Sunday, September 27, 2009
Although Mexicali native David Cortes has pitched in Major League Baseball and in two World Baseball Classics, he’s looking for work in the Mexican Pacific League this winter. The 5’11” righthander, who turns 36 years old next month, apparently won’t be plying his craft in Hermosillo this season.
Naranjeros general manager Juan Aguirre tells the Puro Beisbol website that he thought Cortes was shopping around for offers from Culiacan, Mazatlan and Hermosillo, but that there just won’t be room for him on the Naranjeros staff. “He talked to me,” Aguirre says, “but we have formed our team…He is a player that every team would like to have, but it’s a little late for us because we have our team for the season.”
It would be hard to envision a sport not developing deep roots after spending over a century in a prominent position in any given country, and such is the case with baseball in Mexico, where baseball is known as “El Rey de los Deportes,” or “The King of Sports.” Although soccer has surpassed it in popularity across most of the country, baseball is still beloved among sports fans in Mexico, with its long, proud history there.
At the top of the mountain, the Mexican League is one of just three circuits with Class AAA status in Minor League Baseball, and is coming off a season in which over three million people attended games in the Liga’s 16 cities. Although the Mexican Pacific League is not sanctioned by Minor League Baseball, it is one of the best-organized winter leagues in the world and it’s not unusual for two million fans to click the turnstiles at Mex Pac ballparks, though their eight teams play just 68 games per season prior to its January playoffs. It’s not unusual to see the same people play in both leagues, as Mexico is the only nation anywhere in which pro baseball is played year-round. The top Mexican-born players from the Liga and Mex Pac form the core of Mexico’s National Team in international competition, along with select major leaguers.
The Liga and Mex Pac are not the only professional leagues in Mexico, however. During the spring and summer, the eight-team Northern League in Sonora plays a schedule, while there is a ten-team loop in Veracruz playing during the winter months, but there are also a number of smaller independent circuits in pockets of the country.
The Mexican League also operates a Baseball Academy near Monterrey in which over 100 players live in a 56-room dormitory at a complex which includes four full fields, batting cages, weight room, dining hall, infirmary and study facilities. The Academy is in session between June and December, and many products have gone on to play professionally in Mexico and the United States.
Of course, players don’t just pick up a baseball at age 18. Mexico has a well-developed youth baseball system with thousands of players under the auspices of Little League Baseball and the Mexican Baseball Federation (or FeMeBe). Mexico’s Little League program for kids 12 and under has been a strong presence for several decades, with Mexican teams winning the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania in 1957, 1958 and 1997 and finishing second another three times.
FeMeBe sponsors competition for players between 11 and 16 years of age in three divisions. Traditionally, Mexican baseball is strongest in the northwest states, and 2009 was no different. Sonora won the national title in the Infantil (11-12) Division, Coahuila broke through to won the Pre Junior (13-14) competition, and Sinaloa came in first among Junior (15-16) teams. In particular, Sonora teams had a great year, adding a second-place finish among Junior teams and coming in third in Pre Junior.
While American baseball has its Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Mexican baseball has its Salon de la Fama in Monterrey. Although five people comprised the first class of the Salon in 1939 and another six names were added to the rolls in 1964, it wasn’t until 1971 that a permanent home was built on the grounds of a brewery in Monterrey. Since then, well over 100 players, managers, executives and writers have been elected. Yes, sportswriters are given full membership in the Salon de la Fama as opposed to honorary status in Cooperstown.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
After going 3-0 to sweep Group A pool play in the Czech Republic in mid-September, Mexico has struggled in the second round, winning just two of their first six games. Saturday’s loss came on the heels of Friday’s frustrating 1-0 loss to Taiwan in ten innings.
The Mexicans never led in Saturday’s game, as USA pitchers combined to hold Mexico batters to four hits on the night. The Americans drew first blood when Jon Weber scored on Lucas May’s double. Two innings later, Josh Kroeger scored on Weber’s fielder’s choice grounder in the top of the fourth. The score was stretched to 4-0 one inning later when Daniel Descalso led of the fifth with a homer and Justin Smoak later scored on Terry Tiffee’s two-bagger.
