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.
For the third time, I have graded all the legislators in the Delaware General Assembly based on their voting patterns on a number of key issues. The final product can be found in its usual sidebar location or through this direct link.
This year is a little different as I have decided to do an interim edition given there were enough bills of interest with divided votes to have 25 scoring opportunities. (Spoiler alert: way too many were not taken advantage of; however, my average scores in both chambers were up slightly this year.)
Without getting too much into it – after all, I want my friends in the First State to read and share the information – it was another discouraging session for the Delaware General Assembly. The nanny state and Trump Derangement Syndrome were out in full force this session, certainly driven in large part by a number of new faces in both bodies.
But because of the mix of bills I used, the partisan divide narrowed significantly this year, as both parties had their highest aggregate score ever but Democrats increased theirs at a faster pace.
And if you were sharp-eyed last night, you would have noticed I did the usual “soft opening” by updating the widget before this post was finished and set to be placed up at this early hour.
So, Delaware, here is the voting guide you need – use it wisely in considering which members need primary opponents. (Hint: pretty much all of them.) If you want to change the state in the right direction it’s a good place to start.
There are some who will likely appreciate the symbolism in this post.
On Friday I took a little side trip on my way home. I’ve passed by this place a few times over the years, but since I’ve moved to the First State I drive by this monument every day on my way to work. But until the other day I’d never stopped to look at it despite its historical significance.
On my way into work one day it dawned on me that the monument is the perfect symbol of a new beginning, a staking out of a starting point and a redirection for this site. For many years I’ve been known as a Maryland-centric political blogger, but since I left the political game as a participant I had ceded the field to others who have done their level best to monetize their work and proclaim themselves as some sort of kingmaker in a Republican governor’s office. And that’s fine, more power to them – they live closer to the seat of power and apparently have to time to invest in those activities.
While I don’t have the utmost in time, in scanning the situation here in the First State I’ve found that there aren’t any active conservative blogs here. (If there are, they are pretty well hidden.) Truth be told, there aren’t a whole lot of liberal ones either but they do exist and I can’t abide that sort of situation. It’s something which needed to be addressed, so I will make up the hedge for the time being – assistance is encouraged!
So here I begin, almost literally from square one because I don’t yet know the players aside from studying the voting records for the Delaware General Assembly for the last couple years. (More on that in a bit.) The way I look at it is that I have staked out this corner as a beginning spot. Yes, it’s symbolic but in actuality I don’t live all that far from this point. (I think as the crow flies it’s about 5 1/2 miles, but I live less than two from the northerly extension of this line.) If you took in the territory between our home and this point, there are probably only a few hundred people living there in scattered homes and one development. And right now that’s probably about all I have to go to war with in this state – a state that is rapidly changing, and not necessarily for the better.
I suppose, then, that step one of this process is to announce the 2019 edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project for Delaware, which I finally got to wrap up this weekend. I’ll formally announce it tomorrow morning although the soft opening will be this evening once I create the PDF and add the link. (And no, I did not do a Maryland one this year, nor will I. That can be someone else’s baby, maybe some red-colored site.)
I think it’s a start to rally the liberty-lovers in this state, who I’ve found to be really, really, really poorly served by the Delaware GOP. I have more thoughts in mind on a number of First State issues, but this will be the first in what should be a few significant changes regarding this website. Stay tuned.
It’s the first time since I began doing this series in 2006 that my season wrapup will talk about playoffs. (Cue the old Jim Mora clip: “Playoffs?!?”) It took until the final game of the campaign to do it, but this year’s Delmarva nine was the first in the team’s 24 seasons to win 90 games, finishing with a 90-48 regular season record. Ninety regular-season wins was a feat last accomplished in the SAL (ironically) in 2006.
Alas, regular season wins don’t carry over to the playoffs, as that win against Kannapolis in the regular season finale was the last W for the Shorebirds. For want of three runs – two to overcome a one-run loss in the opener and one to avoid what would become an extra-inning loss in the final playoff game – the Shorebirds watched second-place Hickory celebrate the division crown on our field. I call that “unfinished business.” (That was the peak of the Crawdads’ season as Southern Division champ Lexington – who won the first half as the Shorebirds did but staggered home in the second half to finish just 68-70 and third in its division overall – managed to upset both the top seed Augusta and Hickory to win a second straight league pennant.)
Yet if you go by the old adage “ya dance with the one that brung ya” there’s certainly a lot of head-scratching about the player moves made just before the playoffs began: swapping out a hot bat in Alexis Torres for the .169 hitter Andrew Fregia (who went 0-for-4 in the playoffs) and bringing up three pitchers from Aberdeen who collectively gave up the one heartbreaking run in 3 2/3 innings of relief. But the real snakebite was outhitting the Crawdads 10-4 in the opener only to lose 4-3, then getting shut out on two hits in game two. (Our team batting average in the series was a measly .185 – but Hickory’s was worse at .161, so the pitching was fine.)
And pitching was the calling card of this year’s Shorebird team – so much so that it made an average offensive attack enough to be a juggernaut.
In a down year for hitting leaguewide, our .243 average was good enough for 5th out of 14. For much of the season, though, we were in the .250 range.
Our 610 runs were also fifth in the loop, as were 1,106 hits.
Power numbers were mediocre: 216 doubles was 10th, 32 triples tied for 5th, and 74 home runs was good for just 12th.
We had 540 RBI, which placed us right in the middle at 7th overall.
1,608 total bases was enough for the ninth spot.
We drew 469 walks, which was sixth – but we struck out 1,260 times for seventh-lowest.
The Shorebirds picked their base-stealing spots well – while they were only 9th with 106 swipes, their 35 times caught was tied for third-fewest. (The teams caught fewer times topped out at 79 steals.)
