Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: July 2019

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!

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: June 2019

So far it’s been a memorable season for Shorebird fans. Who would have thought that, by the end of June, they would have won more games (57) in their first 80 games then they won in an entire season from 2011 to 2013, and already punched their postseason ticket?

There have also been some great performances, with two players and two pitchers previously being rewarded as Shorebirds of the Month. This month we make it three straight with a new pair; in this case they are a pair of holdovers from last season (but first-time winners.)

For Cadyn Grenier, Delmarva is the only pro team he’s ever known. Plucked out of 2018 NCAA champion Oregon State’s lineup with the “Competitive Balance A” pick (37th overall), the former Oriole regime decided to pre-emptively advance Cadyn past Aberdeen and onward to Delmarva. His July 2018 debut was highly anticipated, but for a player known as a great-fielding shortstop in college, neither the fielding (10 errors and a .939 fielding percentage in 39 games) nor batting numbers (.216/1/13/.630 OPS in 43 games) were enough for Grenier not to repeat here for 2019.

Cadyn, who was initially drafted out of a Las Vegas high school by the Cardinals in 2015 before heading to OSU, now shares time at shortstop with fellow prospect Adam Hall, with the odd man out usually playing second base. And it looked for a time like that transition wasn’t going to work well for him, but Grenier has slowly picked up the pace: a .229 mark through April had edged up close to .260 by June’s end thanks to a .278/3/11/.832 OPS month that was good enough to win him Shorebird of the Month honors. Cadyn hit in 16 of 17 games at one point and that’s bound to increase the average.

The test will be in the next couple months, as the now-22 year old wore down a bit at the tail end of last season – however, given the fact Grenier now has a full season under his belt one would think he’s a bit more accustomed to the routine. Another question is whether the Orioles will keep him here to participate in playoff baseball – it’s a spot where the CWS experience may come in handy but the case could also be made that, since he’s already won a College World Series, Cadyn needs to compete against a higher level after a full season at A ball.

And speaking of Adam Hall, for the third month in a row he was right there in the mix for position player of the month in what really became a two-person race once Will Robertson was promoted. Had he not missed a few games with a family issue, Hall may have taken the award.

On the pitching side, this month’s honoree has overcome a mid-season demotion last year to step up his game at this level in 2019.

Gray Fenter was placed here to start last season but never really got untracked, allowing runs in his first seven appearances and 10 of 13 overall before being demoted to Aberdeen once their season began. The numbers weren’t stellar but certainly good enough to give him another bite of the apple this season, and Fenter began June by pitching his first 13 2/3 innings as shutout ball, finally yielding a single run on June 30. He wrapped June with a 2-0 record, 0.59 ERA, and 0.72 WHIP for the month.

Fenter’s been in the system awhile as he was the 7th round selection out of West Memphis High School in Arkansas back in 2015. He turned in a nice 2015 GCL season and would probably have been ticketed for Aberdeen to close the 2016 season, but missed the entire campaign due to TJ surgery. Basically Gray had to start all over in 2017, repeating the GCL except for one forgettable Aberdeen appearance. Perhaps the intention was to demote Fenter all along last season, but his mediocre performance here didn’t change anyone’s mind off that idea.

He has been very successful this season as part of a tag team with May pitcher of the month Drew Rom, but at some point those training wheels have to come off. Fenter has pitched seven innings once in his career, doing so last season in a start for Aberdeen; his longest appearance this season was six innings in a doubleheader start against Augusta. (Both were shutouts, by the way.) So he has the ability, just has to develop consistency.

This month was a tight contest between Fenter and starter Nick Vespi, who turned in his own outstanding month (and arguably deserves the honor based on slightly lesser numbers but several more innings pitched.) But the head-to-head favored Fenter so I went with him.

Since this is the post for Independence Day, I hope you have a happy one! And in case you’re wondering, the Shorebird of the Week has never taken a break for the July 4 holiday, although the leap year calendar has meant the concurrence has only come once: pitcher Matt Taylor was that fortunate honoree back in 2013. (Maybe that was his career peak: the lefty never made it past Frederick in two subsequent seasons.) I suspect we may do better with at least one of these two monthly honorees.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: May 2019

If there were ever a month I could have done co-players (and pitchers) of the month, this month would have been the case. The proprietary formula I use to figure it out came out razor-close in both instances. But after a little bit of overtime figuring, two players came out on top and they are being honored this month.

After struggling through a horrific April, you had to figure that Nick Horvath would begin slowly seeking his level in May. But being about 70 points below his overall average, you would further believe he would right the ship by the midseason break – instead, Horvath basically did it in one month. It turned out he was a hit shy of being 100 points above his April average in May, and while a .264/3/13/.841 OPS slash line isn’t the best ever, it was good enough to be among the top Shorebirds in a league where pitching has dominated thus far. (As of last night, Delmarva’s .251 team average was just off the overall lead, and only 4 of 14 teams have an aggregate OPS over .700, a mark which is considered about average. So pitchers are ruling the roost.)

To be sure, Nick did most of his damage in the first half of the month, starting it out 17-for-42 (a .405 clip). Toward the end he was struggling like several other on the Delmarva nine, which has been carried most of the way this season by its pitching. But add in a solid job in center field, and last season’s 25th round pick out of the University of Florida is working on improving his standing in the Orioles organization. Considering he was not a highly regarded prospect out of Palm Beach Gardens High School in the Sunshine State and only attended UF after a season at a local community college, Nick impresses me as an overcomer. As he’ll turn 23 next month, Horvath is a tick about league-average age but has played well enough to keep his job so far. (If it doesn’t work out, Nick can always attempt to resurrect his career as a pitcher: he made 45 relief appearances for the Gators over a three-season span.)

Nick barely edged out Cadyn Grenier for the honor, as Cadyn put together a good month at the plate as well. It could have went either way.

We’ll stay in SEC country for my pitcher of the month. But while Drew Rom is a Kentucky native – attending Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio – he had 650,000 reasons to be pried loose from a commitment to the Big Ten’s University of Michigan to play for the Orioles. Unlike Horvath, who was probably brought on to fill a roster in the hopes that he may blossom into a prospect, Rom was already highly sought after as a fourth-round pick.

Now Rom had a pretty decent April; well, decent in comparison to an average team and not the studs Delmarva has this season – as a staff they allowed just a .204 average in May – but he rose to the challenge in May. Rom didn’t allow an earned run in his four starts until the fourth inning of his fifth and final start for the month, at a point where the Shorebirds were safely up 8-0. That 0.35 ERA was complemented by a 0.78 WHIP, a 32-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25 2/3 innings, and three wins – he was one out short of getting a fourth W in a game Delmarva was leading 2-0 and could have gotten a fifth win had Delmarva scored before the tenth inning – Drew left a 0-0 pitcher’s duel in Kannapolis after five shutout frames.