Mexico finally put a run on the board in the bottom of the fifth. Mario Valenzuela led off the inning by reaching first base on an error by USA third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Carlos Valencia came to the plate next and broke up Trevor Reckling’s no-hit bid with a double, scoring Valenzuela. Valencia subsequently plated a run on an Oswaldo Morejon flyout to center field.
The Americans scored once more in the sixth to make it a 5-2 game, and Mexico came back with a counter of their own in the bottom of the frame when Oscar Robles led off with a walk, moved to third on a Cristian Presichi (pictured) double, and came in to score on an Edgar Quintero flyout to left.
Two more runs for the USA in the seventh widened their lead to 7-3, and Mexico was unable to mount a threat the rest of the way as Abel Martinez grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.
Reckling won his second game of the tournament for the Americans, going five-plus innings and combining with four relievers on the four-hitter. Andres Meza took the loss for Mexico but giving up four runs on six hits and a walk in 4-2 innings. Nobody in the Mexican lineup got more than one hit. Although Mexico has cooled considerably at the plate their last wo games, Presichi has continued to smoke the ball. He's batting a team-best .448 with 13 hits for through eight World Cup games.
Mexico will wrap up its appearance in the World Cup Sunday against Australia
In that one, both teams combined for just eight hits and the score was 0-0 going into the bottom of the tenth inning. Reliever Arturo Lopez was pulled with the bases loaded and one out in the tenth, and a wild pitch by incoming hurler Hector Navarro brought in the game-ending run by Chia-Hao Chang, who was the only Taiwanese baserunner to get past second base to that point. Mexican starter Oscar Rivera went 6.1 shutout innings, striking out 11 batters and allowing four hits. Lopez tossed 2.2 frames and gave up just one scratch single. Navarro shouldn’t bear all the blame for Mexico’s loss, though. The Grande Verde had runners in scoring position no less than four times, including a bases-loaded situation in the top of the tenth.
The second round started off with a thud last Sunday, as Japan beat Mexico, 9-3, in Parma. The game was tied 3-3 in the sixth inning before the Japanese reeled off six unanswered runs the rest of the way for the win. Cristian Presichi and Sergio Contreras each had two hits for Mexico, but Edgar Quintero was held hitless one day after exploding with a 5-for-5 day a the plate in a first-round win over Australia.
Mexico came back Monday with a 6-3 win over host nation Italy in Bologna. Centerfielder Ivan Terrazas led the way with three hits (including a homer), scoring two runs and collecting three RBIs. Shortstop Oscar Robles added three hits and two walks in five plate appearances. Arturo Lopez got the win in relief.
After rain washed out Tuesday’s action, Mexico fell to Canada, 4-2, Wednesday in Godo. Saul Soto whacked a two-run homer in the eighth inning, but it came too late as the Canadians had built up a 4-0 lead by then. Canada starter Nic Bucci was solid, holding Mexico scoreless on four hits before being relieved with one out in the fifth inning. Rafael Diaz took the loss for Mexico.
On Thursday, Mexico survived an upset bid by the Netherlands Antilles, who took an early 6-0 lead before succumbing to the Mexicans, 9-8, in San Marino. Mexico chipped away at their deficit with a solo homer from Edgar Quintero in the second inning, three runs in the fourth, and a big five-run sixth inning as Abel Martinez singled in two runs and Cristian Presichi doubled in two more to put Mexico in front, 9-7. Hugo Castellanos earned the win with 4.1 solid innings in relief of starter Francisco Cordoba.
Mexico was to wrap up the second round with games against the USA Saturday and Australia Sunday. Both are must-win games, as only the top four teams in Pool G will advance to the third and final round. The USA leads at 4-0, Australia and Taiwan are tied for second at 4-1, and Canada in fourth at 3-2. Mexico stands fifth at 2-3.
