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 Millsboto 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.

Announcing: the 2019 monoblogue Accountability Project – Delaware Edition

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.

Beginning from my little corner

There are some who will likely appreciate the symbolism in this post.

I’m standing in Maryland but pretty much everything you see in the photo beyond the fence is Delaware.

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.

The plaque explains the significance of the monument.

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 wonder how they divvy up all this coin. By blind chance, 3/4 of it would fall in Maryland.

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.

Shorebird of the Year – a 2019 season wrapup

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 playerRobert 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 pitcherGrayson 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 playerNick 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 pitcherDrew 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 playerCadyn 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 pitcherGray 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 playerJaylen 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 playerJohnny 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 pitcherGray 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.

Shorebird of the Year 2019: Adam Hall.
The 2019 Shorebird of the Year is infielder Adam Hall, In 122 games Adam hit .298 with 5 home runs and 45 RBI – very good for a guy who often hit leadoff – and showed it with 33 stolen bases.

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.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: August 2019

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.)

A time to re-rank

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

Round 2:

  • 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

Semi-finals:

  • 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

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.

No children left

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.