They were sixth in on-base percentage at .324 but ninth in slugging with a .354 mark, leaving them seventh in OPS with .678 overall.
And about that record-setting pitching:
By nearly a quarter-run (3.oo vs. 3.23) the Shorebirds won their first-ever team ERA title. It was their second-best pitching staff ever: the 1996 Shorebirds had a collective 2.85 ERA but that was second in the league to the former Capital City Bombers.
While we had a great staff, we were one of only four teams in the league without a complete game. But we collected 20 shutouts to cream the field – next best was 13.
Naturally we led the league with 53 saves.
Pitching 1210 1/3 innings was only eighth.
We were the only team in the league to allow fewer than 1,000 hits – in fact, we didn’t even make it to 900 (898.) Our 475 runs allowed (404 earned) was also first.
By four home runs, our 67 home runs allowed also paced the league.
A rare category we didn’t win: hitting 70 batters was only fourth-fewest.
Not only did we set a league record with 1,389 strikeouts, we walked the most with 526. Strange.
Because our walk rate was so high, we barely edged out Hickory for the best WHIP with a 1.18 rate (vs. 1.19.)
Our .979 fielding percentage was second-best to Hickory’s .980, but our 102 errors (the Crawdads committed 101) came in three more games than they played.
You may recall that last year the Orioles had no minor league playoff qualifiers – well, that changed this season. While Norfolk had a pretty dismal season (61-78), Bowie came within two games of winning the Eastern League after a 7-23 start by winning the second half and eliminating Harrisburg to win their division before succumbing to Trenton in the finals.
Frederick took our players from last season and had a dismal 53-84 campaign – so while they’re licking their chops at the prospects we’ll send their way in 2020, we’ll get the cream of an Aberdeen squad that just missed the NYP playoffs with a 42-33 record and perhaps even a few from a worst to first GCL team that blew the league away with a 38-15 mark but had its playoffs blown away in turn by the prospects of Hurricane Dorian.
Farther down the line, the Orioles’ two Dominican league teams combined to go 62-70 but that is considered a work in progress. However, we did get a handful of DSL alumni this season – mainly older players who filled out our pitching staff from time to time.
So how did my position players and pitchers of the month do?
April player – Robert Neustrom
I think I put the jinx on Robert when I picked him: the promising start yielded to an injury-filled season where he spent two stints on the injured list. After slashing a steady .285/5/36/.817 OPS in 47 games here overall, he struggled after a late July promotion to the Keys, hitting just .238/2/10/.629 OPS there in only 31 games. (On rehab, he was a terrible 1-for-16 with Aberdeen over four games.)
However, in the field Robert was a steady presence – his next professional error will be his first. Yes, in 122 professional games Neustrom still carries a perfect fielding percentage. It can be argued that he may not get to everything because his range factor is rather low by comparison to other SAL outfielders, but that may be a function of a high-strikeout pitching staff, too.
Seeing that Robert was a fairly high draft pick (5th round) and is only entering his age-23 season next year, I suspect he will be ticketed to remain at Frederick unless the outfield there is crowded by other holdovers. As will be discussed further, the Orioles seem to have something of a logjam of outfield prospects at their upper levels; a much stronger position than their infield hopefuls.
April pitcher – Grayson Rodriguez
Grayson was to this year’s Shorebird staff what DL Hall was to the 2018 version: a hot prospect out of high school who made a lot of older batters look silly. Carefully watched this season and kept on a relatively short leash – his longest start out of the 20 he made was 7 full innings and exactly 100 pitches, but his average was less than 5 innings and about 77 pitches a start – Grayson was both a league All-Star and the SAL’s lone representative in the Futures Game, where he pitched a scoreless inning. (Oddly enough, Hall was also there and did the same.)
For the 2019 campaign, Rodriguez led the Shorebirds with 10 wins, piled up an impressive 129 strikeouts in 94 innings pitched, and was the one long-term starter with a sub-1 WHIP at 0.98. (He allowed only 57 hits and 36 walks, finishing 10-4 with a 2.68 ERA.) Impressively, in three of his five August starts he allowed no hits, covering 14 innings. Unfortunately, that string didn’t carry into the playoffs as he was the losing Game 1 pitcher by allowing 4 runs in 6 innings. (Grayson also struggled a bit against Hickory in his one regular season start against them, attaining his second-worst game score among his starts of five or more innings.)
With all the similarities to Hall, I would suspect Rodriguez will follow him up the ladder and pitch at Frederick this season. Imagine the joy Orioles fans must feel in watching this young 1-2 lefty-righty punch work its way up the organization. Thus, I’m declaring Grayson Rodriguez my Prospect of the Year.
May player – Nick Horvath
While Nick had a month that was good enough to win the Shorebird of the Month honors, unfortunately he was sort of a one-hit wonder for the season. If you take the remaining months of the season Nick hit a collective .179 during those times; as it was Nick landed right on the Mendoza line with a .200/7/40/.625 OPS slash line for 2019 and that’s not going to get the job done.
Given the fact he was a fairly low draft pick and really parlayed one decent college season into the flyer the Orioles took on him as a pitcher/outfielder, it’s honestly hard to see Nick hanging on for his age-24 season unless he latches on here as a backup outfielder or tries the Mychal Givens approach and reinvents himself as a pitcher at the pro level. With the organizational outfield depth the Orioles have, I tend to doubt this will occur – but stranger things have happened and perhaps Nick gets another shot.
May pitcher – Drew Rom
How it was that the two youngest pitchers on the staff took home the first two awards – well, I don’t know. But Drew put together a solid season; however, he seemed to run out of gas toward the end (except for his final start, which must have seemed to him to be the light at the end of the tunnel as he threw five no-hit innings at the hapless Lakewood BlueClaws.) After July 1, he had a rather pedestrian 5.09 ERA, which belied his overall numbers (6-3 with a 2.93 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.)