Puebla pitcher Andres Meza was named Pitcher of the Year. The 23-year-old Meza led the Liga with 15 wins, finishing 15-2 with a 2.72 ERA and two shutouts over 125.2 innings pitched. The Culiacan native debuted with the Pericos in 2007.
Quintana Roo closer Scott Chiasson was named Reliever of the Year. The Norwich, Connecticut product helped lift the Tigres to the LMB Championship Series with a league-high 34 saves, ending the year with a 4-2 record and 2.61 ERA.
Japhet Amador was named Rookie Player of the Year after splitting his first season between Minatitlan and Veracruz. The 22-year-old infielder batted .306 with 21 homers and 74 RBIs in 106 games for the Petroleros and Aguilas.
Mexico City pitcher Juan Pablo Oramos was selected Rookie Pitcher of the Year after going 9-1 for the Diablos and tying Campeche ace Francisco Campos for the ERA title at 2.31. A 19-year-old lefty, Oramos is a Tabasco native.
Monclova led the LMB with 430,059 turnstile clicks, or an average of 8,114 per game over 53 openings. Reynosa welcomed back Mexican League baseball after the Tijuana franchise was shifted there last winter by bringing in 6,556 people per night for a total of 334,369. Laguna was third on the list with 300,722 fans, averaging 6,014.
At the other end of the spectrum, Minatitlan and Tabasco were the only two teams to fail to draw 100,000 fans. The Petroleros pulled in 91,746 for the season, averaging 1,872 fanaticos per outing. Things were worse in Tabasco, where the Olmecas brought in just 60,312 people to the ballpark in Villahermosa to finish last among all Class AAA teams with an average of 1,256 per date.
Agustin Murillo will be given his MVP trophy after hitting .345 with 11 homers and 47 RBIs for Obregon last winter, while Ismael Castillo of Los Mochis will get his Pitcher of the Year award after winning the ERA title with a 2.86 figure in 72.1 innings. Mazatlan manager Lorenzo Bundy will be honored after leading the Venados to the pennant and a second-place finish in the Caribbean Series.
Other awards will go to Mazatlan general manager Jesus “Chino” Valdez as Executive of the Year, the Venados’ Christian Quintero for winning the batting title by hitting .357 last season, and Guasave pitcher Daniel Guerrero gets Rookie of the Year honors after going 4-2 with a 3.28 ERA.,
The evening will also feature a tribute to Mazatlan team president Jose Luis Martinez, who oversees one of the most well-run franchises in winter baseball.
In 1945, a group of baseball aficionados led by Teodoro Mariscal of Mazatlan formed what was then known as the Liga del Costa del Pacifico, or Pacific Coast League. The LCP began with four teams: The Maztlan Venados, Hermosillo Queliteros, Guaymas Ostioneros and Culiacan Tecuarineros. Mariscal served as league president the first season, and the first games were held the weekend of October 27-28, 1945. Alejandro “Fray Nano” Reyes, the founder of the Mexican League, threw out the ceremonial first pitch in Culiacan.
Mazatlan won the first Coast League pennant with a 30-24 record. The LCP was considered a success, and it expanded to six teams in 1947 with the addition of Los Mochis and Obregon. Although there would be occasional shifting around of franchises, the league stuck with a six-team lineup for years. The Pacific Coast League lasted through the 1957-58 season, and became a popular destination among American players and Negro League veterans for winter ball experience.
However, the league underwent an overhaul.before the 1958-59 season, changing it’s name to Sonora Winter League and cutting back to four teams: the Hermosillo Naranjeros, Guaymas Ostioneros, Obregon Rojos and Empalme Rieleros. This is considered the beginning of the modern era of what is now the MexPac. When the Culiacan Tomateros and Mazatlan Venados were brought into the circuit in 1965, the league was again renamed to Sonora-Sinaloa League. The league finally settled on its current name of Mexican Pacific League in 1970 when the Confederation of Caribbean Baseball (or COPABE) requested a name change as a prerequisite to admitting Mexico into the Caribbean Series, which was being revived that winter after an absence of ten years following the demise of Cuba’s winter pro baseball with the rise of Fidel Castro and communism.
