside the environmental impact that these expanded batteries create and the subsidies required to make the industry successful – never mind this proposed carveout – the other issue is that an electric car simply replaces a conventional car on roads which must be maintained on a system of highways desperately needing expansion and streamlining in some places. Here in Sussex County that covers everything from local needs like a bridge crossing of the Nanticoke River between Sharptown and Seaford to replace the old and unreliable Woodland Ferry and a combined U.S. 113/State Route 24 Millsboro bypass to regional concerns like the extension of an interstate-grade highway from south of Dover to Salisbury along the U.S. 13 corridor. (Since it wouldn’t be a loop highway, call it I-195.)

One advantage of a gas tax is that, when it’s properly allocated toward highway maintenance and expansion – and not toward bike paths, mass transit subsidies, or the yawning chasm of a state’s general fund – it serves as a user fee not unlike that of crossing the Bay Bridge or a toll road. You pay your fee, you get your service whether it’s traversing Chesapeake Bay or avoiding umpteen traffic lights and speed limit changes between Dover and Wilmington. Unfortunately, too many governmental entitles see these taxes as revenue they can spend as they please whether it’s in the spirit in which the tax is collected or not. Moreover, undefined revenue becomes yet another method of patching holes in the budget, and yes I’m looking at you Martin O’Malley.

So it’s prudent to be skeptical at best about the collection and usage of this tax, especially since the participants misunderstand the problem and try to avoid dealing with the real issues. If you want to raise the gas tax, be honest about it and use it to fix roads, not address an issue the world can’t solve.

How the region may shape up

In years past, the city of Salisbury held their elections in the spring, much as many other municipalities do – some by necessity because their counties or states have their own elections in November, and some as a local custom. Most bigger cities, though, tend to hold their elections in November and Salisbury joined those ranks a few years ago.

So, besides the idea that Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself – which I think I’ve now seen on a thousand memes, some much funnier than others – that’s kind of the regional phenomenon right now. Unfortunately, as I noted the other day, it’s pretty much as dull as dishwater – but since I like to make sure my crystal ball doesn’t get too cloudy from lack of use I’ll have some predictions to make.

At present, Salisbury has five City Council members: four of them were elected in 2015 (April Jackson, Muir Boda, Jack Heath, and Jim Ireton) and one was appointed earlier this year (Angela Blake.) While the elections are non-partisan, the probable makeup of Council right now is 4-1 Democrat: Ireton has run for office before as a Democrat, Heath was a Democrat-endorsed independent in his 2018 County Executive run, and both Blake and Jackson have received donations from the local Democrat Party for this run. Only Boda is a Libertarian-turned-Republican.

Of the five, only Ireton (who previously served as mayor from 2009-15) opted not to seek another term. That District 4 seat, however, will most likely remain in the hands of the loony left as 2018 Democrat County Council candidate Michele Gregory is a heavy favorite over former blogger Jonathan Taylor. That’s a real shame, but for whatever reason bloggers don’t make good candidates: out of the local Salisbury crew Julie Brewington and I are the only ones who have been elected to anything (you could also count Delmar mayor Karen Hughes Wells, who I recall had a great but short-lived blog a long time ago.) But Joe Albero, G.A. Harrison, Charles Jannace, and probably Taylor: all oh-fer.

Fortunately, the GOP will retain at least one seat as no one bothered to challenge Boda this time. That election was one where Boda had the majority of the District 2 vote yet scored less than 100 ballots, which tells you the turnout and interest in that district. In theory the GOP could take control of Council (Red Maryland compiled the data, although I already knew two of the three.) But since Mable Marshall didn’t raise any money and is in a three-way race against a well-known incumbent in Jackson, I think she’ll be the also-ran with no more than 10-15% of the District 1 vote.

Probably the most interesting Council race, though, will be the District 5 race between Blake and first-time candidate Shawn Jester, who you’ve surely read a little bit about over the years here as he was the president of the Wicomico County Republican Club for a couple years while I was there. He’s now a liaison for Congressman Andy Harris, which some are claiming skirts the intent of the Hatch Act. (Since Salisbury has nonpartisan elections, it does not.) Of course, that employment by Harris brings out the scare quotes from Blake’s liberal supporters who may not have figured out the advantages that sort of connection could bring to Salisbury.

Personally I think the district leans toward Blake, who I would give a 60-65% chance of winning, but I don’t think it’s more than a 10-point race and it will be the closest of the five.