Drew made a significant jump over the winter – he and fellow high-school draftee (and last month’s SOM pitcher) Grayson Rodriguez were two of the few bright spots on a dreadful GCL Oriole team. Like Rodriguez, Rom is having his innings watched fairly carefully and he has often piggybacked with fellow starter Gray Fenter to cover most of the nine innings needed.

Just like Horvath, Drew had spirited competition for the award, and in his case it was reliever Zach Matson who had really good numbers to show for his month as well. Both are being rewarded with a trip to the SAL All-Star Game in West Virginia later this month. Also picked besides Rom and Matson were pitchers Grayson Rodriguez and Ofelky Peralta, catcher Daniel Fajardo, shortstop Adam Hall, outfielder Doran Turchin, and designated hitter Seamus Curran. The Shorebirds have a league-leading eight representatives, their best number since at least 2009.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: April 2019

For the third year, the Shorebird Position Player and Pitcher of the Month returns to my website. Overall, this will the the fourteenth season during which I honor particular Shorebird players, having done so on a weekly basis for the first eleven. 41 of those so honored have made it to the major leagues, either with the parent Orioles or one of the other 29 teams. Only a handful of teams (nine, to be exact) remain territory a Hall of Famer hasn’t played at the big league level.

There won’t be photos to start because I haven’t seen the pitcher being honored quite yet. But, as usual, I’ll begin with the position player who shined the brightest among a constellation of stars you would normally find on a team which got off to a franchise-best 18-4 start.

A product of the University of Iowa and Hawkeye born-and-bred, outfielder Robert Neustrom parlayed three straight seasons of hitting over .300 and improving in the vital OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage, a good barometer of a batter’s ability) each year into a fifth-round selection by the Orioles last season (not to mention a $300k signing bonus to forgo his senior campaign.)

Assigned to Aberdeen last season, Robert slashed a solid .272/4/29/.716 OPS for the Ironbirds last season in 61 games. Neustrom wasn’t the top performer in any particular major category (although he led the team in doubles) but was generally in the top three to five of most line items. It was obvious he would be coming to Delmarva this season as the next step in his development.

And what a step it was. In just 19 games, Robert had a slash line of .329/3/14/.957 OPS, numbers that were either first or second for the Shorebirds in April. In just one month – and barely a third of the plate appearances he had for Aberdeen – Neustrom racked up nearly half the RBIs and fell one short of matching his total in home runs.

The only downer to Robert’s month was that of being placed on the 7-day injured list on the first of May due to an injury reported during Tuesday’s game, where he exited “grasping at his calf.” That may slow down the 22-year-old, who was regarded as the 29th-best prospect in the Orioles system to begin this year – although he’s the 18th-best among players the team actually signed or drafted – but hopefully will not become a lingering problem.

It was a close battle between Neustrom and infielder Adam Hall for the top position player spot in April, but I had an even more difficult choice among the pitching ranks as three topped the field.

Tipping the scale toward Grayson Rodriguez: a microscopic 0.54 ERA and a SAL Pitcher of the Week designation for the first week of the season, which was actually a week and a half and allowed him to make two starts – a pair of games against defending league champ Lexington and 2018 SAL North pacesetter Lakewood. In 11 innings between the two starts, Grayson allowed three harmless singles and struck out 20 batters. The only area of concern may have been the five walks.

Grayson ran his scoreless streak to 15-plus innings before allowing his first and only run of the month on a home run by Greensboro’s Rodolfo Castro. The slash line against Rodriguez in April: .123/1/1/.399 OPS.

While success has come early to Rodriguez, it wasn’t entirely unexpected: the 11th overall selection in the 2018 draft, the 19-year-old out of Central Heights High School in Nacogdoches, Texas had 4.3 million reasons to take a pass on college ball. Instead, Grayson went to the Gulf Coast League and got his initial education as a bright light on a miserable team that won just 13 games out of 55 played – a real school of hard knocks. However, with just 19 1/3 decent but unspectacular innings spaced out among nine appearances in 2018, this is really the first time the training wheels are off. (To an extent, that is: the Orioles brass had Rodriguez skip his last scheduled turn to keep his innings total down.)

So he did not pitch during the last long homestand – his only home appearance was the first Friday night game of the season. Thanks to inclement weather and schedule vagaries, Grayson’s turn won’t come up again until tomorrow night at Augusta – a layoff that went over two weeks.

Already regarded as the #5 prospect in the Baltimore system, Grayson had strong competition for the April honors: a case could have easily been made to instead select Blaine Knight, Delmarva’s opening day starter and owner of seriously good numbers himself. Also in the running was Ofelky Peralta, who began the season on a strikeout tear by recording 12 of his first 14 outs via the punchout and still leads the team with 31.

So how did I do with my Shorebird guesses?

Well, I promised you several posts. Still working on odds and ends but for this one I’m going to go over just how well I guessed my Shorebird players.

You may recall I selected 25 players in the midst of spring training – 13 pitchers and 12 position players. So I’ll go through them in order and tell you where they are now.

Starting pitchers:

  • Gray Fenter is here and has made 2 starts among his three appearances.
  • The same goes for Hector Guance.
  • Matt Hammonds has appeared in long relief several times. He was also promoted to Frederick for one game.
  • Blaine Knight has made three starts for the Shorebirds.
  • Grayson Rodriguez has also made three starts for Delmarva.
  • Drew Rom has only made one start but appears to be the piggyback pitcher based on the length of his appearances.

So all six of them made the team, and except for Hammonds have made at least one start. The two starters I did not predict were a holdover from 2018 and a demotion who was here back in 2016: respectively, Nick Vespi and Ofelky Peralta.

Relief pitchers:

  • Ryan Conroy is listed on Aberdeen’s roster and has not appeared for a full-season team.
  • Nick Gruener has made four relief appearances for Delmarva, although he was stashed on the Aberdeen roster for a few days, too.
  • Tyler Joyner wasn’t on the team Opening Day but is here now, as he was assigned on April 10.
  • Kevin Magee is listed on Aberdeen’s roster and has not appeared for a full-season team.
  • Zach Matson was recently reassigned from Aberdeen as of April 18. So he’s a latecomer, too.
  • Victor Romero is on Aberdeen’s roster, too. He may be slow-played because he spent most of 2018 on the injured list.
  • Ryan Wilson is on Delmarva’s injured list and has yet to make an appearance.

I only had one of the seven relief pitchers correct for Opening Day but two others have arrived late to give me a total of 7 of 13 correct for Opening Day and 9 of 13 correct for the season.

The other Shorebird pitchers I did not predict are Matt de la Rosa (who jumped from the GCL and has also pitched for Frederick this season), Jalen Miller (who came in as a signee from independent league baseball and has already been released), and 2018 holdovers Tim Naughton and Jhon Peluffo. Peluffo has already been sent down in a paper demotion to Aberdeen.

Catchers:

  • Alfredo Gonzalez remains on Aberdeen’s roster and has not played any full-season ball this year.
  • Cody Roberts made the Opening Day squad and promptly got hurt. He’s on the injured list.

