Ralph Northam’s Stock Holdings Represent Bigger Issue

Dominion and the pipeline issue have played a role throughout the gubernatorial campaign this year and they have resurfaced this week with reports that Ralph Northam owns between $10,000 and $50,000 worth of stock in Dominion Energy. Combine this with all the money that Dominion has contributed to Ralph and other elected officials and it’s hard to believe all this money doesn’t buy the organization some influence.

Opposition to taking money from Dominion is one of the reasons I supported Tom Perriello in the Democratic primary this year and I’m glad to see Justin Fairfax has also refused to take the corporation’s money. While I don’t think Ralph has evil intentions, I think Tom and Justin were right to make sure there wasn’t even the perception of being bought by Dominion.

Now there are some people who believe we should simply be looking past this issue. The conservative Richmond Times Dispatch, for instance, even came out with an editorial in defense of Northam. The paper points out that the Lt. Governor would put all his assets in a blind trust if he’s elected governor and that there’s simply no evidence he would “let his financial interests override his scruples about doing what’s best for the commonwealth.”

While the Richmond Times Dispatch is right that there’s no evidence corporate money has influenced Ralph throughout his career, it’s still a shame that we even have to have this conversation. And, for the record, the same conversations could be had about several of Ed Gillespie’s business relationships.

The fact that we can have this discussion about both major party candidates brings up two major points worth paying attention to. First of all, it shows that it’s primarily wealthy people who are running for office. You have to be relatively well off to have between $10,000 and $50,000 in one particular company.

Secondly, it shows that money plays an overly important role in our political process.

So while we should pay attention to the relationship between Ralph Northam and Dominion and make sure he’s still good on environmental issues, this situation is more an example of larger issues. Unfortunately we won’t see a discussion of the larger issue because it’s easier to explain this potential scandal is much sexier in the days leading up to a gubernatorial election.

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Corey Stewart Struggles to Raise Money

While most politicos in Virginia are focused in on the state elections we have coming up in a few weeks, there are some folks who are already focused on 2018. One of those is Corey Stewart who, after losing the GOP gubernatorial primary earlier this year, is now running for US Senate. It turns out, however, that he’s not doing too well in the fundraising department.

As Inside NOVA reported, campaign finance reports show Stewart has only managed to raise $190,500 in his attempt to unseat Sen. Tim Kaine and had just over $150,000 cash on hand on September 30. This is in sharp contrast to the $1.8 million Kaine raised during the same period. The incumbent also has $8.4 million cash on hand.

While opponents of Stewart’s right wing agenda might be happy with the relatively poor showing, there are a few things to remember when looking at these numbers. Perhaps the most important is that it’s still relatively early in the race. Not only do GOP donors not know if other Republicans will enter the race, but many people who would donate are concentrating on the aforementioned state races.

There’s also the plain and simple fact that Stewart has already proven he can be successful without racing large chunks of cash. He was significantly out raised by Ed Gillespie during the gubernatorial primary, but still came within one percent of beating him. While it’d be much harder to overcome the cash on hand gap in the Senate race, his ability to get a passionate base out could make things interesting.

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Bryce Harper Doesn’t Like New York

There’s been talk about where Bryce Harper would end up if he left the Nationals ever since he turned pro. And since those early days, it’s always been rumored that he’d end up with the New York Yankees.

Not only are the Yankees the most valuable team in the MLB and in a position to pay him the big bucks (perhaps up to $455 million), but he’s made it clear that he was a Yankees fan growing up in Las Vegas.

It appears as though there’s something that could prevent Harper from moving up to the big apple. He apparently doesn’t like New York City.

“Going to New York City for a couple days … I want to get out of there in about three days,” Harper said while speaking with reporters at the All Star game according to Randy Miller. “You go there for three days, it’s pretty crazy and hectic and I want to go back home. I want to go back home to D.C. There’s nothing like.”

In a sign that he might be willing to stay in DC after 2018, Harper also spoke about how some superstars stayed with the same organization throughout their entire career.

“That’s the thing I want to do in DC,” speaking of the traditions you see with the Yankees. “That’s why it’s so amazing to be able to start with a team that you can build the most tradition you can with. You look at a guy like Cal Ripken who stayed with the Orioles forever. You look at a guy like Derek Jeter who stayed with the Yankees forever and (helped continue) that tradition of having such great fans and amazing teams and things like that.”