That leaves the two races I call referendum races: because the opponent has little or no chance at victory, it’s the margin of victory that determines the story. One of those two is the District 3 Council race between Jack Heath and Riley Smith, who is another one that hasn’t raised enough money to reasonably contend against an incumbent with name recognition – unfortunate because, at first glance, Smith seems like the budget hawk type last exhibited on City Council by Debbie Campbell prior to her defeat by one Jacob Day in 2013.

Of course, Day is in the other referendum race, put up against a recently-arrived resident of Salisbury by the name of Wayne King – who, by the way, is a Republican but one who couldn’t even get an endorsement from his fellow GOP members. Apparently none of them wanted to challenge Day, so King took up the mantle and for that I commend him because Day deserves a challenger to question the wisdom of the long-term ramifications of some of his decisions, like who supports the Folk Festival after its three-year run as the National Folk Festival concludes, and how will giving shorter shrift to neighborhoods at the expense of a downtown-centric approach pan out once the millennials get married, begin to raise a family, and wish to have a nice house in a decent neighborhood only to find they don’t exist in Salisbury. (But it has such a nice downtown.)

Those are the two races where the margins need to be watched. If they are in the 80 percent range then the people of the district or city have bought Heath’s and Day’s mantra hook, line, and sinker – so I suppose more power to them, may their chains rest lightly, and so forth.

But if either of them come in under 60 percent, that’s a sign that there’s a backlash toward the regressive policies these two have orchestrated. (Heath serves as the City Council president.) Turnout is going to be light, so a high vote for these challengers means the residents aren’t that happy with the status quo and they were mad enough (like these guys) to show up for what otherwise would seem like a lost cause.

Wait, Salisbury is having an election?

As in many other things in life, four years makes a tremendous difference.

At this time in 2015, I was knee-deep in covering the Salisbury municipal election, which was interesting in being the first culmination of two different aspects: one being the complete overhaul of the city’s Council districts into five separate single-member districts rather than one four-member “at-large” district taking in most of the city and a second majority-minority single-member district, and, secondly, the end of staggered elections where the mayor and two Council members (one from the single-member district and another from the at-large) were elected in one odd-numbered year (the last being 2013) after the other three council members from the at-large district elected on the previous odd-year (that district was last elected in 2011.)

In 2015, the Council ended up with three new members (April Jackson in District 1, Muir Boda in District 2, and Jim Ireton in District 4) and a new mayor as Ireton and Jake Day flipped roles. It was the culmination of a rapid rise for Day, who had only been elected two years earlier when he defeated two-term incumbent and fiscal watchdog Debbie Campbell in the final at-large district race; Day was immediately promoted to a leadership position on City Council.

Thus, it was an election with a lot of intrigue and promise. On the other hand, 2019 has been pretty much dull as dishwater despite the fact all but Boda have contested races. Buoyed by a series of perceived successes such as the National Folk Festival and downtown development and construction, Mayor Day has received the endorsement of politicos up and down the line and is the prohibitive favorite against Wayne King, whose efforts have been pretty much met by silence – or relentless trolling from the pro-Day minions on social media. And while it’s indeed possible that there could be four new faces on City Council (with Boda the only holdover) it’s more likely that four incumbents (one appointed earlier this year) will remain. I haven’t seen the financials yet – it’s ridiculous that the first financial report isn’t due until a week before the election – but I suspect all of the incumbents have a healthy advantage over their challengers. The one exception could be Shawn Jester in District 5, where he faces the recent appointee Angela Blake.

The other race that may have been interesting on paper is the seat Jim Ireton is vacating in District 4, which more than likely isn’t going to move to the center. It’s there that Michele Gregory, who ran unsuccessfully last year for County Council, will likely prevail over now-former owner of the blog Lower Eastern Shore News Jonathan Taylor, who’s reportedly been AWOL on the campaign trail since selling his blog site. Gregory, who happens to be my old neighbor – she used to run a home-based day care center across the street (and district line) from us – never met a progressive wet dream she didn’t like, so I guess she will be trying to drive the city way over to the left.

What will be most interesting to me is the aftermath. Unless it’s been changed in the last four years – and I have no reason to believe it has – each candidate has to divest his or her remaining campaign funds at the end of the election. While most after the 2015 balloting did so to local charities, the one exception was Jake Day. And when I noted that fact, I was pithily told “I’m not giving away my donors’ (money) – they made an investment.”