I got one out of two catchers correct, so the score is now 8 of 15 for Opening Day and 10 of 15 overall. Handling the catching duties now are 2018 holdovers Ben Breazeale and Daniel Fajardo. Breazeale was the one brought back to replace Roberts.

Infielders:

  • Seamus Curran is here and has been the primary first baseman.
  • J.C. Escarra skipped Delmarva and is Frederick’s primary first baseman.
  • Adam Hall is playing for the Shorebirds, tag-teaming with Cadyn Grenier (who was not promoted as I thought he would be) between second base and shortstop.
  • I’m not finding Zach McLeod on a roster so he’s either in extended spring or has been released.
  • Alexis Torres was definitely fast-tracked, jumping from Aberdeen at the end of last season to Bowie to begin his 2019 this week. This after just 2 games at Frederick last season being his sum of advanced-A experience.
  • Willy Yahn also jumped over Delmarva, splitting time between third base and second base for Frederick.

Aside from the aforementioned Grenier, other 2018 infield holdovers are Branden Becker and J.C. Encarnacion. Andrew Fregia was also not predicted, but he made the jump up from the GCL. Out of 21 players predicted so far, 10 of them were on the Opening Day roster and 12 have played here at some point.

Outfielders:

  • Jaylen Ferguson has not yet returned to Delmarva from Aberdeen.
  • Nick Horvath is here as the everyday center fielder.
  • Robert Neustrom flanks him as a corner outfielder, more often in right field.
  • Robbie Thorburn is listed as an active player for Delmarva but is not on the roster.

I was not expecting Will Robertson to come back here nor Doran Turchin to move up from Aberdeen.

Final stats: I got 12 players right for Opening Day and 14 so far this season. I think I have an outside chance at 20 which isn’t too bad. As for the Opening Day lineup, this was the actual one used:

  1. Adam Hall, 2b (right spot in order but wrong position)
  2. Cadyn Grenier, ss (I had Willy Yahn at 3b in #2 hole)
  3. Robert Neustrom, rf (had him batting fifth in my lineup, Escarra here)
  4. JC Encarnacion, 3b (he didn’t move up like I thought – he and Yahn flipped)
  5. Cody Roberts, c (I had Gonzalez in my lineup but Cody was on roster)
  6. Nick Horvath, cf (I had him batting fourth in my lineup)
  7. Seamus Curran, 1b (was sixth in my lineup as DH)
  8. Doran Turchin, lf (I had Thorburn in my lineup for LF)
  9. Branden Becker, dh (this was the catcher’s spot.)

Blaine Knight started in lieu of Matt Hammonds, but aside from that it wasn’t too horrible a prediction.

Next week opens up the Shorebird of the Month calendar. It’s going to be tough to choose a pitcher and position player from an abundance of riches on a 15-2 (!) team.

Update 5/18: Thorburn started on the first of May, Alexis Torres came back from Bowie a week or so ago and we picked up Ryan Conroy this week. So now 18 of 25 have played here for at least one game, with Ryan Wilson activated and pitching today.

Remaining players are Kevin Magee, Victor Romero, Alfredo Gonzalez, J.C. Escarra, Zach McLeod, Willy Yahn, and Jaylen Ferguson. Of those Magee, Romero, Gonzalez, and Ferguson are listed as active for Aberdeen, Escarra and Yahn are still with Frederick, and McLeod is presumably at extended.

Who might be the Shorebirds? 2019 edition

A few years ago I set out to predict the opening 25-man roster of the Shorebirds. It was an outgrowth of a comment I received from one of my biggest SotW fans, and for a couple years I tried to pick the most likely players, with mixed success. I stopped for a time as the number of games I could attend dwindled, but better circumstances led me to make a decent number of contests last season so I thought I’d bring this back on a more limited basis. (More limited in the sense it will just be a roster and not capsules of each player.)

The big difference this time around is the new regime running the Orioles, which seems to favor a somewhat different sort of player than the previous one did. There also seems to be a larger influx of new players than normal, which is going to affect the Shorebirds in a couple instances – for example, I think one trade will eventually affect them this season and two others might be players we’ll see in 2020.

But to start opening day? Here are my wild guesses:

Starting Pitchers (6)

It won’t be a six-man rotation but I think they are going to piggyback one of the other five with last year’s first rounder Grayson Rodriguez so each gets 3 to 4 innings in a game. It might be Drew Rom with that task.

Gray Fenter (R), Hector Guance (R), Matt Hammonds (L), Blaine Knight (R), Grayson Rodriguez (R), Drew Rom (L)

Relief Pitchers (7)

Ryan Conroy (R), Nick Gruener (R), Tyler Joyner (R), Kevin Magee (L), Zach Matson (L), Victor Romero (R), Ryan Wilson (L)

Catchers (2)

Alfredo Gonzalez (R), Cody Roberts (R)

Infielders (6)

Seamus Curran (1b – L), J.C. Escarra (1b – L), Adam Hall (ss – R), Zach McLeod (util – R), Alexis Torres (2b – R), Willy Yahn (3b – R)

Outfielders (4)

Jaylen Ferguson (R), Nick Horvath (R), Robert Neustrom (L), Robbie Thorburn (L)

A projected Opening Night lineup
  • Adam Hall, ss
  • Willy Yahn, 3b
  • J. C. Escarra, 1b
  • Nick Horvath, cf
  • Robert Neustrom, rf
  • Seamus Curran, dh
  • Robbie Thorburn, lf
  • Alexis Torres, 2b
  • Alfredo Gonzalez, c
  • Matt Hammonds, sp

So we will see how well I guess this. I think the Shorebirds will do okay this season, but I’m very anxious to see what kind of draft they have this June and how well Aberdeen does. Here’s hoping the Orioles system begins to have the type of success new Orioles GM Mike Elias helped the Astros chain to achieve in 2018:

  • All six of their domestic teams were first or second in their division. Five of the six (their top 5, from short-season A ball on up) made the playoffs.
  • Of those five, class A Quad Cities lost a quarterfinal play-in game, AA Corpus Christi lost in the semifinals, and AAA Fresno lost in the league finals.
  • However, Advanced-A Buies Creek was second overall in its division but won the Carolina League pennant and short-season A Tri-City was the New York-Penn League champion.

Conversely, not a single Orioles affiliate made their league playoffs.

But in one week we will find out, and Delmarva gets to watch whatever ceremony the defending league champion does because we open at Lexington, who was the SAL pennant winner last season. (Until last season the Legends had a similar playoff drought to the one Delmarva is experiencing.) It doesn’t get much easier: we play the two Northern Division playoff squads from last season to finish the opening roadtrip (at Kannapolis) and start the home schedule (Lakewood.) Our first 14 games are against teams that made the playoffs last season so it will be a good test.

Let’s play some ball!

