Monday, October 16, 2017

MexPac begins 2017-18 season; 116,306 attend eight openers

Celebration after Culiacan's Josh Fuentes' 14th inning HR
It took a walkoff homer in the bottom of the fourteenth inning, but the Culiacan Tomateros were able to remain one of two Mexican Pacific League teams with perfect 5-and-0 records after nipping Los Mochis, 1-0, Sunday night at Estadio Tomateros.  By the time Josh Fuentes lofted Caneros’ reliever Fabian Cota’s first pitch of the bottom of the 14th over the wall in left-center to end it, the marathon had lasted a total of 395 pitches from 13 pitchers on both teams over 4 hours, 48 minutes.  Fuentes, who hit .307 with 15 homers for the Rockies’ AA Hartford affiliate over the summer, had gone hitless and left seven baserunners stranded in five previous trips to the plate.
Jalisco is the LMP’s other unbeaten team after swamping Obregon, 7-1, in Guadalajara Sunday.  Charros second baseman Manny Rodriguez raised his batting average to .571 after going 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs while scoring twice to support Jalisco starter Tyler Alexander, who spun six innings of three-hit shutout ball for his first win of the winter.
While Culiacan and Jalisco are riding high, Los Mochis and Obregon are at the other end of the spectrum with 0-and-5 records with Navojoa showing just one win thus far.  Obviously no team will never win nor lose all their games, but the Caneros and Yaquis are already five games out of first after the first weekend of the season.  Even if Jalisco sweeps their upcoming midweek series at Los Mochis and Culiacan does the same on the road against defending champion Mexicali, someone’s perfect record would end Friday when the Charros visit the Tomateros in the Sinaloa state capital next weekend.
Attendance was solid throughout the MexPac for the home-and-away openers, as no team drew fewer than 11,000 fans for their respective inaugurals.  Culiacan’s lidlifter against Navojoa on Wednesday attracted 19,912 onlookers to Estadio Tomateros.  Los Mochis’ Thursday opener against Mexicali pulled in the “smallest” crowd at 11,200 but when you consider that Estadio Emilio Almada Ibarra seats 11,000 spectators, it adds a little perspective.  Here are the attendance figures for all eight season openers (an asterisk denotes a sellout):

Tuesday, October 10
Los Mochis at MEXICALI 17,000
Wednesday, October 11
Navojoa at CULIACAN 19,912
Obregon at HERMOSILLO 16,396
Jalisco at MAZATLAN 11,245
Thursday, October 12
Hermosillo at OBREGON 16,500
Mazatlan at JALISCO 12,553
Culiacan at NAVOJOA 11,500
Mexicali at LOS MOCHIS 11,200
TOTAL           116,306
AVERAGE 14,538

As shown, five of the eight openers were sold out, Culiacan came within 100 of reaching Estadio Tomateros’ listed capacity of 20,000 and Jalisco was less than a half-thousand seats shy of a full house.  Mazatlan, which finished last in attendance in 2016-17, came up nearly 3,500 tickets short of a sellout at 15,000-seat Estadio Teodoro Mariscal, which will be getting a major makeover over the coming year.

Culiacan 5-0, Jalisco 5-0, Hermosillo 4-1, Mazatlan 3-2, Mexicali 2-3, Navojoa 1-4, Los Mochis 0-5, Obregon 0-5
Batting-Alejandro Flores (HMO) .722, Runs-Manny Rodriguez (JAL) 8, Homers-Eight players tied with 2 each, RBIs-Manny Rodriguez (JAL) 9, Stolen Bases-Billy Burns (JAL) 4
Wins-Manuel Flores (JAL) and Gerardo Sanchez (CUL) 2, ERA-Six pitchers tied at 0.00 each, Strikeouts-Casey Coleman (HMO) 9, Saves-Four pitchers tied at 2 each, WHIP-Arturo Lopez (OBR) 0.35

As if the Mexican League hasn’t already endured more than its share of controversy over the past year, the LMB is now dealing with an apparently surreptitious transfer of five Quintana Roo Tigres prospects to the Mexico City Diablos Rojos last winter one week prior to the sale of the Tigres to ex-Cy Young Award winner Fernando Valenzuela and his wife Linda Burgos.  Two of those players were subsequently sold to the Texas Rangers for a total of $2.7 million over the summer, but the question of whether the Diablos or Tigres should receive the money has arisen in light of concerns over whether rights to the prospects were traded to the Diablos for nothing in return or whether the Tigres “loaned” the players to Mexico City, a common practice south of the border.
According to a story in Proceso by Beatriz Pereyra, the common denominator is Francisco Minjarez, who processed the paperwork as an assistant general manager with the Tigres at the time.  Minjarez left the Tigres after the February sale and landed in the Diablos’ front office in late March, weeks before 16-year-old pitcher Damien Mendoza and 15-year-old infielder Fernando Villalobos were sold to the Rangers for $1.2 million and $1.5 million, respectively in July.
The Proceso story says the players appeared on a Tigres reserve list in January before reappearing on the Diablos’ reserve list one month later.  The Valenzuelas were never formally informed of either the prospect transfers or the sales to Texas, and the cash-strapped Cancun team has received none of the Texas sale proceeds.  Minjarez told Pereyra in a subsequent interview that the initial transfer was a “gentleman’s agreement” between then-Tigres president Cuauhtemoc Rodriguez (who departed shortly after Carlos Peralta sold the team) and recently-retired Diablos team president Roberto Mansur.
Whether anything comes of the LMB’s investigation depends on new league president Javier Salinas, who was not an insider when he was chosen to replace Plinio Escalante after the 2017 season.  Salinas’ handling of the matter will be closely watched.