Just for fun, I looked up Day’s two campaign finance entities, which remain active but have filed affidavits of limited contributions or expenses (or ALCEs) since shortly after their formation. Over the years there have been a few scattered contributions to Day’s campaign account, but its largest expense – at least as of January 2019, the last required reporting date – was a 2016 gathering called TEDxSBY, billing itself as an “independently organized TED event.” Given the fact Day has a campaign headquarters, I don’t think money is an issue with his run so I wonder whether there was a transfer involved. Guess we will find out.

So if you think Salisbury is becoming more successful and attractive, the status quo is there to elect. Just hope the neighborhoods can hold up for the next four years. Of course, the refugees are welcome to come up to Delaware and try to help this state like I am.

A major change to the minor leagues?

This story is something which, on the surface, applies to my fellow baseball geeks but may affect a lot more in terms of regional economy and our hometown Shorebirds.

A published report in the baseball geek magazine Baseball America – a tome which specializes in coverage of the lower levels of the sport, from high school prospects to the high minors of AAA – claims that Major League Baseball (MLB) wishes to eliminate over one-fourth of the 160 affiliated minor league teams. The MLB proposal, which would take effect in 2021, would limit the Orioles and their other 29 brethren franchises to four full-season affiliates corresponding to AAA, AA, advanced A, and A. This would reduce the number of required teams to 120; however, the BA report also foretells the “promotion” of independent league teams in Sugar Land, Texas and St. Paul, Minnesota to the Minor League Baseball (MiLB) fold as they become affiliated teams (presumably to the Astros and Twins, respectively.)

The goals of MLB in this agreement are to eliminate facilities which are substandard as well as realign MiLB leagues and classifications to allow for less travel and better geographic alignment between MLB parent clubs and their affiliates. It’s been generally assumed that the teams currently in short-season leagues would be those on the chopping block, but that may not necessarily be true: for example, short-season Aberdeen has far better facilities than our fellow SAL team in Hagerstown, so the IronBirds would likely make the cut while Hagerstown is dropped. (The question then could become whether the Orioles would prefer an A ball team in Aberdeen or Delmarva.) The Suns, however, could live on as part of a “dream league” under the auspices of MiLB where undrafted players get to play in the hopes of eventually being signed. (In essence they would fill a role some independent leagues now fill.)

Hagerstown is a team which would almost certainly be axed in favor of a short-season team based on dreadful attendance and facilities. Among the remaining SAL teams, the worst attendance figures (under 2,000 a game average) belong to Hagerstown, Kannapolis, and West Virginia, while Hickory hovered just over that mark. In terms of stadium age, Hagerstown isn’t the oldest – Asheville’s park dates from 1924, six years before Hagerstown built theirs – but it’s one of just five SAL parks built in the 20th century. (Along with Delmarva, Hickory and Charleston opened their parks in the mid-1990s. Kannapolis did as well, but they open a new stadium – and get a new team name that’s announced in the coming days – next spring.)

As I alluded to above, the Orioles already have a pretty good situation insofar as geography is concerned: their only teams with significant distance between themselves and Baltimore are AAA Norfolk and their complex team at their spring training facility in Sarasota, Florida (which would be retained in any case as part of the agreement.) But they could have a decision to make if Aberdeen is retained in the MiLB mix.

Complicating matters in that regard is the prospect of teams moving up (or down) in classification. A big issue in MiLB today is the layout of the leagues: for example, West Coast MLB teams have no choice but to send their A-ball prospects two or three time zones away because the farthest west team at that level plays in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. There are imbalances at every other level, too: this year the Washington Nationals had to send their AAA players out to Fresno, California because it was the last available AAA team. (Fresno was even rejected by the Oakland A’s, who left Nashville after the 2018 season for the AAA team in Las Vegas. Nashville, for their part, signed on with the Texas Rangers after they lost their previous AAA team in Round Rock, Texas to the Houston Astros, who left Fresno to take over at Round Rock. This was all necessitated when the New York Mets purchased the AAA team in Syracuse, New York to be their affiliate – they were the team that left Las Vegas and started the merry-go-round once development agreements expired last year. Previous to 2019, Syracuse was the Nationals’ top farm team.)

I suspect what’s going to happen is that the A-ball level where Delmarva plays and the advanced-A level are going to be most affected, but whether it’s reclassifying the advanced-A California League to an A ball league for West Coast teams or – as was alluded to in the BA story – reducing the South Atlantic League to 10 teams and creating a new six-team Mid-Atlantic League to reduce travel, MLB wants to revamp the minor leagues. I also suspect the advanced-A Florida State League may be eliminated since most of those teams are based at a spring training site where the complex leagues also play, attendance is rather low, and there are only a few major league teams in the region. The complex leagues could shift to evening start times (they normally play in the late morning or noontime) to fill the gap. (A small issue there is that there are 15 teams with spring training in Arizona and 15 in Florida, so each of those prospective leagues could require a travel team to even out the schedule.)

