Biden’s gain is Democratic baseball’s loss with Cedric Richmond

Greg Nash

Joe Biden is gaining a rising Democratic star and key liaison to Congress in Rep. Cedric Richmond (La.), who announced Tuesday he would join the new administration as a senior adviser to the president-elect.

Democrats are losing perhaps the best player in the long history of the Congressional Baseball Game, which began in 1909.

With a fastball that regularly flirted with 80 miles per hour, Richmond was the game’s star player during a five-year Democratic winning streak from 2011 to 2015.

Over those five years, Richmond compiled a 2.85 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 27 innings pitched. 

“When he’s on, he’s just unhittable,” said ex-Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the former longtime coach of the GOP side.

Democrats have won eight of the last nine games in large part due to Richmond, 47, who played outfield for Morehouse College and picked up the game in Little League starting when he was 5 years old.

Richmond accumulated a 2.5 wins above replacement, an advanced statistic that measures a player’s worth in wins above a replacement-level player, in eight career games, FiveThirtyEight reported in 2019.

The statistics blog said Richmond’s ability to contribute on the mound and in the batter’s box made him like a combination of Los Angeles Angels slugger Mike Trout and Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer.

“We always say that Democrats have a deep bench, but when it comes to baseball, it was pretty much just Cedric,” said ex-Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), a former player on the Democratic team.

The annual summer baseball game between Democrats and Republicans is a minor footnote in the grand scheme of things with the country facing a once-in-a-century health pandemic.

It’s also a footnote of sorts for Richmond, who is about to take a key position for Biden at an important point in the nation’s history.

“My friend Cedric Richmond is one of the best members of our committee and our caucus and the incoming Biden Administration is gaining a brilliant advocate for progress and equality,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).

Yet the tradition is also one revered by members on both sides of the aisle. In an increasingly divided country, it’s a game that allows lawmakers to socialize and get to know one another better for at least one night a year.

In 2017, the game was nearly upended by tragedy when a lone shooter opened fire on the GOP team while it was practicing in Virginia for the game. Four people were shot, including House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who was gravely wounded.

Richmond, who hails from the same state as Scalise, was the first to visit the Republican in the hospital.

“Cedric proved to be the type of friend he is when on the morning of the baseball shooting, he even beat Steve Scalise to the hospital to see his good friend,” said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.). “The Congressional Baseball Game is the most bipartisan event we have on Capitol Hill.”

At a Tuesday press conference announcing his White House move, Richmond joked that all is relative. While there have been some good athletes in the congressional game — and some former Major League players in former Reps. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) and Wilmer Mizell (R-N.C.) — Richmond hasn’t been striking out the 1927 Yankees.

“It’s all relative. So, in the woods when you’re being chased by a bear, you don’t have to be stronger than the bear or faster than the bear, you just have to be faster than the person you’re with,” he said. “So, in that context, I did not have to be Hank Aaron or Willie Mays to do well in the Congressional Baseball Game, it was only Republicans I was playing against.”

Republicans were quick to joke Tuesday about the tough position Democratic manager Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) is in with Richmond’s departure from Congress.

“Clearly with Cedric’s departure, I would think that right now Mike Doyle, he’s on the bubble to remaining as manager. If he couldn’t keep Cedric from going to the administration to keep dominating the baseball game, how effective is he really at being a manager?” said Davis, the catcher on the Republican team.

Barton joked that Doyle, a Pennsylvania congressman, “might be happy to trade the 20 electoral votes for Cedric as a pitcher,” referring to the electoral votes in the Keystone State that put Biden over the top.

No Democrats seem likely to take that deal. But Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), a backup pitcher on the Democratic team, acknowledged his team’s new underdog status.

“This is great news for the country, and even better news for the @HouseGOP baseball team. Congrats to my friend @RepRichmond!” the congressman tweeted on Monday after the news broke.

Tags Bill Pascrell Cedric Richmond Joe Barton Joe Biden Joe Crowley Mike Doyle Pete Aguilar Rodney Davis Steve Scalise

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