The Mexican League has announced the names of players selected to receive individual awards for the 2017 season.  
Third baseman Jesse Castillo of Aguascalientes heads the list as Most Valuable Player after batting .342 with 20 homers and 82 RBIs, ranking in the top ten for each offensive category.
Veracruz starter Nestor Molina was picked as Pitcher of the Year after leading the Rojos del Aguila to a playoff berth with a 12-3 record and Liga-leading 1.89 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.
Monclova closer Chad Gaudin was chosen as Reliever of the Year.  The former A’s starter led the loop with 29 saves to augment his 2.93 ERA and 2-3 record for the Acereros.
Rookie of the Year honors went to 24-year-old Puebla first baseman Ricky Rodriguez, a Los Angeles native who hit .304, socked 11 homers and drove in 72 runs for the Pericos.
Puebla second baseman Jesus Arredondo was tabbed as Comeback Player of the Year with a .332/15/87 statline in 2017 after going .259/5/38 a year ago.
And Aguascalientes helmsman Homar Rojas received acclamation as Manager of the Year for leading the bargain-basement Railroaders roster to a 64-46 record and a playoff berth.
We’ve already gone over what a tough year it was to pick an MVP but if there’s a clear dispute over who earned which award, it may be Gaudin’s selection as Reliever of the Year. While he did standout work with Monclova in 2017, Tijuana’s Jason Urquidez was a perfect 5-0 with 28 saves and a microscopic 0.98 ERA while striking out 56 batters and walking only seven over 46 innings for the pennant-winning Toros.

Note: Baseball Mexico will now be posted on Mondays with three stories per entry.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Mexican Pacific League Directory 2017-18

A Interior, 4 Edificio Las Palmas
Bulevar Solidaridad No. 335
Centro de Negocios
C.P. 83246  Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico
Telephone: (662) 310-9714
Fax: (662) 310-9715
PRESIDENT:  Omar Canizales Soto
GENERAL MANAGER: Christian Veliz Valencia
ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGER: Remigio Valencia Navarro
ACCOUNTING MANAGER: Jorge Luis Rios Valenzuela
DIRECTOR OF UMPIRES: Oscar Marin Calderon

President: Marco Ley Lopez
GM: Mario Valdez
Manager: Benji Gil
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Tomateros (20,000), opened 2015
2016-17 attendance (average): 554,737 (16,316)
First season: 1945
Pennants: Fifteen (1948-49, 1949-50, 1950-51, 1951-52, 1955,56, 1966-67, 1969-70, 1977-78, 1982-83, 1984-85, 1995-96, 1996-97, 2001-02, 2003-04, 2014-15)
2016-17 record: 36-32 (Third, lost to Los Mochis in Semifinals)
Team colors: Red, maroon

President: Enrique Mazon R.
GM: Derek Bryant
Manager: Lorenzo Bundy
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Sonora (16,000), opened 2013
2016-17 attendance (average): 425,514 (12,515)
First season: 1945
Pennants: Nineteen (1946-47, 1955-56, 1956-57, 1960-61, 1961-62, 1964-65, 1970-71, 1974-75, 1975-76, 1979-80, 1981-82, 1989-90, 1991-92, 1993-94, 1994-95, 2000-01, 2006-07, 2009-10, 2013-14)
2016-17 record: 34-34 (Fourth, lost to Mexicali in Semifinals)
Team colors: Orange, black, white

President: Armando Navarro
GM: Gabriel Low
Manager: Tony Tarasco
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio de Beisbol Charros (13,000), opened 2011
2016-17 attendance (average): 294,165 (8,914)
First season: 2014-15
Pennants: None
2016-17 record: 28-39 (Eight, no playoffs)
Team colors: Blue, gold

President: Joaquin Vega Acuna
GM: Joaquin Vega Inzunza
Manager: Luis Sojo
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada (11,000), opened in 1947
2016-17 attendance (average): 228,449 (6,719)
First season: 1947-48
Pennants: Three (1968-69, 1983-84, 2002-03)
2016-17 record: 38-30 (Second, lost to Mexicali in League Championships)
Team colors: Green, yellow, white