He went onto talk about how the Nationals are built for success and have a lot of up and coming talent.

This, of course, could simply be a negotiating tactic and he’s simply acting like he wants to stay with the Nationals in order to get a bigger offer from another organization. But, for right now, it’s what Nats fans should want to hear from their slugger.

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New York Yankees Are Most Valuable MLB Team

With the Miami Marlins up for sale as they hosted this week’s Major League All Star game, there’s been a lot of discussion about the value of sports franchises. That includes an article by Kurt Badenhausen about the most expensive sports franchises in the world.

In a list that is dominated by NFL organizations, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the Dallas Cowboys came out to be the most expensive organization in the world with a worth of $4.2 billion. Coming in second place was the New York Yankees with a worth of $3.7 billion

“The New York Yankees are undergoing a youth movement on the field led by Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, but the team’s finances are still tops in baseball,” Badenhausen wrote. “The Yankees are the world’s second most valuable team, worth $3.7 billion, up 9% from 2016, when the Bronx Bombers ranked fourth. The Yankees have the highest sponsorship revenue ($120 million) and premium seating revenue ($130 million) in the sport.”

In addition to the Yankees, there were seven other MLB teams that made it into the top 50 — though nobody else was in the top 10. The other organizations were the LA Dodgers at 13 worth $2.75 billion, the Boston Red Sox at 16 worth $2.7 billion, the Chicago Cubs at 18 worth $2.68 billion, the San Francisco Giants at 19 worth $2.65 billion, the New York Mets at 39 worth $2 billion, the St. Louis Cardinals at 47 worth 1.8 billion, and the LA Angels worth 1.75 came in at number 50.

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Scherzer to Start for the National League

Heading into tomorrow night’s All Star game, it was pretty much commonsense that either Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer was going to start for the National League. So when Kershaw made himself ineligible to pitch in the game by throwing a complete game against the Royals on Sunday, everyone simply assumed that Scherzer would be getting the nod.

That assumption turned out to be correct as the NL manager Joe Maddon announced that the Nationals’ right hander would be starting during a press conference televised on the MLB Network. Maddon even pointed out that he would have gone with Scherzer even if Kershaw was available to pitch.

“I looked at it pretty closely,” Maddon said. “I have a ton of respect for Mr. Kershaw also. But if you just broke down the numbers, I am being honest, I had already chosen Max, based on what I had just read numerically.”

The way Scherzer has been dominating so far this season, it shouldn’t be surprising that his 2.10 ERA and 173 strikeouts over 128.1 innings lead the NL at the All-Star break. While he’s averaging over a strike out per inning, he has a MLB best 0.78 WHIP and a record of 10-5 so far this season.

When speaking at a press conference on the MLB Network, Scherzer appeared very humbled to be selected as the starting pitcher.

“It’s unbelievable to get the nod,” Scherzer said. “This is such an incredible accomplishment. When you walk in this clubhouse and you’re with all the All-Stars, you’re tickled to be in that clubhouse with that recognition. When you have a manager say, ‘We’re going to give you the ball,’ it’s icing on the cake. For me to have the opportunity to go out there and represent the National League, this is stuff you never forget. And when you get the opportunity – I’m kicking at the dirt to be able to go out there and pitch.”

This isn’t the first time that Scherzer has be named the starting pitcher for the All Star game. Back in 2013, he represented the Detroit Tigers and started the game up at Citi Field in New York. His start also means that the Washington Nationals will have four players starting for the National League. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, and Ryan Zimmerman, after all, will join him in the starting lineup and Stephen Strasburg will also be making the trip.

Also announced today was the batting lineup for the NL, which will be as follows:

CF Charlie Blackmon
DH Giancarlo Stanton
RF Bryce Harper
C Buster Posey
2B Daniel Murphy
3B Nolan Arenado
1B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Marcell Ozuna
SS Zack Cozart

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Joe Ross Out With Tricep Tenderness

Dusty Baker told reporters after the game that Joe Ross was dealing with tricep tenderness and would be undergoing an MRI to see exactly what was going on.

Apparently, Ross was only struggling with the tenderness today but it became painfully obvious to the coaches that something was going on throughout the game. The velocity on Ross’s fastball was dipping into the high 80’s — several MPH below his average of about 92 MPH. The speed dipped so low that the scoreboard actually declared the pitches changeups instead of the fastballs he was attempting to throw.