With the money invested in our facilities over the last few years, it’s not likely Delmarva would be left out in the cold totally (although there is the possibility.) But I honestly think that, if the Orioles had to choose between Aberdeen and Delmarva as an A-ball affiliate, we would get the short end of the stick – if so, I’m sure the Nationals would love to be here and we could resume the Governor’s Cup against Aberdeen instead of Hagerstown. A new six-team A-level Mid-Atlantic League could include Aberdeen, Brooklyn, and Staten Island (teams with newer facilities promoted from short-season rookie ball), along with SAL refugees Delmarva and Lakewood, and Wilmington, which would be dropped from advanced-A as the northernmost appendage of the Carolina League but is geographically favorable to this proposed league. In the paper MAL the longest bus trip would be under five hours, and possible affiliating teams would include the Orioles and Nationals along with the Mets, Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, and perhaps Toronto or Pittsburgh. (Currently both Aberdeen and Delmarva are Orioles teams, Brooklyn and Staten Island affiliate with the Mets and Yankees, respectively, and Lakewood with the Phillies. Wilmington is the odd duck as a Kansas City Royals affiliate – the Royals are one of those teams stranded in a situation where no advanced-A team is nearby.) Such a league would allow fans to see each team 14 times based on a 140-game schedule. It would be a little repetitive but also creates good rivalries.

Now, there are other possibilities as well: Aberdeen would fit decently into a reduced-size AAA International League where Norfolk would be relegated to the South Atlantic League, with a different affiliation. (Or they could create a third AAA league based in the South which would include Norfolk.) In that case, not only would IronBird fans get to experience cold-weather baseball, in the case of a move to the IL they could get the guys at the other end of the minor league food chain from what they now receive (aside from rehabbing players.)

In any case, MiLB in general and Delmarva fans in particular have been put on notice: after next season the landscape in which the Shorebirds exist could be a whole lot different. Hopefully we’ll still be seeing 70 games a year at the old ball yard.

The state of the TEA Party: fall 2019

(This is cross-posted to my book site for The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party.)

Since I last updated in July, we’ve had the elections I alluded to in North Carolna – where both Republicans won and maintained the seat for the GOP – but we’ve also had a more recent event which was reminiscent of the TEA Party of old. I’ll grant it wasn’t so much a philosophy-driven protest as it was personality-driven (or perhaps a little touch of desperation) but the TEA Party that came out for Donald Trump in 2016 wanted to take to the streets to support the beleaguered President last weekend.

Led by former TPP and TPX leader Amy Kremer, who now runs a group called Women for America First, the rally was slated on a weekday around noontime, which limited participation. Then they had an issue with the bus companies who were being counted on to bring hundreds more to the “hundreds” who found the time to attend the march in Washington, D.C. (However, nearly 50 other rallies were slated around the country so presumably there were thousands in attendance.)

Considering the Breitbart site set this up as a “massive march” it’s no surprise the meager turnout became the subject of left-wing derision. Of course it was, and the media got its exercise from jumping to conclusions: “Both women seemed to believe that TV video is regularly doctored to make Trump look bad,” said a report from the lefty site Mother Jones. “We are witnesses to a coup!” screamed the Right Wing Watch website, referring to attendees in Washington. “Without the president’s leadership, she fears the United States is fated to trash the Constitution and adopt communism,” intoned Cronkite News (a PBS site) about a rallygoer who actually was quoted as saying, “Not all leftists are against our country, but many have gone with the global philosophy of the New World Order.”

Yet media covered some of these smaller marches, too, in ruby-red places like Wyoming to conservative patches of blue states like Illinois. They encountered opposition in Tennessee.

At least there’s something there to believe in, though. If you’re a fan of the TEA Party Express (as I was) there’s not much to go on anymore; meanwhile the TEA Party Patriots are just hanging out on social media and doing their occasional lunch meeting.

Obviously I can’t see what each and every local TEA Party is doing, but hopefully they’ve made a habit of being involved in their local elections. If change is to be made, the local level is a good place to begin.

As for this ongoing update, I’d like to solicit more opinion and I have some ideas on how to do that. We’ll see where it goes come January.