Like many of his cohorts, though, Drew could be a strikeout machine as he fanned 122 in just 95 1/3 innings, while walking a very acceptable 33. In checking his splits, though, based on this season Drew may be destined to be a bullpen piece – he was markedly better as a reliever (even in the cases where he was piggyback behind another pitcher, oftentimes Gray Fenter) than he was starting a game, even though he generally came in for “clean” innings.
And because he struggled at season’s end, not to mention he’ll only be in his age-20 season this coming year, I wouldn’t be too shocked to find him as our Opening Day starter, or the Opening Day closer. Drew actually jumped two levels this season, moving up from the Gulf Coast League to pitch here, so despite his lofty draft status as a fourth round pick I can see him repeating this level to start. (They may also hold him back in extended spring; however, if they do that I’m inclined to believe he will be picked up by Frederick.)
Drew turned out to be the next tier of pitcher below Rodriguez and a future SotM I’ll get to in due course. We could do well with a staff at that level next season.
June player – Cadyn Grenier
Somewhat emblematic of the difference in seasons and outlook the Orioles had was the fate of this highly-touted college shortstop. Struggling in the field and barely hitting .200 in his pro debut season last year, Cadyn was looking like a high-profile bust for a few weeks this season, too. But he finally began to put things together in June, getting his slash up to .253/7/39/.759 OPS before a promotion to Frederick in mid-July. There he ran into many of the same issues he had with Delmarva last season, hitting only .208 in 24 games before finding himself on the IL in late August.
Branching out to play second base as a tag team with Adam Hall, Grenier seemed to improve from the variation, not losing his fielding numbers when he moved up to the next level as well as improving on his 2018 stats.
Coming into his age-23 season, Cadyn will be pressed to improve at the same pace he did between seasons with Delmarva at Frederick. While he was a high draft selection (and we looked forward to his debut last year with the Shorebirds), on the organizational depth chart Cadyn has certainly fallen behind Mason McCoy – who Grenier supplanted as Shorebirds’ shortstop in 2018, but who’s moved up to Bowie thanks to a fantastic 2019 season – and may have Hall nipping at his heels after Adam’s nice season at the plate here. Fortunately for Cadyn, there aren’t any other hotshot shortstop prospects blocking his way forward so he should be able to improve at the same pace.
June pitcher – Gray Fenter
The second bite of the apple was enough for Fenter to thrive. Here for awhile to begin 2018 before being returned to Aberdeen for more seasoning, Gray took the bull by the horns early on and parlayed his initial piggyback role into a starting slot of his own.
Spending the entire season with the Shorebirds allowed Gray to put up 22 appearances (17 starts), amassing an 8-2 record and a team-leading 1.81 ERA. More importantly, based on a career number of about a strikeout an inning, Gray’s 123 strikeouts in 94 1/3 innings blew that number away. 43 walks is a little bit concerning, but he managed to get by at this level with that stuff and seems to be good at fine tuning and adjusting.
However, there are a couple caveats in this story. This was Gray’s age-23 season so he’s a little older than league average – he missed all of the 2016 season due to injury. (It also leaves the intriguing prospect he could be picked in the Rule 5 Draft if he’s not protected.) Assuming he’s not plucked away by a pitching-desperate team, my guess would be that Gray will be trying to solve the Carolina League next season as something of a late bloomer.
July player – Jaylen Ferguson
Similar to Fenter, Ferguson was a player who saw time here in 2018 but struggled until his demotion to Aberdeen. But someone in the Orioles minor league coaching ranks saw something that made Jaylen worth keeping despite dreadful numbers all around in 2018. He would up coming back here to replace an injured player until becoming injured himself days after being picked as SotM and missing much of the rest of the regular season.
If you take Jaylen’s combined Aberdeen and Delmarva numbers (just 43 games total) he ended up slashing .287/6/32/.861 OPS – however, most of the OPS comes from the 6 homers he hit in 19 Aberdeen games. (He had none here with Delmarva.) But getting the late start from playing short-season ball and losing a month to injury makes it difficult to know whether these numbers were legit or if a regression to a .222 lifetime mean is coming – prior to 2019, Ferguson’s .234 mark with the GCL Orioles in his first pro season (2015) was his best season. Given he’s still considered an age-22 player thanks to a midseason birthday, I can see Jaylen starting back here and trying to stay healthy. For him, just playing a game that counts in April will be a first.
We should know 50 games in whether we have the Jaylen who slashed .296/0/18/.782 or .171/2/5/.512. If it’s the former we have a formidable top-of-the-order hitter who should get 400-500 plate appearances. If it’s the latter, we’ll know he had a monthlong flash in the pan.
July pitcher – Ryan Wilson
Making his second tour of duty with the Shorebirds after a stint in extended spring, Ryan was promoted from bullpen duty to make 17 starts for the Shorebirds this season, going 6-5 with a 2.80 ERA. Unlike some of his cohorts, though, he didn’t have numbers which went off the charts – in 93 1/3 innings Ryan allowed 73 hits, walked 29, and struck out 105.
Still, it turned out to be Ryan’s best season in what was his age-22 season, so on that basis I can see him being promoted to Frederick as either a back end of the rotation starter or a long relief guy. Wilson has the same sort of profile as a John Means as he was overshadowed by a host of pitchers who were deemed better prospects but got the last laugh. He’s the sort of pitcher who just goes about his business and you suddenly realize it’s the sixth inning and he’s only given up a run or two.
Otherwise, Ryan profiles as an organizational pitcher who may get to the double-A level because he repeated this level – however, he skipped the short-season A level so it can be argued his improvement season-over-season was appropriate.