What comes around, goes around

I’ll tell you why! Those of you who have been here awhile know that I do an annual “picks and pans” as a Shorebird fan after each season. Today’s post is a long time coming since I spent part of my 2015, 2016, and 2017 picks and pans talking about the subject of today’s photo essay.

The 360 degree concourse was originally slated to be built between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, but the final funding wasn’t put into place until last spring. And yesterday it was formally opened up. I missed the ribbon cutting and didn’t win any of the giveaway prizes.

But I got a batch of pictures to share. How’s that?

Our first unique and new view is from the right field corner. I suspect the kids will soon figure out this is the place to beg for t-shirts and frisbees. There’s something new about that aspect, too, as I’ll get to in due course.
From where I was on the above shot, you are right under the scoreboard.
If you went as close as you could to dead center – a spot from which you couldn’t see the field because of the batter’s eye – this is what you would see.
This is taken from the left field corner looking toward center. It’s one location where there is no drink rail and one of the few disappointments I had. I was hoping they would have a wider area here where they could set up a stage or higher platform for seating, but they left a lot of unused space there.
Part of the saving grace is adding the metal drink rail along this fence, a space I suspect is going to be very popular for families – especially those with kids who like to chase foul balls. It will also be fun for those who like to check on the bullpen.
I stopped by my summer home for a few minutes – about as much as I could brave the chill.
Before I finish the tour, I noticed the Shorebirds got a new truck for Sherman, since the old one advertised a dealer who is no longer with us. You sure would miss them. But he has new wheels from which to toss those frisbees and shirts.
This is one of the new tables in the upper section of the Hardball Cafe, which also features the nifty new chairs. These same tables and chairs are up on the luxury level on the third floor.
The low tables, though, are half-round along the rail and the chairs for them swivel and have a mesh seat. Very comfy and surprisingly not cold to the behind on an evening like last night.
The suites aren’t set up any differently, but it looks like they got new finishes. Only 2 of the 6 are corporate-owned now – a couple years back there were 4 corporate and 2 left open for nightly rent, now we have the reverse.

Since this current phase of renovations of our now 23-year-old ballpark began after the 2015 season, they have rebuilt the entire field and sub-surface drainage, renovated the clubhouses, put in new seating throughout the stadium (with the possible exception of the outfield picnic areas, which I didn’t check out during my rounds), installed a new scoreboard and video board, and now have completed the concourse. About the only thing they need to do now is modernize the food service and perhaps renovate the restrooms, front office space, gift shop, and Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame. (Not to be confused with the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame, which is constantly renovated each off-season.)

So old Arthur W. Perdue Stadium is looking pretty good now. In a couple weeks I think it will be time to return to a short-lived tradition and take my wild guess as to who will be sporting the Shorebird black-and-orange this summer. That will be fun.

Odds and ends number 92

The more regular than it used to be look at the pile that’s my e-mail box and dredging out items worth a few sentences to a few paragraphs starts now:

A private fight for $15

My friends at the Maryland Public Policy Institute recently pointed out that there are a number of Maryland companies who are already paying starting employees $15 an hour (or soon will be.) MPPI’s Carol Park notes that, “The main goal for Maryland government should be to incentivize businesses in Maryland to grow larger and more profitable, so that they can become the new Amazon and Target and not only pay their employees $15 an hour but employ hundreds and thousands of Marylanders who are looking for a job.”

While Park is right, she also misses a point. Using that argument, larger businesses may be comfortable latching onto the so-called “Fight for $15” because it allows them to throttle back prospective competition. Small companies running on tighter margins won’t be able to pay the higher wages, so they won’t be able to compete.

Listen, if the SEIU and big business are on the same side (and, according to Leonard Robinson III of the Capital Research Center the SEIU is greasing a lot of Democrats’ palms to get this enacted at the federal level) it just can’t be good for the rest of us.

Returning to the subject of MPPI, they have also recently asked the state to “resist” raising taxes in the wake of the Kirwan Commission report advocating an additional $3.8 billion in school spending – none of which is slated to follow the child as it should. They cite prospective income tax increases on the middle class as well as possible expansion of the sales tax to include more services and business tax hikes as possible outcomes.

Knowing how the Kirwan Commission came together, is it any wonder higher taxes are on the docket? Resist we must.

Did Trump really cave? Or is it “fake news” from the dividers of Indivisible?

This probably deserves its own post, but we all know Indivisible will take credit for anything that’s a loss to America or makes President Trump look bad – naturally, that extends to the end of the recent Schumer-Pelosi shutdown. So this was their “state of play” after the furlough ended.

Pay attention to the “ask” – Republican Senators are asked for “No new wall money. Keep the government open.” It sounds to me like the Democrats have already determined they will shut it down again and try to blame Trump again. Nope, that one would be on you – particularly since Democrats have the majority in the conference committee.

In another Indivisible-related item I found interesting, they laid out a fundraising wish list in an e-mail I received in the wake of the shutdown:

  • $1,475,000 for “doubling our organizing team,” adding 14 state-level organizers, 3 digital organizers, and 3 training organizers.
  • $80,000 for Hubdialer, which, as the name implies, assists volunteers in making phone calls.
  • $114,000 for Mobile Commons, which is a text messaging system.
  • $1,315,820 for digital ads. More money for Mark Zuckerberg.
  • And $140,000 for ActionKit, a “mass e-mailing tool.”

All told, that “ask” is a little over $3 million, which I’m sure they’re going to invest in pushing more propaganda for 2020. Yep, that’s some grassroots for you.

And speaking of Astroturf…

If you wondered why Obamacare has hung tough despite its unpopularity, maybe this is why. From CRC’s Hayden Ludwig:

At least thirteen pro-Obamacare organizations aren’t independent organizations at all, but websites hosted by a handful of mega-funder nonprofits: the Sixteen Thirty FundNew Venture Fund, and Hopewell Fund.

Those three funds are in turn managed by Arabella Advisors, a mysterious consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. Arabella Advisors advises wealthy clients on what it calls “strategic philanthropy.” In practice though, Arabella’s strategic giving involves philanthropic investments to left-leaning causes and organizations.

“Who is Behind the Groups Pushing Obamacare?”, Hayden Ludwig, Capital Research Center, January 10, 2019.

Nor should we forget this tangled web the Left weaved.

And people thought the TEA Party was Astroturf because Americans for Prosperity printed up a batch of signs? Okay then, feel free to be wrong.

More wasteful spending

Another winner from the CRC comes in this investigation by Robert Stilson – employment programs that make work for connected non-profits. It’s yet another case of low-hanging fruit to be plucked and another score for the Capital Research Center, which is beginning to become a (sorely needed) bulldog of the Right. Don’t miss their look at the Census controversy either.

The state of American energy…is strong

At least according to the lengthy (over 120 pages) and colorful annual report from the American Petroleum Institute. It should be required reading for environmentalist wackos, including one Larry Hogan. Maybe he’d learn something and get back to what he promised.