While the Mexican Pacific League is not officially recognized by Minor League Baseball, it is probably a stronger organization than a number of circuits north of the border. Almost all eight MexPac teams average more than 5,000 fans per opening over their 68-game schedules, and the level of play is comparable to Class AAA ball as team rosters feature a mix of Mexican League veterans and top prospects from Major League Baseball organizations, although MLB teams are not sending as many young players to spend their winters in Mexico or other Caribbean leagues because of the growth of offseason programs in their spring training complexes in Florida and Arizona.
Over the five decades of winterball in Mexico, Hermosillo teams have won 16 pennants since 1947, while Mazatlan and Culiacan have both won 14 titles. The MexPac has enjoyed limited success in the Caribbean Series, winning just five championships since 1970, most recently Mazatlan’s remarkable champions of 2005. That year, the Venados lost their first-round LMP playoff series, but advanced to the semifinals as the so-called “lucky loser” team with the best record in defeat. They then went on the win the MexPac title and took the Caribbean Series held that February at home in Mazatlan. It remains one of Mexican baseball’s greatest comeback stories.
NEXT WEEK: Mexican Baseball History 4: The Modern Era
One wild pitch undid a superb pitching effort by Oscar Rivera (pictured) and Arturo Lopez as Mexico lost a 1-0 Baseball World Cup game to Taiwan in ten innings Friday at Verona, Italy. The defeat left the Mexicans with a 2-3 record in second round pool play, while Taiwan moved to 4-1.
The game was a pitcher’s battle all the way, as the two teams combined for just eight hits over ten frames. Taiwan starter Yen-Feng Lin was especially sharp, allowing just three hits over nine innings. Rivera matched zeroes with Lin for 6.1 innings, letting up just four Taiwan singles with one walk while striking out 11 matters. Lopez came on with one out in the seventh and allowed one single and no runs in 2.2 innings.
Lopez was pulled with one out in the bottom of the tenth with the bases loaded, although the online account on the BWC website was muddled as to how that happened. Hector Navarro, who has pitched effectively in relief in Europe, was brought in from the bullpen to face Kuo-Min Lin. Navarro’s first pitch was wild, however, bringing in pinch-runner Chia-Hao Chang with the game-ending run. Chang was the first Taiwanese runner to get past second base the entire game.
Navarro can’t be held solely responsible for Mexico’s bitterly disappointing loss because the Verde Grande had no less than four opportunities to score despite gathering only three hits for the contest.
Edgar Quintero sliced a one-out double to left field in the fifth and advanced to third on Carlos Valencia’s 5-3 groundout, but Ivan Terrazas dinked a tapper to the first baseman, who tossed the ball to pitcher Lin (one of seven players with that surname on the field for Taiwan) for the third and final out.
Then, in the seventh, Cristian Presichi opened the inning with a double. Presichi stayed on second when Jesus Cota flew out to left, but advanced to third when Saul Soto fouled out to right. Quintero then struck out on five pitches to end the threat.
In the ninth, Eduardo Arredondo led off with a walk, then advanced to second on an Oscar Robles groundout. Presichi walked to give Mexico two baserunners with one out. However, Cota lined out to left for the second out as both runners held, and Soto bounced into a 4-6 fielder’s choice as Presichi was cut down at second.
Finally, facing reliever Yu-Ching Lin, the Mexicans gave it one last shot in the top of the tenth. With two out and the bases loaded, Cota went down swinging on four pitches to end the rally with Terrazas standing ninety feet away from paydirt at third.