August player – Johnny Rizer
One of a handful of 2019 draft picks to reach the Shorebirds this season, Rizer made the largest non-marketing impact: in 36 games here, he slashed .310/1/22/.761 OPS. Add in the 27 Aberdeen contests in which he participated and the numbers are pretty good for some guys in a full season: a .308/4/41/.821 OPS in just 260 plate appearances. He also played an errorless outfield.
While his outfield counterpart Robert Neustrom still has to earn his way into the prospect conversation, Johnny did nothing to dissuade his inclusion, albeit with a somewhat small sample size. I don’t think it’s out of the question that he jumps to Frederick to start next season, and if he puts another .300-plus season on the board he may be in the mix for a look from the Orioles two seasons hence. That’s putting the cart way out in front of the horse, but as I said Rizer did nothing to put that talk aside.
August pitcher – Gray Fenter
My only repeat winner this season, it’s also worth noting that Gray was the guy who was turned to when the season was on the line, and he produced in a big way with a memorable 6 1/3 inning shutout performance against Hickory with 13 strikeouts. Alas, the Shorebirds could not score either.
It’s one thing Gray will be remembered for here for a long, long time.
Here is a list of my Shorebirds of the Year, going back to the award’s inception in 2006. I’m also adding the Prospect of the Year, in parentheses. Some of these guys are now (or will be come December) in the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame, in bold.
2006 – Ryan Finan (Brandon Erbe)
2007 – Danny Figueroa (Brad Bergesen)
2008 – Sean Gleason (Zack Britton)
2009 – Ron Welty (L.J. Hoes)
2010 – Brian Conley (Tyler Townsend)
2011 – David Walters (Jonathan Schoop)
2012 – Brenden Webb (Dylan Bundy)
2013 – Lucas Herbst (Adrian Marin)
2014 – Chance Sisco (Mike Yastrzemski – Class of 2019)
2015 – John Means (Jomar Reyes)
2016 – Yermin Mercedes (Ryan Mountcastle)
2017 – Alex Wells (no prospect award)
2018 – Brenan Hanifee (DL Hall)
2019 – keep reading (Grayson Rodriguez)
This year there weren’t many slam dunk choices, as it was a team carried by the pitching and many of those pitchers departed before they were on the team for the requisite 2/3 of the season.
Among the pitchers, it was really a two-man race between the Grays – Grayson Rodriguez and Gray Fenter. Both have compelling arguments: the elite prospect status and team-leading wins and strikeout totals for Rodriguez vs. the ERA lead and more humble beginnings for Fenter, who was here for the second time.
On the batting side, however, there was a player who was always in the hunt for monthly honors and arguably should have won in May. It was never more than a player or two who had beaten him, but over the long season there were some impressive numbers: a .298/5/45/.780 OPS total in a team-leading 122 games, along with a easy lead in steals with 33.
Last year I went off the board for a guy who was a constant force all seaon, and this year I’m doing the same for the 2017 second round Oriole pick from Bermuda via Hamilton, Ontario. The Shorebird of the Year for 2019 is infielder Adam Hall.
I promise you now that we are all moved into one home and out of the old one: next week is the return of picks and pans (with a twist), and that will close out the books on the 2019 campaign until I induct my three-member Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2019 in early December.
First off, a bit of housekeeping: since the Shorebirds failed to advance beyond the first round of the SAL playoffs, this also covers the four games they played in September: the two against Kannapolis to wrap up the regular season and the two games they lost against Hickory to get bounced out of the playoffs. (In turn, Hickory lost the SAL championship series to Lexington in four games.)
Thus, for the second month in a row it’s a newcomer grabbing the position player honors. Promoted after a hot beginning to his pro career with the Aberdeen Ironbirds, Johnny Rizer rose to the top of the heap by having an August-plus that outpaced everyone else on the team by a half-mile. Tossing in that handful of July games, Johnny wrapped up the regular season with a Delmarva slash line of .305/3/19/.761 OPS in 36 games. (In the two playoff games, Johnny had a pair of hits – both in the opener – and scored the Shorebirds’ first playoff run in 14 years as they took a brief 2-0 lead in Game 1.)
The Texas native was a TCU Horned Frog when he was selected in the 7th round of this year’s draft, becoming one of the first in this year’s draft class to make his Shorebird debut in late July. (Rizer, though, began his college playing career at Louisiana-Lafayette before moving on to TCU.)
Having been successful in his brief audition with the Shorebirds, the question could be whether Rizer will leap ahead of some of his peers by skipping up to Frederick to begin next season or come back here for a more extended period as the starting right fielder. Considering Johnny hit over .300 at both levels, he may get the chance to move up depending on how some of the other dominoes fall. (The Orioles seem to have a lot of outfield prospects throughout their minor league system.) One argument for keeping him here, though, is a relatively steep drop in OPS from Aberdeen (.911) to here (.761). Putting together a similar average with an OPS number of .800 or above will likely punch Johnny a ticket after the All-Star break, in what would be his age-23 season next year.
On the other hand, I don’t have to reintroduce my pitcher of the month since he becomes my only two-time winner of 2019. After putting together a June good enough to win the honors, Gray Fenter may have outdone himself with his final appearance of 2019 to wrap up a blistering last month of the season where he had an 0.71 ERA and 0.63 WHIP for the month, 25 1/3 innings’ worth. Among his 37 strikeouts were 13 in a memorable 6 1/3 innings of shutout ball he threw at Hickory in Game 2 of the SAL North playoffs – alas, the Shorebirds could not score to support Fenter.
I believe he will be at the next level in 2020, and he’s certainly a contender for Shorebird of the Year. My annual season review comes next week. (Thanks to a longer-than-expected cleanout of the old house, make that October 3.)