If you want something a little more “official” the far less colorful Energy Information Administration Annual Energy Outlook 2019 is out as well. Both documents are chock full of good news for the energy industry as long as government stays out of the way.

So is the state of American manufacturing

Fresh off “another strong month of job growth,” the folks at the Alliance for American Manufacturing believe, “This strength in factory and overall hiring gives the administration considerable leverage headed into the final leg of trade talks with China,” according to AAM President Scott Paul.

But they’re never quite happy, always wanting something more. On the heels of a Trump “buy American” executive order, the group wants it expanded already. Here’s what it covers, in a nutshell:

Within 90 days of the date of this order, the head of each executive department and agency… administering a covered program shall, as appropriate and to the extent consistent with law, encourage recipients of new Federal financial assistance awards pursuant to a covered program to use, to the greatest extent practicable, iron and aluminum as well as steel, cement, and other manufactured products produced in the United States in every contract, subcontract, purchase order, or sub‑award that is chargeable against such Federal financial assistance award.

“Executive Order on Strengthening Buy-American Preferences for Infrastructure Projects,” issued by President Trump January 31, 2019.

While the additional jobs are good news, I’ve always been a little leery of “Buy American” orders such as these just because it’s gaming the market and making American products just that much less competitive on a global scale. Why invest in new technology and better facilities when you have a captive customer?

Having said that, I do believe President Trump is trying to level the playing field a bit as other nations subsidize their industries to varying degrees, too. For several years I received missives from AAM and others decrying the “dumping” of steel on the American market by Asian competitors, and that’s a case where a “Buy American” law can be of assistance. But I would rather see fair trade as a part of free trade, and there can be instances where “Buy American” may not be the best option.

Fighting the last war

In terms of total votes, the most popular politician in Maryland isn’t Larry Hogan. Instead, the top vote-getter in 2018 was Comptroller Peter Franchot, who drew 1,620,264 votes in winning a fourth term in office. Peter carried all but three counties (Cecil, Garrett, and Washington) in defeating the vastly underfunded Republican challenger Anjali Phukan. (Her campaign, beginning in May, 2017 and ending last December, raised a grand total of $2,051.25. The remaining $460 was donated to charity.)

But Phukan remains convinced that Franchot’s victory was achieved through underhanded means. Recently she attempted to convince the Maryland Board of Elections that an investigation into Franchot’s campaign finance was necessary, but to no avail. So she took the next step:

With no administrative options left, at the suggestion of some fellow Republicans, I filed a “Writ of Mandamus” with the Circuit Court in Anne Arundel County, to make the Board of Elections investigate my concerns, and act accordingly, as required by Maryland law. In this writ I also requested an injunction and declaratory judgement. I had presented my concerns before the election board as I discovered things in the process of reviewing his campaign’s financial records, and yet the account was still deemed compliant enough for Franchot to be certified!

Anjali Phukan, newsletter to supporters, January 27, 2019.

She’s also began plugging an obscure electoral watchdog website that’s had barely 700 visits in the last 2-plus years (as there is still 2016 information on it.) A GoFundMe campaign for it has raised a grand total of $5. But while it seems Phukan is tilting at windmills, she brings up some very troubling concerns about the Maryland campaign finance system.

Having written and read a few campaign finance reports in my time, I’m sure I’ve pointed out the weaknesses in the system. But a glaring one is how one very minor change in information submitted could conceivably allow an entity to donate far more than the prescribed limit, and seldom does the Board of Elections act on these irregularities. Since I haven’t heard of them overturning any elections due to unlawful campaign finance, I presume the punishment is generally making the campaign return the donation and perhaps a modest fine to the candidate and/or treasurer.

I glanced through Phukan’s summary of Franchot’s issues and, while it wasn’t a vast percentage of his campaign funding, you would think a person who is charged with being an accurate collector of revenue wouldn’t have such large accounting errors. It seems to me that the Board of Elections is just putting these self-reported records out to present a fig leaf of accountability but not really checking into them. (And let’s face it: most campaigns in this state don’t involve enough money to pay the mortgage for a year.)

And, by extension, the lack of interest in checking Franchot’s campaign finance seems to be echoed in their lack of interest in (or utter contempt regarding) cleaning out voter rolls. The erstwhile watchdog group Election Integrity Maryland found thousands of duplicate registrations in a May, 2014 survey. (Third release here, from an archived web page.) It’s now February, 2019, and something tells me that number is twice as high. Just wait until they get the automatic voter registration!

In passing

I couldn’t let this post go by without mentioning the recent passing of my former colleague on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee, Dave Goslee, Sr. Sadly, the 78-year-old Goslee had just in November won a seat on an institution he’d been fighting to reform for the first ten years of his twelve-plus year tenure on the Central Committee, the Wicomico County Board of Education.

Dave showed the value of getting out the vote as he won that Board of Education seat by one vote after a December recount showed that vote was incorrectly credited to his opponent. But the fourth-term WCRCC member couldn’t beat leukemia, and it’s likely his opponent will get the seat back anyway as a 14-member panel mainly comprised from the local schools will select Goslee’s successor – that committee selected William Turner, who Goslee defeated for the seat, in 2017.

Dave and I were not the closest of friends on the committee when we first started, but over the years we developed a respectful relationship as we each came to understand what the other brought to the table. He was also a devoted season ticket holder for the Shorebirds, so I saw him often even after I left the WCRCC. He will be missed, both at the games and certainly in local politics.

Coming up…

I almost put this into the odds and ends, but decided I would devote a stand-alone post to those who would tell me how to do my job. I may use that as the light-hearted stack of stuff to start the weekend.

I also have the third in a quick batch of record reviews to do for Saturday, but that may be the last for a short while. Or it may not.

Longer term, a suggestion I’ve had placed in my hopper once again was to bring back something I tried for a couple seasons in 2014 and 2015: predicting the 25-man Delmarva Shorebird opening day roster. (My 2014 guesses had 10 correct for Opening Day and 5 coming along later in the season. In 2015 I had 11 on Opening Day and 6 later on. That year I did it a week before the season, but it didn’t help.)

This year’s roster may be even more tricky because of the new management for the Orioles – players who may have been favorites under the Duquette regime may not catch the eye of Mike Elias, who will presumably prefer a player more like those in the Astros organization from which he came. (And who am I to argue with their success? Not only was the major league team a division winner in 2018, so were four of their top five farm clubs – the other was a close second. On the other hand, the Shorebirds were barely a .500 team but that was still best among Baltimore’s full-season affiliates last season.)

But since my situation is a little better than it was back in mid-decade I think I’ll give it a shot. Still not going back to Shorebird of the Week but at least I’ll enhance my coverage this way.

So the mailbox is emptier and you’re up to date.

My version of fantasy baseball – part 3, the season

In part 1 I introduced this concept and in part 2 I determined my Opening Day team. But to answer the question regarding how such a team would do gave me a lot of trouble, and took a different turn than I expected.