Mexico will face the 4-0 United States on Saturday in Vicenzo, Italy.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
This one started ugly for the Mexicans as the Antilles scored five runs in the top of the first inning, keyed by an Ulrich Snijders grand slam homer off starter Francisco Cordoba. The Antilles added another run in the second off an Ardley Jansen RBI single to make it 6-0, spelling the end of Cordoba’s night (although only two of the runs he allowed were earned, as Mexico committed two errors in the field behind him). Hugo Castellanos (pictured) came out of the bullpen to get the third out, but the Verde Grande found themselves in a deep, early hole to dig out of. And dig they did.
Edgar Quintero put Mexico on the board with a solo homer in the bottom of the second, but they really started to chip away at the lead with a three-run fourth. Cristian Presichi opened the inning with a double and scored on Jesus Cota’s single. Cota then came in on three consecutive walks given up by Dutch Antilles Johannes Gregorius. Still with nobody out, Christian Quintero plated a run on a Noe Munoz double-play grounder to second to put the score at 6-4.
The Dutch Antilles went back up by three when Castellanos coughed up a leadoff homer to Lorvin Louisa in the top of the fifth, but Mexico came storming back one inning later with five big runs in the sixth to take a 9-7 lead. Abel Martinez singled in two runs and Presichi doubled in two more to put the Mexicans ahead for the first time in the game before Cota capped the outburst with a run-scoring single.
The Dutch Antilles did not go quietly into the good night, scoring once more in the top of the seventh on a Dijonny Joubert RBI single off Juan Quintanilla, but Quintanilla got out of the inning without any further damage, leaving it to Alan Guerrero and Hector Navarro to close out a win that ended up being a lot closer than anyone thought it would be.
Presichi and Cota each went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, while Martinez finished with two hits and two ribbies. Castellanos picked up the win in relief by pitching 4.1 innings and letting in two runs on three hits. Navarro was awarded the save by tossing a scoreless ninth inning.
Mexico will not have much time to breathe a collective sigh of relief. They’ll face Taiwan Friday night in Verona. Taiwan is 3-1 in Pool G competition after taking a fierce 14-3 pounding Thursday at the hands of the 4-0 United States in a game that was halted after seven innings by the mercy rule. Mexico defeated Taiwan, 8-0, in the opening first round game September 9 in Prague.
Right now, however, that seems like a long time ago.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The Canadians jumped out to the lead in the top of the first inning when Adam Stern scored from third base on Brett Lawrie’s flyout to right field. One out later, Tim Smith singled through the right side of the Mexican infield to plate Rene Tosoni with another counter, making the score 2-0. Canada scored single runs in the fourth and sixth innings, both on Shawn Bowman RBI singles in both innings, but the real story in this game was starting pitcher Nic Bucci (pictured).
The 2008 Milwaukee Brewers draft pick out of Sarnia, Ontario held Mexico scoreless on four hits while striking out five before being pulled with one out in the fifth inning. Although reliever Trystan Magnuson was awarded the win after pitching 1.2 hitless frames, it was Bucci who kept the Mexican batters at bay while his offense mounted enough runs to take a 4-0 advantage into the bottom of the sixth.
Soto finally broke the spell by clobbering a 3-1 pitch from Vince Perkins over the wall after Jesus Cota opened the eighth with a single up the middle and then advanced on Perkins’ wild pitch to Soto. However, that was the most life Mexico was to show at the plate for the night as Cristian Presichi, Edgar Quintero and Sergio Contreras all grounded out to finish the inning. With two out in the ninth, the Mexicans stayed alive when Ivan Terrazas singled and Oscar Robles walked, but pitcher Robert Swindle got Cota to strike out swinging to end the ballgame.
Starter Rafael Diaz took the loss after struggling over 5.2 innings, allowing all four Canadian runs on eight hits, a walk and a wild pitch. Four relievers combined to hold Canada scoreless on just one scratch single the rest of the way, but Mexico wasn’t able to capitalize on the strong work from the bullpen.