An occasional bit of shtick I have employed this summer is the ranking of Democratic presidential candidates. It was a fun mental exercise when they got ready for the first round of debates, but there’s a method to the madness as well.
Since I last ranked these folks a couple months back, two candidates entered the race but five have dropped out, leaving the field at 21 by my count. Only ten qualified for tonight’s debate; however, I don’t think that necessarily covers the top ten in the race for a couple reasons. My tiers are a little bit different, and they’re not completely polling-based.
First, the ones who are out:
Kirsten Gillibrand (was ranked #9)
John Hickenlooper (was ranked #10)
Eric Swalwell (was ranked #15)
Jay Inslee (was ranked #16)
Seth Moulton (was ranked #20)
I kind of figured there were four uneven tiers to the race, and perhaps the best way to do this is by tier, ranked in order within each. So my fourth tier, the “why are they still bothering?” tier, looks like this.
Tim Ryan (was 19, now 18)
Joe Sestak (was unranked, now 19)
Mike Gravel (was 23, now 20)
Wayne Messam (was 24, now 21)
Needless to say, none of them sniffed the upcoming debate. Sestak was about the last to start, and he is a little different sort of Democrat, but there are a couple others in that lane who are struggling, too.
Now the third tier, which has to really hustle to still be around for the Iowa caucuses or New Hampshire primary.
Beto O’Rourke (was 5, now 12) – in debate
Steve Bullock (was 11, now 13)
Michael Bennet (was 12, now 14)
John Delaney (was 17, now 15)
Bill deBlasio (was 14, now 16)
Marianne Williamson (was 22, now 17)
Obviously, the biggest surprise out of this group is Beto, who is actually on the debate stage but has really made a mess of his campaign; so much so that I don’t think the debate will help him. The others are now out of the “top ten” debate, although a couple in my next tier arguably should be included based on factors besides polling and donations.
The second tier has all debate participants except for two, but if you had a top ten only eight of those make my cut.
Pete Buttigieg (was 3, now 5)
Cory Booker (was 8, now 6)
Amy Klobuchar (remains at 7)
Tom Steyer (unranked, now 8) – not in debate
Tulsi Gabbard (was 21, now 9) – not in debate
Andrew Yang (was 13, now 10)
Julian Castro (was 18, now 11) – in debate
Castro has an inside track as the only Latino in the race, but I don’t see him really creating the buzz that Tulsi Gabbard has. Nor can I discount the vast wealth Tom Steyer possesses, which is why he ranks high. (Look, it worked for the President we have now…)
And then we have our first-tier top 4.
Joe Biden (remains at 1)
Elizabeth Warren (was 6, now 2)
Bernie Sanders (was 2, now 3)
Kamala Harris (remains at 4)
I almost put Harris into the second tier, as she has struggled to keep a coherent message. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren has vaulted into the top tier as others fade.
Quickly, let’s go through some head-to-heads:
#1 Joe Biden annihilates #16 Bill deBlasio
#2 Elizabeth Warren defeats #15 John Delaney, but this wouldn’t be a huge blowout
#3 Bernie Sanders has enough to get past #14 Michael Bennet
#4 Kamala Harris easily beats #13 Steve Bullock in an interesting paring
In a battle of fading stars, #5 Pete Buttigieg eliminates #12 Beto O’Rourke
#6 Cory Booker barely handles #11 Julian Castro
I think #10 Andrew Yang pulls the upset over #7 Amy Klobuhar, who hasn’t set the world on fire with her campaign
#9 Tulsi Gabbard uses her buzz to slip past #8 Tom Steyer
In a grueling one, #1 Joe Biden outlasts #9 Tulsi Gabbard
No second upset: #2 Elizabeth Warren over #10 Andrew Yang
#3 Bernie Sanders finds someone he can beat in #6 Cory Booker
#4 Kamala Harris wins the battle of constituent groups over #5 Pete Buttigieg
I still think #1 Joe Biden is vulnerable, thus #4 Kamala Harris takes him out
#2 Elizabeth Warren is much less unlikable than #3 Bernie Sanders, so she advances to an all-female final
I’m still going with the minority hope for the second coming of Barack Obama: Harris squeaks by Warren. But Elizabeth is closing fast on that one.
One last bit of fun and frivolity: this is the number of Facebook “likes” each of these candidates have, in reverse order.
Wayne Messam – 5,256
Mike Gravel – 19,870
Joe Sestak – 17,409
Tim Ryan – 45,216
Marianne Williamson – 814,698
Bill deBlasio – 66,066
John Delaney – 358,540
Michael Bennet – 103,926
Steve Bullock – 32,210
Beto O’Rourke – 916,363
Julian Castro – 141,063
Andrew Yang – 176,552
Tulsi Gabbard – 376,996
Tom Steyer – 487,159
Amy Klobuchar – 258,525
Cory Booker – 1,192,736
Pete Buttigieg – 440,781
Kamala Harris – 1,148,668
Bernie Sanders – 5,103,842
Elizabeth Warren – 3,280,688
Joe Biden – 1,487,599
Surprising to me Joe doesn’t have the most – he’s barely third.
While this may seem to be a dire title for a blog post, it comes with a simple explanation: since the age of legal adulthood in America is 18 and eighteen years have passed since the 9/11 attacks, there is no child alive who was around on that day. Henceforth, the only way a child will experience the event is through their parents or via history books.