Initially I believed I could use a simple WAR calculator to see just how well my players would do and use that guide to determine the team’s fate. Yet to figure those factors out I would need to calculate a player’s OPS and slugging percentage as well as a pitcher’s ERA. So my first order of business was determining about how many plate appearances each player would get; thus, I made a matrix covering the nine starting positions and also determined how many starts and relief appearances each pitcher would make. From there I calculated the rest of the statistics based on the players’ real-life numbers and some overall averages.

Using my team’s starting lineup and their WAR, this is the comparison to the Orioles 2018 lineup.

2019 WARSotW teamPos.Baltimore2018 WAR
1.5A. WynnsCC. Joseph0.3
2.0T. Mancini1BC. Davis-2.8
2.3J. Schoop2BJ. Schoop1.3*
1.5P. FlorimonSSM. Machado2.9*
7.5M. Machado3BR. Nunez1.2*
0.4DelmonicoLFT. Mancini-0.1
1.5C. MullinsCFA. Jones0.2
-0.3L.J. HoesRFJ. Rickard0.4
0.9C. WalkerDHM. Trumbo0.3
2.9E. RodriguezSPD. Bundy0.1
2.7Z. DaviesSPA. Cashner0.6
3.1D. BundySPA. Cobb1.1
0.9S. BraultSPK. Gausman2.2*
1.0P. BridwellSPD. Hess0.7
0.8Z. BrittonCLB. Brach0*
1.1J. HaderRPM. Castro1.3
1.3M. GivensRPM. Wright-0.1
0.8HernandezRPM. Givens1
-0.8E. GamboaRPT. Scott-0.1
31.1Total WARPos.Total WAR10.5

But the one thing about WAR is that it’s a relatively inexact science. Still, using the simple WAR calculators for pitchers and batters, I came up with a team WAR of 32.3 for my mythical 40-man roster. That turns out to be 21 wins better than the 2018 Orioles (meaning 68 wins) and nearly 25 fewer wins than the Red Sox, which would compute to an above break-even season with 83 wins. To me, that was a little too much of a range.

So I tried a different way. Since I had figured out most of the main batting stats in order to define OPS and slugging percentage for the hitters, I decided to treat the pitchers the same way and figure out the batting stats against them. Once I had those numbers, I pored over about two decades’ worth of team batting stats to determine the closest parallels to runs scored based on average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS, numbers which I averaged together to determine projected totals of runs scored and runs allowed, which then allowed me to figure out a Pythagorean win-loss record that’s relatively accurate – most teams finish within a few games of their Pythagorean record.

On that basis, my team would finish with a surprisingly good record of 72-90. I say surprisingly because it would finish near the bottom of both the batting and pitching rankings; then again, these align well with the rankings of the 2018 American League teams as five teams finished with fewer than 72 wins and this team generally laid in the bottom third statistically. Presumably it would be a rather strong bullpen that carries my team if they get an early lead.

One other thing all this calculation allowed me to do was change the roster somewhat. (This was reflected in the posts as I did the statistics before the second post where I selected the team.) In one instance, Christian Walker was not a full-time DH but was ticketed for AAA – however, in figuring out his season he had a bat that was too good to send down in comparison to my outfielders – so he stayed. And since his real-life MLB experience has mostly come as a pinch-hitter he’s a natural DH. Other players got more starts than originally envisioned because they were the best player I could put out there despite not being “established.” I also took the propensity for injuries into account so several of my players missed time on the “disabled list” and others were “called up” to replace them. For example, Pedro Florimon has been an injury magnet the last few seasons so in my mythical campaign he missed some time, enabling Manny Machado to slide over to short and placing utility players at third. Players who are well short of a full season are usually considered to be injured for a portion of it.

So I have not only answered my question, but I’ve also created a projected set of statistics (set in pretty much the same fashion as Baseball Reference lays out statistics) for each player based on a weighted formula of previous seasons and levels – thus, a guy who played at AAA a lot has his numbers adjusted a few ticks lower where appropriate. Raw rookies took a bit of a pounding from this, but if I continue to update these numbers they will settle in closer to their eventual MLB norms. It also gives me the fun of seeing how numbers will compare to real life as 2019 progresses.

(One note: for players who have retired I simply used their previous 4 active seasons, disregarding the layoff factor. It was as if they were still playing.)

This was a very fun and challenging exercise – but since I still have the numbers I could do it again for next spring as new players join the SotWHoF. It will actually be easier since I gave the now-retired players a courtesy cup of coffee (maybe a latte in a couple cases) in this mythical season but won’t feel the need to in 2020, unless I get in a positional pinch. (For example: if Michael Ohlman doesn’t find a team this year I still need him as a third catcher unless a guy like onetime SotW Wynston Sawyer gets the call.)

But consider this as you watch the 2019 season unfold and see how bad my projections are: at least free agency won’t break up this team! Thanks for playing along.

My version of fantasy baseball – part 1, the introduction

I sort of warned you about this back when I inducted the Class of 2018 into the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. Membership in that body has reached the magic number of forty, and given the facts that the Hot Stove League is well underway and people always like to speculate about how they would build a team… well, now I have a team, of sorts.

Of course, there are a fair share of guys in my Hall of Fame who aren’t involved as players anymore, but the beauty of the intersection of fantasy baseball with sabermetrics is that people are able to compare performances over time. I’m not going to get too fussy with this exercise, for its goal is to speculate how a team made up of SotWHoF players would do in a regular season and (in my opinion) the best way to do this is to compile the player’s WAR (wins above replacement) statistics. Every player in the SotWHoF has these, although those who are still active maintain a fluid WAR rating that will change as their career progresses.

Wins above replacement is a complex formula that determines how much impact a player has on his team’s fortunes. A MVP-type player would have a seasonal WAR of 8 to 10, meaning his presence on the team assures the squad eight to ten more wins than the average replacement. Take two extreme examples of 2018 teams: in the left column are the world champion Boston Red Sox (108-54 during the regular season) and on the right are the woeful Orioles (47-115).

2018 WARBostonPos.Baltimore2018 WAR
-0.5S. LeonCC. Joseph0.3
0.9M. Moreland1BC. Davis-2.8
-1.1E. Nunez2BJ. Schoop1.3*
3.8X. BogaertsSSM. Machado2.9*
0R. Devers3BR. Nunez1.2*
3.9BenintendiLFT. Mancini-0.1
2.1J. BradleyCFA. Jones0.2
10.9M. BettsRFJ. Rickard0.4
6.4J.D. MartinezDHM. Trumbo0.3
3.3R. PorcelloSPD. Bundy0.1
4.4D. PriceSPA. Cashner0.6
6.9C. SaleSPA. Cobb1.1
3E. RodriguezSPK. Gausman2.2*
0.8*N. EovaldiSPD. Hess0.7
2.3C. KimbrelCLB. Brach0*
1.7H. VelazquezRPM. Castro1.3
0.5J. KellyRPM. Wright-0.1
1.1M. BarnesRPM. Givens1
0.5H. HembreeRPT. Scott-0.1
50.9Total WARPos.Total WAR10.5

(*) Totals with Boston or Baltimore only.