Mexico will take a 1-2 second round record into Thursday’s scheduled Pool G game in San Marino against the Netherlands Antilles, who have allowed 30 runs over two losses. Taiwan and the USA are tied for the Pool G lead at 3-0, Puerto Rico is third at 2-1, and Mexico, Canada and Japan are all 1-2.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Mexico ran its run-scoring margin to 22-0 over the first three games by building a 5-0 lead before the Australians scored a run in the third. The Mexicans were cruising along with an 8-2 lead before the Aussies exploded for five sixth-inning runs, and though Mexico posted a run in the top of the eighth, Australia pushed two across against reliever Alan Guerrero to knot the score at 9-9, setting the stage for the fateful ninth inning. Hector Navarro then held the Aussies scoreless to notch the save. Guerrero got the win despite his shaky performance.
Mexico finished with a perfect 3-0 record in Pool A to advance to the second round, beginning with a game against Japan Sunday in Parma, Italy.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Starter Francisco Cordova (pictured) struck out nine Czech batsmen in six innings for the win, while Jaciel Acosta and Alan Guerrero combined to pitch three hitless innings as Mexican pitchers racked up 15 strikeouts and allowed just three hits and walked two.
Mexico broke open a scoreless tie with four runs in the bottom of the third inning as Sergio Contreras blasted a three-run homer to center field off Czech starter Martin Schneider. The Mexican put three more tallies on the scoreboard in the fifth when Edgar Quintero sent his second homer in as many games off Schneider over the right field wall to make it 7-0. Schneider absorbed the loss for the Czechs by allowing seven runs in five innings. The longball brought in two more runs one inning later when Ivan Terrazas conked a two-run homer to center field to end the scoring for the game.
Mexico will finish pool play Saturday with a game against Australia.
Mexico scored their first run on a groundout as Carlos Valencia’s bases-loaded fielder’s choice dribbler to short in the second brought Saul Soto in from third to put the Verde Grande up 1-0, but that was no indication of what lay ahead. Cota powered a two-out solo homer to right field in the third to make it 2-0, drilled another roundtripper to right in the sixth to put the score at 3-0, and then bashed a three-run bomb to key a five-run seventh inning outburst to give the Mexicans a 7-0 advantage. Edgar Quintero followed Cota with a rocket shot of his own to center to bring it to 8-0.
Starter Rafael Diaz, a teammate of Cota’s in Saltillo, tossed six scoreless innings for the win, allowing six hits and two walks for Mexico.
Cesar led the Liga in four offensive categories, including a .380 batting average, 156 hits, 36 doubles and 40 stolen bases. He also scored 92 runs, third in the circuit, and had the season’s longest hitting streak by batting safely in 32 consecutive games between April 5 and May 19.
The 32-year-old Dominican finished the regular season by grabbing the lead in the batting race in the final week of the campaign, hitting .385 for the Vaqueros. He was a key component in Laguna’s first playoff appearance in five seasons as the Cowboys advanced to the Northern Zone finals by surprising the Mexico City Diablos in the first round.
Cesar debuted in the LMB with Veracruz in 2003, and has hit .300 or better five of his six full seasons in the summer circuit.
MexPac president Omar Canizales announced a deal Thursday that will bring winter league games into homes throughout 23 of Mexico’s 31 states on the Megacable television company. Megacable has more than 1.5 million subscribers in 178 cities across the county, with over 4.000 employees on the company’s payroll.
Canizales said, “This is a strategic agreement because we want to spread our league not only in Sinaloa, Sonora and Baja California, which is our natural market, but also the entire country so we can be in the 23 states where we have fans with the cable systems that exist in this company.”
Megacable will negotiate to broadcast all four LMP games per day during the season to a varying area and audience, including at least one “stellar play” game sent out on a nationwide basis.
Brown was the Royals first round draft pick (14th overall) in 1996, and he debuted with Kansas City two years later. Since then the left-handed batter has played all or part of eight major league seasons with the Royals and Athletics. His best year was in 2001, when he hit .245 with seven homers and 40 RBIs in 106 games for Kansas City. Overall, he’s batted .233 with 14 homers and 89 ribbies in 271 big league games.