This passage of time, however, is but a blip in the timeline of how long we have been at odds with radical Islam. (I hesitate to say “war” because this conflict has rarely played out in a military manner.) From the early 19th century battles with the Barbary states (then-kingdoms of Algiers, Morocco, Tripoli, and Tunis – now the nation-states west of Egypt along the north African coast) we’ve often conflicted with Islamic states over the post-World War 2 period. (We even conflicted with them during the war, as several Islamic leaders backed the Axis powers.) Some examples:
our soft coup in Iran in 1953 – with Great Britain’s help we overthrew a prime minister who had nationalized the oil companies
our subsequent backing of the Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi – an alliance which lasted until the cancer-ridden ruler was exiled in 1979 (he died a year later)
the taking of hostages at our embassy in Teheran, which lasted over a year until their release as Ronald Reagan took office
the suicide bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut, where 241 Marines perished in October, 1983 – just six months after a similar attack at the American Embassy in Lebanon killed over sixty
Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-91, to rebuff Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi invasion of neighboring Kuwait
and, finally, the various military operations since 9/11 in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, et. al. as part of the War on Terror
I’ve often referred to this battle as the Long War because it was expected to last for decades. Aside for the Iranian coup all of these events have occurred during my lifetime; however, with the exception of a few months in 1990-91 during the runup to Desert Storm (which, as a military operation, lasted just a few weeks – and only a few days as a ground war) we were never on a war footing until 9/11 occurred. Since then we’ve been on a perpetual state of war, as undeclared as it might be. 9/11 is the annual reminder that we have enemies in the world.
Yet we have reached the point now where an entire generation has come of age under that war footing, with no real resolution or end in sight. There are many who compellingly argue we should pull out of Afghanistan like we’ve withdrawn from Iraq and Syria; others plead their case for staying the course. That’s not as much of an issue for me as the loss of civil liberties we’ve endured over the last 18 years under the guise of fighting this war on terror.
I may be accused of having a 9/10 mentality, but perhaps the best way of dealing with radical Islam comes in a covert fashion rather than an overt fashion. Don’t make the rest of us suffer because at that point the terrorists win.
Finally, a programming note: Because of my impending move and despite our loss in the playoffs, I’m pushing back my August/September Shorebird of the Month to September 19. Shorebird of the Year will be September 26 and picks and pans comes October 3.
I don’t know how many of you have ever noticed my tagline that’s been up pretty much since this website came online back in 2005, but it’s the part that said some variant of “news and views from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.” Well, today’s post is one of the last from the Eastern Shore as my wife and I have finally bought a home in the First State. (So I’ve changed it.)
With the change comes a change in emphasis. I’ve always had kind of a state-based focus, but after a little bit of study and being in office it became apparent that the Eastern Shore is indeed the shithouse of Maryland politics. For the most part, our needs are ignored by the state of Maryland simply because there’s not enough voters on the Shore to make a big difference. We on the Shore lay some claim to 12 out of 141 members of the Maryland General Assembly and 4 of 47 Senators in the Maryland Senate, which means that our desires are pretty much subordinated by any one of a half-dozen or so individual counties on the other side of the Bay.
And even when we have a governor who belongs to the same political party as the plurality of the Eastern Shore – where five of the nine counties lean Republican and the other four have registration numbers within striking distance – the desires of this region rarely pass muster. At best, they are watered down; at worst, things we oppose become law without Larry Hogan’s signature or a veto – even when a veto assures current law remains in force for another eight to nine months before the next year’s session and the inevitable override. It’s shameful that longheld local GOP priorities often get short shrift in Annapolis, and it’s doubtful that any change back to the Democrats will help. (For example, don’t be fooled by the moderate facade Peter Franchot’s assuming for his nascent gubernatorial run; he told me all I needed to know with his statement about Alabama.)
On the other hand, while Sussex County is but about 1/4 of Delaware’s population, it’s the fastest-growing county of the three in Delaware. And if I really had the desire to get down in the weeds of local and state politics moreso than my monoblogue Accountability Project and the occasional foray into interesting issues such as the right-to-work battle that ended early last year, I have an election coming up where all 41 members of the Delaware General Assembly, half their 21-member Senate, and Governor John Carney are all on the ballot for election.
It’s also worth remembering why I began the Delaware edition of my Accountability Project – since I was working for a decent-sized homebuilder at the time and I noticed that well over half its clientele was coming from other nearby states (including Maryland) I realized that keeping Delaware attractive was good for business and affected my paycheck. Of course, now the situation is reversed somewhat since I work here in Maryland, but that business sinks or swims more on other factors where ineffective government doesn’t affect it quite as much. And, frankly, I need a new horizon anyway. (Even more frankly, from what I’ve seen about the Delaware Republican Party it makes Maryland’s look professional – and that’s a very low bar to set. I think I’ll register with the Constitution Party.)
So I’m departing the Maryland political scene for the most part, a move begun by my resignation from the Central Committee three years ago and hastened by our house search. It’s time for someone else to take the reins, or those reins can lay on the ground and be trampled into the mud. I guess that depends on just who cares.
In a move akin to tilting at a windmill, former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh announced his intention to run for President on the Republican ticket. And he spared no harsh words for the titular head of his party:
I’m betting you’re tired of having an unfit con man for a president. A president who sides with foreign dictators over our intelligence community. A president who spews hate virtually every time he opens his mouth. A president who is teaching millions of American children it’s okay to lie and it’s okay to bully.
See, Donald Trump doesn’t represent us – he represents the worst of us. He hasn’t delivered on his promises, he thinks he’s above the law, and he’s tweeting us into a recession, as we speak.
You know it, I know it, we all know it: We can’t afford four more years of Donald Trump. No way.
Joe Walsh for President website
To be honest, I’m not really seeing the con here when it comes to Trump: to me it’s been baked into the equation since 2016. I think Republican voters had a pretty good idea about what they were getting. As for me, I knew better than to expect the second coming of Ronald Reagan, and in many respects I’ve been correct: I’ve neither been shocked nor surprised when he does things like keep the ethanol mandates in place, resist the idea of reforming Social Security, or speak about increasing gun restrictions. On the other hand, Trump has cut regulations at a faster pace than I ever imagined and exhibits a solid America-first foreign policy.