As you can see, while a few individual players held the Red Sox back in terms of not being better than a theoretical player replacing him from the minor leagues, there were also several who put up All-Star and MVP-caliber seasons (with 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts leading the way.) On the flip side, the Orioles had a batch of players who were hardly better than minor league players and one much worse – Chris Davis, we’re looking at you. And once the key players for Baltimore were traded away, their replacements couldn’t even achieve the passable numbers put up by those who were traded – bear in mind that there are perhaps 25-35 players not listed who were bench players, minor league callups, and so forth. Some would accrue more wins above their replacements and others would lose ground – those listed above are just the primary starters and most-used bullpen pieces. Adding in the other 25 Red Sox players increases their WAR total by 6.1 wins above replacement for a team total of 57, while adding in the other 37 (!) Oriole players gains them o.8 WAR for a total of 11.3.

So now you have an idea of the parameters I’m going to use for this exercise. Next week I’m going to re-introduce you to this 40-man roster and speculate on how it would work if put together in fantasy life.

A better minor-league town

This definitely goes in a unique “stack of stuff” but to me it’s also a springboard to a relevant point. Plus it’s a dead week between Christmas and New Year’s so it’s not a political week.

If you go back to post number 2 – number one being the “soft opening” URL placeholder – in this long-running saga of my political thoughts and life in general, you will find it’s related to my hometown baseball team. So it is with this post, as Toledo was named the nation’s top minor league town.

The hometown rag had a good time with this, but if you read the piece you’ll see why Toledo was selected. And it’s worth mentioning something the writer of the original assessment said in the Blade story:

“They took a big risk coming back to downtown when they did, and deserve a lot of credit for the excitement in downtown revitalization,” said Birdwell-Branson, who recently moved to Toledo. “Essentially, it came down to this: Toledo is not Toledo without its Mud Hens or its Walleye.”

“Toledo ranked No. 1 among minor league sports towns”, Mark Monroe, Toledo Blade, December 12, 2018.

Just for context’s sake, Toledo, with its metro area of about 600,000 hardy folk, has two major professional sports teams. Most not under a rock have heard of the Mud Hens baseball team, in large part thanks to a guy best known as Max Klinger, the dress-wearing corporal in the TV series M*A*S*H. (Far fewer know him as Jamie Farr and only real trivia buffs – or Toledo natives – know him as Jameel Farrah, but that’s his real name.) While 507,965 made it out this season, it was a down year for attendance: the Mud Hens’ worst since moving to Fifth Third Field in 2002 and despite winning their first IL West title since 2007. (Perhaps eight losing seasons in a row prior to 2018 dampened enthusiasm.)

It could also be that some of their thunder was stolen by the Walleye, as the hockey team set new attendance records in the 2017-18 season and finished second in attendance in the 27-team ECHL, a league analogous to the AA level in baseball. Had their Huntington Center been larger, it’s likely they would have led the league in attendance as the Walleye averaged 102% of capacity. In 2018 the Walleye season didn’t end until early May when they lost in their division finals – they have won their ECHL division in the regular season four straight seasons – so there was an overlap between the two teams that may have cut the Mud Hens’ attendance.

In the minds of ownership, however, it doesn’t matter if the fans flock to Fifth Third Field or the Huntington Center because both are owned by the same entity: Toledo Mud Hens Baseball Club, Inc. (The Walleye are owned by the subsidiary Toledo Arena Sports, Inc. They purchased the former Toledo Storm ECHL hockey franchise in 2007 and put the team on ice, as it were, until the Huntington Center was finished in 2009.) It’s a business entity with an interesting background:

The unusual ownership structure was inaugurated in 1965 when Lucas County formed a nonprofit corporation to buy and manage a team. A volunteer board of directors appointed by the county board of commissioners owns and operates the team, with the county as the ultimate financial benefactor.

“Toledo Mud Hens, Walleye reorganize top management”, Bill Shea, Crain’s Detroit Business, June 15, 2015.

In Toledo, then, Lucas County (Toledo is county seat) owns both the teams and the venues, which are conveniently within blocks of one another in downtown Toledo. Spurred on by government money, the county has also invested in Hensville, a renovation project taking existing adjacent building stock and creating an entertainment center with the ready-made prospect of 7,000 or more fans at an adjacent venue on about 100 nights a year, mainly on weekends in the winter and spring and any night during the summer. (Note this doesn’t count concerts and shows held several nights a year at Huntington.)

Now let’s compare our scenario: the recent (2015) addition of Sussex County, Delaware and Worcester County, Maryland to the existing Salisbury metro area gives it a population of about 390,000, about 2/3 of Toledo’s but spread over a much wider geographic area. This difference, as well as the disparity in levels as the Delmarva Shorebirds are three steps below the Mud Hens, more than likely explains why attendance for the Shorebirds is less than half that of the Mud Hens, barely eclipsing the 200,000 mark in 2018 as an all-time low. Moreover, even if Salisbury had a hockey team, as has been rumored for the past few years, it would probably be at the commensurate level to the Shorebirds, and at least one step below the ECHL.

On that note, the two most likely possibilities for pro hockey in Salisbury are the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), a 10-team league as currently comprised, and the Federal Hockey League (FHL), which has six teams at present. The SPHL is the more stable of the two, and has better-attended games: league average attendance for the SPHL is 2,870 so far this season compared to a puny 1,409 between the six FHL squads – but only two Federal League teams are solidly in a four-figure average; a third is at 1,010 per game.

Unfortunately, the travel scenario for a Salisbury-based SPHL team would be dicey: the league’s closest franchises are in Roanoke, Virginia and Fayetteville, North Carolina and both are just under six-hour trips; moreover, six of the ten teams lie in the Central Time Zone. The most likely way Salisbury could be added to the SPHL would be in a pairing with another expansion team along the East Coast and a switch to a format with two six-team (or three four-team) divisions. On the other hand, while the FHL is somewhat spread out over a geographic area ranging from upstate New York to North Carolina to Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois, Salisbury is within the footprint and the league only schedules games on weekends, with one team generally playing two consecutive nights against the same opponent. Placing an eighth team in the Midwest would allow the league to have two four-team divisions (and possibly even adding a weeknight game within the four-team blocks, expanding the FHL’s current 56-game schedule. The schedule is similar in the SPHL; by comparison the ECHL plays a 72-game season.)

While the lack of a hockey team is a major stumbling block, the bigger issue is a lack of synergy between the two venues because they are several miles apart. And since a downtown location is out of the question for these facilities, the next best scenario to me would be to eventually replace one of the two facilities and move it adjacent to the other. Of course, having just spent millions of dollars of state and county money to repair both facilities as part of renovations requested in part by the Orioles (for Perdue) and a county study (for the WYCC), that’s not happening anytime soon, either.