Brown spent this summer with the Dodgers’ AAA affiliate in Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League, batting .290 with 19 homers and 80 RBIs in 121 games.
The Tomateros also added 28-year-old shortstop Mike McCoy to their roster. McCoy hit .307 with 40 steals and 102 runs for Colorado Springs in the PCL this year before being called up to Colorado of the National League last Tuesday.
However, two things saved pro baseball in Mexico: Most important was the infusion of new ownership of teams in the Mexican League, bringing new capital and ideas. The reformed Liga then made peace with the Major Leagues and Organized Baseball, who had severed relations with the “outlaw” league after Pasquel’s concerted player raids in 1946 raised salaries across the border when American teams were forced to pay better to keep their players. The “new” Mexican League officially became a Class AA minor league, ending the ten-year war.
Among the new owners, the most notable was Alejo Peralta, who began the Mexico City Tigres in 1955. Peralta was similar to Pasquel in that he was a very wealthy man, but there was a vast difference between the two men in the kinds of teams they built. Where Pasquel tried to recruit top players from America to Veracruz, Peralta insisted that the Tigres’ roster consist entirely of Mexican players. Pasquel wanted to build a dynasty, period, but Peralta wanted to prove Mexicans could be great ballplayers without foreign help. Peralta’s Tigres went on to win six Liga pennants through 1997 (the year he died at age 80), he personally started two minor leagues and supported another, and served as LMB commissioner for many years. He is arguably the most important man in Mexican baseball history.
The solidified Mexican League then entered a period of relative stability for several years, although (as now) a number of teams came and went. Mexico City was shared for decades by the Tigres and Diablos Rojos until the Tigres finally left town and began an odyssey that has seen them end up in Cancun, former home of the Langosteros franchise which was displaced after severe hurricanes in 2006 caused severe damage to the ballpark there. Other long-standing teams over the years have been the Veracruz Aguilas, Monterrey Sultanes, Yucatan Leones, Campeche Piratas and the Saltillo Saraperos.
Ironically, before Saltillo won the pennant in 2009, the only other time the Saraperos claimed the flag in their 40-year history was in the strike-interrupted season of 1980. That year, the Liga season began as normal in March amid growing calls among Mexican players for higher wages and allegations of preferential treatment for imported players from the United States. Finally, the domestic players walked off the job in July and eventually formed their own league of striking players in various Mexican cities. Although the Liga tried to fill with void with strikebreaking players, the remainder of the 1980 was a disaster, with no playoffs held. Although Saltillo was awarded the Mexican League “pennant because the Saraperos had the best record when play halted, many historians do not recognize the championship as legitimate.
Although the Mexican League is now considered Class AAA by Minor League Baseball, it is unlike any other circuit in that all Liga teams are independent. It perhaps bears the closest resemblance to the old-time minor leagues among all current members of Organized Baseball.
At present, the Mexican League has 16 teams in two divisions, with a 110-game regular season running between March and July, followed by playoffs throughout August.
NEXT WEEK: MEXICAN BASEBALL HISTORY 3: The Mexican Pacific League
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Liga champion Saltillo sent catcher Noe Munoz, infielder Jesus Cota, outfielder Cristian Presichi and pitcher Rafael Diaz to the Czech Republic, while the runners-up Quintana Roo Tigres are being represented by infielder Abel Martinez, outfielder Sergio Contreras and pitcher Francisco Cordova. Cota drilled homers in four consecutive games in the finals, while Martinez battled through injury to lead both teams with a .472 batting average.
Other notable players on the Mexican roster are Monterrey outfielder Edgar Quintero, who finished second among Liga batters with a .378 average, Monclova catcher Saul Soto, who was third at. 370 while coming in second in the LMB with 28 homers, co-ERA leaders Francisco Campos of Campeche and Mexico City’s Juan Oramos, who both ended at 2.31, and wins leader Andres Meza of Puebla, who had 15 victories in 2009 for the Pericos. Enrique “Che” Reyes of Veracruz is Mexico’s manager.