So when former Rep. Walsh maintains he’s in the race as an honest alternative to Donald Trump, the naysayers contend he’s the last but maybe not best hope for the #NeverTrump movement to throw a wrench into his plans. But Walsh is a somewhat flawed candidate himself, having to put up his own mea culpa regarding statements he’s made over the years.
Furthermore, Walsh’s campaign is simply based on opposition to Trump the person, but the wild card is whether he opposes Trump on policy and, if he does, where. Presumably Joe would be supportive of the issues he ran and won upon as a TEA Party-backed darling back in 2010, but some of those issues have been addressed over the last decade and others are unlike what the TEA Party dealt with. We don’t know from his website and not many folks have taken the time to listen to his radio show, which airs on a handful of stations in the late evening.
So Republicans now have a third choice, as Walsh joins President Trump and former Massachusetts governor (and 2016 Libertarian VP candidate) William Weld, who covers the liberal Republican end of the spectrum. But the Trump nomination will likely unfold in the minimum number of states required to clinch, with neither Walsh nor Weld being able to secure a convention delegate or a nomination at the 2020 GOP convention.
I had one last show to do before I went on a hiatus for a few weeks thanks to some family time and other obligations. So on Friday I stepped into the ring of a show called “Ringside Politics” with host Jeff Crouere on WGSO-AM in New Orleans. (They podcast the whole show, I come in about the 3:02 mark.)
It’s actually a gig I’d been seeking for awhile, but there were a few roadblocks placed in the way: I let them get through a hurricane, sent him a copy of the book to review, and finally got him to agree to a spot on the last day I was going to do shows before I took the time away. It’s interesting because I think years ago I was on Jeff’s mailing list but somehow we lost touch.
Anyway, the one issue I had initially was originally I was slated to be on at 9:00 a.m. his time. A few days beforehand, Jeff contacted me and asked if we could push it back a half hour, which was no problem with me.
But when it came to the appointed time, my phone was silent. So I went online and checked the station only to find he was talking to another caller. After going “hmmmmm…” I texted him to ask if I was bumped; a half-hour later I got a call from the station asking if I was ready to come on.
Thus, I was a little unprepared because I was also working on a project for work that had grabbed my attention again, but once I got back in the flow I thought I did okay. The biggest issue I had was where I rolled into a break before I was informed we were coming up on it; otherwise, I would have wrapped things up better. But it was a nice overview of the TEA Party and the frustrations that we had to endure.
I probably should have held my tongue on Bobby Jindal, though. It was really intended as a passing remark, but Jeff took it and ran with it. Live and learn.
So now I’m on a radio hiatus for a little while, for reasons I will further explain in a few weeks. There are two to three outlets which are still interested in speaking to me once the fall comes so we’ll see how pursuing them goes.
As the season is beginning to wind down, it’s getting time to start considering who will be Shorebird of the Year for 2019. Ironically, the two players selected this month may not be eligible for that honor because to be a Shorebird of the Year a player has to be here for 2/3 of the games.
Position player Jaylen Ferguson fails that test, as he was brought up from Aberdeen on the 1st of July to replace fellow outfielder Doran Turchin. Ferguson got the promotion despite a paltry .222 average for the IronBirds, but having 3 home runs out of his eight hits didn’t hurt – and gave him a stellar .877 OPS to boot.
In a full month at Delmarva, the 2015 9th rounder out of Texas’s Arlington High School provided an upgrade to Turchin’s middling statistics for the season, putting up a .296 average in 24 games, knocking in 18 runs, and providing an OPS of .782 to pace the team. Ironically, Ferguson went on the injured list at month’s end and was replaced by Turchin, who was activated a few days afterward.
Fans may remember Jaylen from a rather unsuccessful stint here in 2018, where Ferguson spent several weeks here before returning to Aberdeen thanks to a .171/2/5/.512 OPS slash line. Somehow Jaylen survived the season as his Aberdeen numbers were even worse in his third time around with the team – over four seasons there Jaylen has now played a total of 141 games and slashed an uninspiring .202/6/40/.530 OPS. This July was, quite honestly, the best stretch of games in Ferguson’s career so his injury (which came about after a “violent swing” at the plate) came at a most unfortunate time. Over the course of a decade-plus of doing this, I’ve seen players suddenly “get it” after seasons of struggle and maybe this month was Jaylen’s “got it” month. We’ll have to see if he comes back to continue the success – while Jaylen is repeating this level and has toiled at Aberdeen each of the last four seasons, he is still younger than league average.
Also in contention once again this month was shortstop Adam Hall, who’s been right there every month. It’s the sort of consistency that could be rewarded with Shorebird of the Year since Ferguson can’t win it.
With that in mind, if he stays the rest of the season and the schedule works out correctly, Ryan Wilson will barely have enough games in to qualify for SotY honors. As it stands, his solid July garners him the Shorebird of the Month for pitchers. (This after being the SAL pitcher of the week during the month, too.)
Despite a rough start at month’s end which had no assistance from the bullpen – turns out Ryan’s closest competitor, Ruben Garcia, allowed three inherited Wilson runs to score, inflating Wilson’s ERA – Ryan was just dominant enough in July to win. Unlike the first few months of the season, where some Shorebird hurler put up eye-popping numbers, Wilson’s strength this month came from a combination of stats which ranged from above average to well above average, but nothing really in the 98th percentile. He was only 2-2 for the month, but in a team-high 31 innings he allowed only 18 hits and a .165 average, striking out 40 while walking only eight. Toss out his inherited runners – which added nearly a run to his month’s ERA – and he’s in the low 2’s for that stat instead of a more pedestrian 2.90.