Picks and pans from a Shorebird fan, 2019 edition

After long years of waiting, we finally got our concourse. Of all the picks, I have to say that is the best! It gives fans a new perspective and kids who want to shag home run balls a place to go.

Now that it’s here, the time has come to increase its potential. How about a couple mobile food carts or even just specialty vendors who walk that part of the stadium on large crowd nights? Maybe someday they can expand it in the left-field corner enough for a seating area and/or (even better) a mini-stage to bring back Thursday postgame concerts.

But while the new concourse is nice, I think most of the significant increase in attendance – the Shorebirds drew 218,704 (3,265 per game), which is over 17,000 more in just two more dates compared to 2018 and their best number since 2012 – comes from having a winning team. We can’t do much about that from a fan standpoint, although next year’s Shorebirds will inherit from a fairly talented pool below them in the organization, but we can suggest some areas for improvement and praise that which is good.

The good picks begins at the top, with the league’s executive of the year being Shorebird GM Chris Bitters. Give the man a raise! Fan-friendly but hesitant to take the spotlight, Chris has shepherded the franchise through a lengthy series of physical plant improvements which need to extend to one more aspect of the facilities: the back-of-the-house functions like restrooms, offices, and food service. All of those could use a little bit of freshening up and now is a good time to make that investment. This would give them the opportunity for CCTV in the restrooms so fans don’t miss the action.

There are also a couple other things which need to be freshened up, though. After two seasons the frog shuffle and video racing are getting a bit long in the tooth, so it might be time for the sponsors to consider some new stuff. More importantly, though, it may be time to freshen up the food offerings. I thought I heard this was the last year of their contract so maybe we can bring in someone else who’s better. I’m not expecting fine dining here, but I think we can do better than what we’ve had over the last few seasons.

The one big pan I would have is the new netting, simply because it eliminates one feature I enjoy about games, taking player pictures. It’s either that or moving way down the left field line, which sort of defeats the purpose unless I spend a few hundred dollars on a serious telephoto lens. I’m not that serious about it.

The other problem with this is that it allows fans to pay less attention to the game than they already do – which is how some number of people got hurt before the netting was extended. My seat isn’t the most risky, but over fifteen seasons I have been buzzed by a line drive (and snatched one out of the air with a nice grab), hit by an errant bunt and gotten a nice welt on the elbow from a flying bat, so even though I pay pretty close attention I still get the safety aspect. I ended up securing three foul balls that bounced or rolled to me this season, which is a high for me. But that seemed like too much of a tradeoff.

I went over a lot of stuff at the end of last season which still holds true, but thank goodness they found a better site for the new Sheriff’s office.

So I want to spend a little time going over a different sort of pick. Remember back in March when I predicted the Shorebirds’ opening day roster? This is how I did on those picks.

On starting pitchers, of the six I predicted all six spent time with the Shorebirds this year. However, Matthew Hammonds was primarily a reliever and Blaine Knight was here a very brief time before his promotion. And they didn’t piggyback Grayson Rodriguez as much as I thought they would. (6 of 6)

As for the relief corps, five of the seven made it here although none stayed all season. We saw just a little bit of Ryan Conroy (two appearances) but more of Nick Gruener (retired at mid-season), Tyler Joyner and Zach Matson (both promoted to Frederick), and Ryan Wilson (who came up and stayed a starter.) Kevin Magee spent his second season in Aberdeen and Victor Romero barely pitched due to injury – just a handful of GCL rehab appearances from Frederick’s roster. (11 of 13)

Both my catchers missed significant time – Alfredo Gonzalez spent the whole season on Frederick’s IL (or perhaps was placed there as coaching prep) while Cody Roberts missed half the season with a legitimate injury suffered in the very first game of the campaign but salvaged some games with Delmarva. (12 of 15)

Out of six infielders, three spent most of the season with Delmarva – Seamus Curran at first, Adam Hall at shortstop, and Alexis Torres at second. However, I underestimated both J.C. Escarra and Willy Yahn, who both began the season with Frederick – Yahn eventually ended it with the Bowie Baysox. On the flip side, Zach McLeod went the other way: back from Aberdeen to the GCL and perhaps out of a job as he was pedestrian there. He was probably my biggest miss. (15 of 21)

Finally, my four outfielders, all of whom spent time here. Nick Horvath was the only full-season player, though, as the other three (Jaylen Ferguson, Robert Neustrom, and Robbie Thorburn) played a combined total of 118 games here – just five more than Horvath on his own.

So I got 19 of 25. Can’t say that’s half bad for minor league baseball.