Ross’s velocity had been down his entire outing, but it was during the fourth inning that pitching coach Mike Maddux noticed that something just didn’t appear right. So he visited the mound and quickly called out trainer Paul Lessard before taking Ross out of the game.

“We saw his velocity was like 89, 88,” manager Dusty Baker said. “And then Mike saw something and we decided to take Joe out.”

While the final straw wasn’t until the fourth, the coaches started to really notice things were wrong during the third inning.

“Especially when he walked those two guys in front of Freddie,” Baker said regarding when they first realized something wasn’t going right. “Those balls weren’t even close. Usually, that’s not Joe.”

The results of the MRI weren’t back by the time Dusty was speaking to the press, so we don’t know how serious the issue might be. Anytime you have an issue with a pitcher’s arm, however, you worry that he could miss some time.

If Ross is out for more than just one start there are a couple options the Nationals could go with. When Ross was down in the minor leagues earlier this season, for instance, the team started reliever Jacob Turner. He has had his struggles this season, however, pitching to a 4.76 ERA in his two starts. His performance in the bullpen wasn’t any better and he was eventually sent down to Syracuse.

A.J. Cole is the only starter in Syracuse that’s currently on the 40 man roster, so he’d also be an option to make a couple starts in the big leagues. He’s started one game with Washington this year and had a strong performance, but currently has a 6.27 ERA with Syracuse. In other words, he’s definitely not a long term solution if he’s needed for more than one start.

With all that being said, let’s hope that the MRI doesn’t reveal anything and Ross is able to come back in top form after the All Star break.

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Book Review: “The Cubs Way” By Tom Verducci

If you’re a baseball fan, you can’t help but notice how much data has become a part of the game. It’s become such a big part of it, after all, that a best selling book and feature movie starring Brad Pitt — Moneyball — was made about the use of sabremetrics. In his book “The Cubs Way,” Tom Verducci intertwines the story of how Theo Epstein used sabremetrics and other methods to build the Cubs with how they won the 2016 World Series.

When Theo Epstein was the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox during their World Series runs, he was known for using sabremetrics to help secure players like Big Papi that nobody else was looking at. It’s a skill set that he was expected to bring to the Cubs after he left Boston and went to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

What separates Verducci’s book from Moneyball, however, is that he doesn’t just discuss the statistical methods that Epstein used. While there’s talk about measuring a pitcher’s release point and calculating where the best place for position players to stand in the field, that wasn’t the focus. Verducci instead highlights how the Cubs actually sought players with a strong sense of character while building their team. The focus on character, for instance, was a large part of why they eventually decided to hire Joe Maddon to be the team’s skipper.

Of course, you have to have a lot of things go right for an organization to win the World Series and Verducci talks about some of the victories the Cubs had along the way. Jake Arrieta, an example used, was a pitcher who was struggling with in the Baltimore Orioles organization before the Cubs took a chance on him. Instead of trying to change his pitching style like the Orioles had done, Verducci describes how the Cubs made some minor tweaks but largely let Arrieta be Arrieta. It worked out and the right hander is now one of the Cubs’ strongest pitchers.

Verducci also talks about how Kyle Schwarber’s character played huge role in why he was drafted. His character went on to play a role in him being able to come back for the World Series after a devastating injury that was supposed to have him out for the entire season. While Schwarber might be struggling now during the 2017 season, Verducci explains how his role as the DH during the World Series was considered a huge part of why the Cubs were able to win.

The focus in on building a team full of character, combined with the use of sabremetrics, made for a good story.  A story that many people found compelling as the Cubs won their first championship in 108 years last fall. If the team was full of a bunch of phonies or free agents simply chasing a big contract, after all, I don’t think as many people would have been excited about the Cubs going all the way.

“The Cubs Way” combined enough baseball for the hardcore fan with that good storytelling about character and developing the team. I therefore believe everyone will find it to be a good read and highly recommend picking it up at your local bookstore.

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Michael A. Taylor Out With Oblique Strain

While most of the talk about last night’s game has been about how it was delayed for over three hours even though there was only about 15 minutes of rain, there was some news that fans should be more devastated about. Michael A. Taylor came out of the game with a right oblique strain and will be placed on the 10 day disabled list.

Apparently Taylor has “been dealing with it for a couple of weeks now,” but “felt like a sharp pain in my side” during his at bat in the bottom of the third last night. He was able to finish out the at bat, but didn’t take the field in the top of the fourth.

