Meet the White House staffer with a 50 WAR

New senior advisor is a baseball legend

December 9th, 2020
Art by Tom Forget

If you're a political enthusiast, you may have heard of Cedric Richmond.

Among many other accomplishments, the five-term Congressman has served Louisiana's 2nd congressional district since 2011, he's worked hard toward reforming the criminal justice system and he's served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

You may also know that President-Elect Joe Biden recently made the 47-year-old his senior adviser in the White House. The two immediately started giving each other elbow pounds and were off to the races.

But what you may not know is that he also moonlights as a legitimate baseball star.

Richmond has played in the last nine Congressional Baseball Games -- a charitable contest that's been played between Democrat and Republican members of Congress since 1909 -- and he has decidedly bulldozed the competition.

He's pitched nearly every inning for the Democrats and is also far and away the game's best hitter -- the New York Times called him the "Babe Ruth of Congress" back in 2015. In 2019, the statheads at ESPN's FiveThirtyEight calculated advanced statistics for all representatives who've played in the game since 2009 and came to the conclusion that Richmond is a combination of two of modern baseball's greatest players. The entire paragraph on Richmond is too good not to put below.

"Rep. Cedric Richmond is such a talent. The Democrat from Louisiana has amassed 2.5 WAR in just eight games. That would work out to 50 WAR in a 162-game season; in other words, Richmond is like Mike Trout combined with Max Scherzer — if Scherzer pitched every single game. Richmond was the starting pitcher for the Dems in all eight games he’s played, finishing seven of them and striking out 25.4 percent of batters. He has a 2.20 ERA and a 35 ERA-minus (i.e., his ERA is 65 percent better than league average). But he is also the best hitter in the game, with a .652/.758/1.087 slash line and the game’s only home run in the past 10 years."

"Wow," Richmond says with a laugh in a phone interview after hearing who he's been compared to. "I think if I was a Major League Baseball player, I don't think I'd make an All-Star Game at any one position. I think I'm more of an All-Star utilityman."

Richmond has been playing all over the diamond since his T-ball days growing up in New Orleans. He played at Goretti Playground, a neighborhood park that breeds baseball talent (he said two of the kids from the area played in the College World Series).

"I grew up literally right across the street from the park," Richmond remembers. "There was enough of us that we'd have sandlot games. We played a lot of baseball."

Richmond went on to star at Benjamin Franklin High School -- winning team MVP of his senior year. He then joined the team at Morehouse College, playing lots of positions, but mostly center field -- the same spot as his two favorite players growing up: Rickey Henderson and Ken Griffey Jr. He also pitched and caught at Morehouse.

"I played every position well. Whatever we needed, I was able to do," Richmond says.

Richmond admits it was, of course, every kid's dream to get drafted to play in the pros, but he had other interests. He wanted to work for the people in his hometown, the kids he grew up with around Goretti Playground. He graduated from Morehouse in 1995, got his J.D. from Tulane School of Law in '98 and began serving in the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2000.

But that didn't mean baseball ever went completely out of the picture. He's a fan -- cheering for whichever team New Orleans native and good friend Ron Washington is coaching for (the current Braves third-base coach was Richmond's guest at President Barack Obama's second inauguration). And since being elected to Congress, Richmond's gotten to play at a big league ballpark nearly every June.

"Yeah, I heard about the [Congressional Baseball Game] when I got to Congress," Richmond says. "Every kid like me always had the dream of playing on a Major League field. Getting a chance to play on the Nationals' field is amazing."

During Richmond's nine seasons (again, he's pitched all but two outs), the Democrats have dominated: They've won eight of the nine games by a combined score of 122 to 37. And they work hard for those wins.

"We'll practice at 7 in the morning for eight or nine weeks leading up to it," Richmond says. "The Republicans practice a little longer, because they need it."

Is there ANY Republican who gives Richmond trouble in the batter's box?

"Kevin Brady," Richmond says. "Republican from Texas. Short, powerful, a pain in the ass to get out."

Richmond has also had some great personal moments -- including striking out 13 and allowing just one hit in his Congressional Baseball Game debut. He's hit an inside-the-park home run. He hit a near out-of-the-park homer off the top of the 382-foot sign. But one of his fondest memories was a blooper trying to cover first.

"There was a play, ball hit to the first baseman," Richmond, who was pitching at the time, says. "I'm running to cover first like I've been taught my whole life. He throws the ball perfectly and I'm looking in the damn stands, in awe of all of these people watching. The ball goes in my glove and drops out."

Unfortunately for the Democrats, with Richmond's move out of Congress and into the White House, he can no longer play in the game. Although Richmond played down his performance over the years, saying he "didn't have to be Hank Aaron or Willie Mays, he was only playing Republicans," his final line is like something out of a video game.

The GOP rejoiced at the news and Democrats knew they were in trouble. Richmond will miss the bipartisan camaraderie of the game -- he was the first one to the hospital when friend and Republican Steve Scalise was shot during a practice back in 2017 -- but as far as his leaving having an impact on the Dems' success, he doesn't worry about it.

"Yes, the Democrats will win," Richmond says. "I’ll help coach. Our talent and baseball IQ will get us through.“