Mexico will play Taiwan, the host Czech Republic and Australia in Group A play, beginning with a contest against Taiwan next Thursday in Prague.
Mexico was trailing 4-3 in the sixth until, with a large contingent of fans from Reynosa chanting “Si, se puede!” (or “Yes, we can!”), Raymundo Berrones crushed a two-run homer over the center field wall to give his team a 5-4 lead. Reliever Jorge Maldonado held San Antonio scoreless in the bottom of the sixth to seal the deal.
The Mexicans advanced to the International finals undefeated, but fell to Taiwan, 9-4, last Saturday. Reynosa catcher Luis Suarez was 3-for-3 at the plate with two runs scored, but Mexico was unable to overcome their six errors in the field as six of Taiwan’s runs were unearned. The Taiwanese went on to lose the title game, 6-3, to Chula Vista, California.
The 25-year-old, known as “The Mexicutioner” to Kansas City fans, has gone two innings to nail down saves four times for the Royals, including a 45-pitch outing last Tuesday night in KC’s 4-3 win in Oakland. “He’s done that for us a few times this year,” said acting Royals manager John Gibbons. “Like one of those old-time closers.”
Soria had not pitched for eight games prior to entering last Tuesday’s game in the eighth, then struck out four consecutive batters en route to nailing down the rare win for the Royals, who have the worst record in the American League at 51-82. Soria is now 3-2 with 21 saves and a 2.83 ERA in 2009, and has 80 career saves since 2007.
The 6’3” righthander is no stranger to pitching extended innings, dominating the Mexican Pacific League as a starter in 2006-07 for Obregon before the Royals took him with the first selection of the 2007 Rule V draft.
Baseball was played on a somewhat haphazard basis in Mexico through the first two decades of the 20th Century. The game grew steadily as American teams would cross the border to play ball against local nines of Mexican players, and clubs began springing up here and there across the country in a southward spread. The 1906 World Series champion Chicago White Sox were the first major league team to visit Mexico. As the 1920’s opened, baseball was becoming the most popular sport in the country, but there was no formal high-level professional league until a sportswriter and baseball manager put their heads together in 1925 to form what is now the Mexican League.
Alejandro Aguilar Reyes, better known as “Fray Nano” to readers of La Aficion, was a 23-year-old cronista when he joined with manager Ernesto Carmona to form the six-team Mexican League. Fray Nano was league president for two years before becoming LMB Commissioner from 1927 through 1942. While Fray Nano handled much of the new Liga’s organizing and publicity, the well-connected Carmona was able to bring many of Mexico’s best players into the LMB (along with another respected baseball man, Homobono Marquez, who ran the powerful Aztec club).
The early-day Mexican League was centered almost exclusively in Mexico City, with representation in nearby cities such as Veracruz and Puebla. Teams were usually named after sponsors, like modern clubs in Asian leagues, and it wasn’t until the late 1930’s that most teams represented cities instead of businesses in Mexico.
The Mexican League in the 1940’s was dominated by Jorge Pasquel. The 33-year-old Pasquel was a very wealthy man who entered the Liga in 1940 with his Veracruz Azules and eventually took over running the entire circuit. Pasquel was willing to spend money, and by the mid-40’s offered contracts to such major league players as Ted Williams, Bob Feller and Phil Rizzuto for far more than they were earning in the United States. While he fell short of bringing in the biggest names, Pasquel did induce Sal Maglie, Max Lanier and Vern Stephens into signing with the Liga. More important, Pasquel brought such Negro League stars as Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Ray Dandridge and Roy Campanella to Mexico.
However, Pasquel fell short in his dream of achieving parity with the major leagues, and was a bitter man when he left baseball in 1952. He died three years later in a plane wreck at the age of 48, and the Liga nearly died at the same time.