So we have to make do with what we have. While it won’t necessarily be pedestrian-friendly, there is available land adjacent to both venues that could be developed into further entertainment options. In all honesty, there are pros and cons to development at both locations: the Hobbs Road site has great highway access and open land with infrastructure in place as it’s already annexed to the city. Would it be out of character with the area to have an urban-style development close by Perdue Stadium? Perhaps, plus there’s also the aspect of certain city leaders who seem to want all the entertainment options to be downtown and not develop the outskirts as a competitor.

On the other hand, redevelopment of the Old Mall site would be a welcome lift to that part of Salisbury but it’s not going to happen without a steady stream of events at the Civic Center, and minor league hockey seems to have the same level of fickleness as independent league baseball.

Every town is different, but I think Salisbury is missing out on some opportunities. I’m truly hoping that renovations in progress at Perdue Stadium bring out some of that entertainment district element and the WYCC gets that hockey team tenant to help fill the venue another 30 or so nights a year. It’s probably the best we can do for the immediate future.

Presenting: The Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2018

This past season the Baltimore Orioles finished third in the majors in one interesting category: number of players making their major league debut for the team during the season. Their 15 rookie players during the campaign placed them one behind the Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres, who both debuted 16 players.

So it logically follows that, for the first time in four years, all my inductees made their debuts as Oriole players. That run of 2012-14 inductees (a total of eight players who all stayed homegrown, with five of the eight coming in the first Dan Duquette season of 2012, two in 2013, and one in 2014) was memorable in that it brought us three Oriole icons of the last few years in Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, and Dylan Bundy. Making what turned out to be a full circle, the farm system Dan Duquette built was responsible for this year’s group of five inductees – guys who played with Delmarva in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

The optimism of an Opening Day win was quick to fade as losses and injuries mounted, so perhaps the best way to introduce this class would entail more than the date of their debut but also the team’s record at the time. We begin 59 games in with catcher Austin Wynns, who opened the class on June 5 after it became painfully apparent that a terrible 17-41 start and issues with starting catcher Caleb Joseph weren’t going away anytime soon. Wynns eventually backed up Joseph, getting into 42 Oriole games after initially spelling Joseph (82 games) and 2017 SotWHoF member Chance Sisco (63 games) through a tough 2018 season for both.

Fifteen days later, with the Orioles now 21-50, June 20 was the time for Steve Wilkerson to take his turn as the latest attempt for the Orioles to find the utility player to replace the departed Ryan Flaherty. But Wilkerson was barely in the flow of things, having had to serve a 50-game suspension to open the season, and it turned out he would only make it into 16 Oriole games and 43 all told as injuries took their toll, too. Steve even grabbed some AB’s in the Arizona Fall League, which added another 20 games to his total for 2018.

At 23-57 a little over a week later, June 29 marked the MLB debut of two Oriole pitchers, including onetime SotW Ryan Meisinger. Ryan ended up making 18 of his 50 appearances over the season with the Orioles, as the other 32 were split 21 with Norfolk and 11 with Bowie, where he began the season. His one ill-fated start would come into play for this Hall of Fame, as you’ll shortly see.

On August 10, the Orioles were 35-80 and had made their fire sale, shipping off three members of this Hall of Fame (Machado, Schoop, and Zach Britton) as well as three other veteran pitchers to acquire 15 (mostly) minor league players. One player who wasn’t sent away thanks to his 10-and-5 rights was Adam Jones, but he graciously stepped aside a few dozen yards to his left to allow for the big league debut of Cedric Mullins as he took over as everyday center fielder. Cedric got the most playing time out of this five-member class, appearing in 45 of the Orioles’ last 47 games.

Finally, on September 26 the 46-111 Orioles needed a starting pitcher to face Boston for the first game of a day-night doubleheader. They chose Ryan Meisinger, but his failure to complete even one inning left the door open for John Means to make his debut in that contest, his only appearance with the Orioles after logging a full season between Bowie and Norfolk. Means also became the first player not actually selected as a Shorebird of the Week to make this Hall of Fame – he was picked Shorebird of the Year in 2015 thanks to special accomplishments and a great body of work, similar to how Brenan Hanifee won this season despite not having a good enough single month to be selected as a Pitcher of the Month.

That, then, is the five-man Class of 2018 for the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. So what do I think 2019 will look like?

We are now getting to the point where the well is running dry on the seasons where I had weekly winners. Certainly there are a few from the most recent such seasons in 2014-16 who still have a good chance to make the grade, with the oft-injured Hunter Harvey leading the 2014 crop. Others from that team who played in AAA last season include Drew Dosch, Mike Yastrzemski, Luis Gonzalez, and Dylan Rheault in the Giants’ organization. Mitch Horacek, who is now Colorado Rockies property, has reinvented himself in the bullpen at the AA level and continued his season in the Arizona Fall League. Except for Harvey, though, none of these players are on a 40-man roster.

My 2015 group is now pretty much tapped out, with only Matthew Grimes having reached AAA among active players. Still toiling in AA are dueling center fielders Ademar Rifaela and Jay Gonzalez, who is now in the Diamondbacks’ organization. Similarly, the most prominent prospects in the 2016 class are Ryan Mountcastle and Jesus Liranzo, who now pitches for the Pirates’ AAA club after two teams tried to sneak him through waivers.

Out of the rest, Ryan McKenna (who could be my first Shorebird of the Month to make the Show) isn’t one to sleep on, either, nor is pitcher Brendan Kline from way back in 2013. And there are still a handful of other graybeards kicking around the higher end of the minors like Adrian Marin (2013, and a minor league free agent), Wynston Sawyer (2012, a member of the Twins’ chain last season), Jarrett Martin (2011, now with the Oakland organization), and the unsinkable Garabez Rosa, my second-to-last active player from 2010 (the other being SotWHoF member Ty Kelly.)

If I were to select the top 5 most likely out of that group, I would say Ryan Mountcastle is the most likely bet although he would probably not be first up. I could see a team like the Pirates take a chance on Jesus Liranzo (as he is on their 40-man roster) before Mountcastle makes his debut, but most of these guys seem like the September callup types, particularly Brendan Kline or Ryan McKenna. And there’s almost always a surprise in the bunch like a Scott Copeland, Michael Ohlman or Nicky Delmonico, guys whose star had fallen for a time and who ended up debuting with other organizations. My sleeper pick in that regard is Dylan Rheault.

That doesn’t mean we’ll have five in the Class of 2019, but I can see anywhere from 3 to 7 depending on how much new GM Mike Elias likes the players in his newly adopted organization. I keep saying this but at some point it will be true: we are running out of potential for large classes of six or more. I think that window shuts after 2019 if it’s not already closed, since the best team we had for prospects (2014) has little left on the shelf.

So simultaneous to this post coming online, the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame is again open for business.

Perhaps I will stoke up the hot stove in January with a thought experiment: since it now has 40 players, how would a SotWHoF roster do in a full season? Stay tuned.