Taylor will be heading to the DL and the Nationals will be activating Chris Heisey from the DL. He had been out since May 24 with bicep issues. Perhaps the good news is that the team really doesn’t appear to think this is that big of a deal. Dusty Baker, for instance, is already talking about how some of the 10 days Taylor’s required to be on the DL will be eaten up by the All Star game.

“Hopefully it won’t be more than 10 days,” Baker said according to Eddie Matz of ESPN. “Luckily for us, four of those days are the All-Star break. So if it was going to happen, we couldn’t pick a more opportune time.”

Fortunately, there has been a fair amount of good outfield depth for the Nationals this year even as players continue to go down with injury.  You might remember, for instance, that I mentioned there was some debate about who they should send down to the minors (Brian Goodwin or Ryan Raburn) when Jayson Werth returns from his foot injury.

With Taylor out, Goodwin will become the starting center fielder and Raburn will likely be getting most of the time in left. If they’re both able to continue performing well while getting more playing time, this could potentially catch the eye of some teams looking to make trades once the injured outfielders make their way back to the lineup.

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Seth Romero Still Hasn’t Signed With Nationals

Seth Romero, the Nationals’ first round draft pick, still hasn’t signed with the Washington Nationals despite the fact that the deadline is Friday at 5pm.

According to Jim Callis of MLB.com, the left handed pitcher out of University of Houston is one of six first rounders who has yet to sign. He claims, however, that all six are expected to sign by the deadline.

The Nationals have a history of dealing with Romero’s agent, Scott Boras, so I’d be surprised if a deal didn’t get done. It also shouldn’t be too surprising that this deal is coming down to the wire. As Chelsea Janes pointed out on twitter, after all, the “Nats and Boras-repped first rounders tend to go down to the wire.”

On top of all that, Romero doesn’t really have another option besides signing with the Nationals. While he has just finished up his Junior year at the University of Houston, he was kicked off the baseball team there. He therefore can’t simply go back to play during his senior year.

For what it’s worth, the assigned signing bonus value for the 25th overall pick (which was used on Romero) is $2,530,400. Considering Boras’s reputation for getting large contracts for his clients, I would expect the bonus to be right around that number and maybe even slightly higher. The penalty the team would receive for going over the $5,503,500 number for it’s entire draft pool, however, would prevent anything crazy.

UPDATE: Romero ended up signing for $2.8 million.

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Nationals Are Skipping Roark’s Spot in Rotation

As I mentioned yesterday, the Nationals have decided to skip Tanner Roark’s spot in the rotation after yesterday’s rainout against the New York Mets. The team will be keeping the top three starters on schedule through Saturday, but haven’t announced who will be pitching on Sunday in what would normally be Joe Ross’s spot.

Roark has been struggling as of late, so this move doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. In his last start against St. Louis, for instance, he was only able to last three innings. In those three innings, however, he managed to throw 85 pitches on his way to giving up three earned runs on four hits and five walks. Clearly he didn’t have his best stuff.

This wasn’t just a one time thing, however, as Roark hasn’t won a single game in his last five outings. In those five games, he’s pitched 22.2 innings he has a 9.53 ERA and opponents are hitting .382/.453/.578 against him. That’s a far cry from the 2.83 ERA he had over 210 innings pitched last season.

With the poor results that Roark’s been having so far, it’s easy for fans to wonder if something is physically wrong with him. The team, however, keeps insisting that nothing is wrong.

While the main concern is obviously the bullpen, the topic has made it’s way to sports talk radio programs and other media platforms. A couple weeks ago, for instance, Mike Rizzo was on 106.7 the fan and had to address Roark’s health.

“As long as Tanner says that he’s healthy — and he says he feels really, really good — I’m fine with it,” Rizzo said. On top of that, Roark told Mark Zuckerman of MASN after his last start that he’s “fine.”

The organization also seems to feel as though he’ll eventually get back to last year’s form. Rizzo has expressed support for him and Dusty Baker they’ll be able to figure out what’s going on and fix it.

“I’ve got all the confidence in the world in this guy,” Rizzo said during another interview on 106.7 The Fan yesterday. “I’d take him on my club any day of the week, because he leaves it on the mound and gives you 100%.”

Between skipping this start and the upcoming All Star break, perhaps the extra time will help Roark figure out what’s going on.

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