President: Jose Antonio Toledo
GM: Jesus “Chino” Valdez
Manager: Daniel Fernandez
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Teodoro Mariscal (14,000), opened in 1962
2016-17 attendance (average): 198,589 (5,851)
First season: 1945
Pennants: Fourteen (1945-46, 1952-53, 1953-54, 1954-55, 1957-58, 1973-74, 1976-77, 1986-87, 1992-93, 1997-98, 2004-05, 2005-06, 2008-09, 2015-16)
2016-17 record: 29-39 (FIfth, lost to Los Mochis in First Round)
Team colors: Red, grey, white

President: Dio Alberto Murillo
GM: David “Chile” Cardenas
Manager: Roberto Vizcarra
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio B’Air (17,000), opened 1976
2016-17 attendance (average): 436,232 (12,830)
First season: 1969-70
Pennants: Five (1970-71, 1985-86, 1988-89, 1998-99, 2016-17)
2016-17 record: 37-31 (Sixth, Defeated Los Mochis for League Championship)
Team colors: Red, blue, white

President: Victor Cuevas Valenzuela
GM: Lauro Villalobos
Manager: Willie Romero
Ballpark (capacity):  Estadio Manuel “Ciclon” Echeverria (11,500), opened 1970
2016-17 attendance (average): 222,478 (6,543)
First season: 1959-60
Pennants: Two (1978-79, 1999-00)
2016-17 record: 39-29 (First, lost to Mexicali in First Round)
Team colors: Yellow, red, white

President: Rene Arturo Rodriguez
GM: Alfonso Lopez
Manager: Miguel Ojeda
Ballpark (capacity): Nuevo Estadio Yaquis (16,000), opened in 2016
2016-17 attendance (average): 265,301 (7,803)
First season: 1948
Pennants: Seven (1965-66, 1972-73, 1980-81, 2007-08, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13)
2016-17 record: 30-37 (Seventh, no playoffs)
Team colors: Navy, green, white

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Aguilas slip past Caneros, 7-6, in MexPac season opener

Mexicali shortstop Walter Ibarra
Walter Ibarra's grand slam keyed a five-run second inning as defending champion Mexicali went on to sneak by visiting Los Mochis, 7-6, Tuesday in a seesaw Mexican Pacific League season opener in front of 17,000 fans in sold-out Estadio B'Air.

The Caneros scored right off the bat in the top of the first when Leandro Castro singled off Aguilas starter Javier Solano to drive in Ramon Urias with the game’s first run before the Eagles flew into a four-run lead in the bottom of the second, with Ibarra’s four-run, four-bagger off Mochis opener Akeem Bostick providing the key blow en route to a 5-1 lead.

Los Mochis closed the gap to 5-3 in the fourth via Sebastian Valle’s two-run homer and another two-run blast by Mitch Walding followed by Valle’s second homer of the night (both off Aguilas reliever Marco Quevedo) two innings later to give the Caneros a 6-5 lead.

Mexicali came back to knot the game up in the bottom of the six after Daniel Castro scored when Yuniesky Betancourt grounded to third for a double play and then took the lead for good in the eighth as C.J. Retherford singled to right to bring Castro in from third to go up, 7-6.  Aguilas manager Roberto Vizcarra sent Ryan Kussmaul in to save the win and Kussmaul responded by retiring Mochis in order with one strikeout in seven pitches.

Reliever Cody Wisniarski got the win for Mexicali after walking the bases loaded in the eighth but escaping without being scored upon.  Manuel Rodriguez was tagged with the loss for the Caneros after allowing Daniel Castro to lead off the eighth with a bunt single, putting the winning run on base.  It was Mochis’ third pitcher of the entrada, D.J. Johnson, who gave up Retherford’s go-ahead single.  Ibarra, Betancourt, Yordanys Linares and Josh Romanski each had two hits for the winners.  Valle finished with his two longballs and three RBIs for the Caneros with Walding walking three times and scoring twice to go with his homer.

The Aguilas and Caneros will take Wednesday night off as the MexPac’s six other teams open their seasons as Jalisco plays at Mazatlan, Navojoa visits Culiacan and Obregon travels to Hermosillo.  Teams will swap venues Friday night to conclude each two-game series.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tucson Mexican Baseball Fiesta: Snapshots

I made it back home to the Pacific Northwest from Tucson Monday night, with a layover in Phoenix where I experienced my first-ever flight delay.  Only a half-hour late, nothing to complain about.  The little bag of mini-pretzels were wonderful.

Since you’ve already waded through four days and thousands of words from the Mexican Baseball Fiesta,  I’ll wrap up BBM’s coverage with 15 pictures taken with a Kodak C-195 during Sunday’s doubleheader.  I’m not a picture-taker by nature and it shows, but I do think they at least give a glimpse of what went on for four days.  One thing you’ll see consistently are smiles.  Lots of them.  These were taken from pregame warmups for the opener between Mexicali and Obregon to the end of the Hermosillo-Los Mochis nightcap.  I’ll just post them in the order they were taken, without captions.  None needed.  It’s Mexican baseball.