Coming out of Pepperdine University, Ryan was one of those “diamond in the rough” picks as he wasn’t selected until round 33 back in 2017. Yet he has managed to improve his numbers each season: a particularly mean feat when you consider he jumped from the GCL to Delmarva last year, pitching mostly out of the bullpen. So while he is repeating this level, he really skipped over the step of Aberdeen he could have taken last season. Still 22 years old, Ryan is in step with league average as far as age goes. He may be a candidate for a few starts at Frederick later this season, but I suspect the Orioles aren’t going to tinker a whole lot with the staff from here on out unless Frederick gives them a reason to, such as wholesale player releases or injuries.
As I believe I pointed out previously, if the Shorebirds reach the SAL championship series there will be both August and September Shorebirds of the Month; if not, the August numbers will be combined with the two regular season September games and the two or three playoff games. In either case, everything moves back at least a week: SotM for August comes September 13, and if there’s a September SotM that will be announced September 20. (Otherwise, that’s the date for Shorebird of the Year.) I’ll almost be pushing picks and pans back into October, but having playoffs is worth it after all these years!
First of all, it was a return of sorts to my hometown, on the very station which defined its local conservative radio, WSPD.
Secondly, I had some invaluable help in arranging this one since my friend Bob Densic was the intermediary between myself and their morning host, Fred LeFebvre. Bob put the wheel in motion and I grabbed on for dear life. It was definitely not the longest segment I’ve ever done, but it was the one which most reminded me of my old days doing spots live on the radio here, back when WICO-AM was at 1320 and a talk station. Perhaps it was a little detrimental because Fred and I talked over each other several times, but it was fun for me.
And a third reason was the comment from Bob afterward:
You hit on a point that was a major dividing line with our area Tea Party groups. After the second Obama election we regrouped to discuss what went wrong. We had so much success with the 2010 election. Many of our group wanted to redouble our election efforts…. Focusing on finding and promoting candidates. Myself (Back to Basics) and the leaders of a few other groups wanted to shift focus to educational and outreach programs…. Trying to win the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens.
Many Founders warned that our republic could only survive if the people were moral and well educated. I wonder if those from many, many years ago who took our education away from the churches truly had this long term plan in mind. Now we have a system with millions of “useful lemmings” eager to do the bidding of “the system” without truly knowing the overall goals.
We will not win this battle in the halls of Congress, in the State Houses or even our local city hall and school board. We win this battle over the backyard fence, at the water cooler and the dinner table.
God bless you brother!
E-mail from Bob Densic, 8/2/19.
As I went through doing the book, the parallel realization I had with how the TEA Party elected Donald Trump was about how corporate the larger groups trading on the TEA Party name became. Obviously the TEA Party Express was about political candidates from the start, while TEA Party Patriots tried to keep a neutral facade for a few years, but there were countless organizations who would pass their collection plates to the people who made up the TEA Party, including the “scam PACs” I devote a couple pages to in the book. (Look in the chapter “The TEA Party Is Dead.”)
If you check back to the early, early days of the modern conservative movement, you’ll notice that most of its movers and shakers were also thinkers: William F. Buckley was a good example of this. Certainly National Review was created as a means to change hearts and minds, as it was not a moneymaker according to Buckley. Yet the TEA Party tried a different approach: to change the political players by constant fundraising, which only served to disillusion the rank-and-file when nothing really changed (except the bank balances of those who were running the scams.)
Thus, having said what he did and knowing his background, I pressed Bob on another subject I brought up in my book: the belief that governing was really the hard part for the TEA Party. (This is very lightly edited for a few typos and misspellings.)
Let me separate that into two parts. First, the act of governing with conservative principles is not a challenge. It does take twisting the norm on its head a bit. Rather than focus on what “special request” or project someone may ask for, I try to look at a larger perspective of what challenges are rooted in our government that prevent the project or issue being quickly or efficiently solved. It’s a bit like being the 7-Up of politicians…. I am the “un-candidate”. What can I info to make this work.
The second part involves working within the bureaucracy. Government by design, or at least Legislative action is to be slow, deliberative and transparent. It is very frustrating on both extremes to have to go through committees and multiple readings on certain issues, yet to see readings waived and emergency clauses attached to others.
The larger frustration is dealing with entrenched concepts of how government is to work. We are a very blue-collar, multi-year all town. “This is how we do this” is the most repeated phrase in all our municipal buildings. There is a lack of acceptance of economics impact of decisions. Our area has the highest property tax rate in the county along with some of the highest income tax rates. Yet the answer for every department is new equipment, new manpower, new money. The deep state exists at the local level. Lifetime bureaucrats will do everything (or nothing through a pocket veto) to keep the status quo. In our town as with many others it is more about who you know rather than what you know.
One major plus of being an elected official, it has provided a larger soapbox to teach from. As I get the chance to talk about “the why” of my votes or actions, people get to hear a new perspective. Too often my past educational efforts through Back to Basics ended up as preaching to the choir. As a councilman I talk with people who would never take a Saturday morning or week night to learn about the Constitution. A bit like Paul, I can preach to my Roman captors.
Bob is actually a very good example of being accountable, as he regularly engages with his public on social media to explain the governmental process. But he points out yet another reason hearts and minds have to be changed in the proper manner before political fortunes improve: notice the emphasis on “it’s always been done this way” and political fiefdoms. (Fred brought up the same point: if you have certain last names in Toledo, you will most likely be a Democrat and almost become a shoo-in for elected office no matter the qualifications – or lack thereof. I’m sure they are on third-generation elected officials in the same family, just like here in Maryland: Ben Cardin got his first political seat when his uncle with the same name left it – now it belongs to Cardin’s nephew Jon Cardin. )
So this edition of radio days was more than just a radio show, but the process of keeping a kinship going. However, I do have another gig coming up on August 16 in the great state of Louisiana once again.