Sunday, September 27, 2009

MEXICO KNOCKED OUT OF BASEBALL WORLD CUP


The Mexican National Team dropped their final three games of the second round at the Baseball World Cup in Italy to be eliminated from third round contention in the tournament.

The Verde Grande followed their heartbreaking 1-0 defeat to Taiwan on Friday, September 18 by losing two more games last weekend to end the second round with a 2-5 record, finishing tied for fifth place with Japan in the Pool G standings. The United States was a perfect 7-0 in the second round, while Australia, Canada and Taiwan tied for second at 5-2. The Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Venezuela advanced to the third round coming out of Pool F. The USA was slated to meet Cuba on Sunday, September 27, for the World Cup title.

Mexico fell to the United States, 7-3, on Saturday, September 19 to be mathematically crossed out. The Mexicans were held to four hits by USA pitchers and never led. The Americans took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Jon Weber scored on Lucas May’s double. Josh Kroeger scored on Weber’s fielder’s choice grounder in the fourth, and the score went to 4-0 one inning later when Daniel Descalso led off the fifth with a homer and Justin Smoak later scored on Terry Tiffee’s two-bagger.

Mexico finally got on the board in the fifth when Carlos Valencia broke up Trevor Reckling’s bid for a no-hitter by doubling in Mario Valenzuela, who led off the frame by reaching first base on an error by USA third baseman Pedro Alvarez, but this game belonged to the Yanquis.

Mexico then wrapped up their World Cup stint Sunday, September 20 with a 6-5 loss to Australia. Unlike Saturday’s game, in which the Mexicans were never really in contention with the Americans, the Big Green fought back from a 6-3 deficit with two runs in the ninth inning and had the tying run on third base with two out. Abel Martinez followed Oswaldo Morejon’s leadoff single by whacking a two-run homer to make it 6-5. Ivan Terrazas then singled, moved to second on Oscar Robles’ groundout and then to third on another groundout by Cristian Presichi. With two out, Noe Munoz was plunked by a Brendan Wise pitch to give Mexico runners at the corners. However, the game ended when Tim Cox came out of the Aussie bullpen and induced Jesus Cota into flying out to former major leaguer Chris Snelling in left field to end the contest.

Mexico finished two rounds of World Cup play with a 5-5 record. Presichi led team batters by hitting .382, tying Cota for the top of the hits list with 13. Cota belted four homers, including three in one game, and led Mexico with eight RBIs. Among pitchers, reliever Arturo Lopez had a 1.12 ERA in eight innings over five appearances and starter Oscar Rivera was sharp, striking out 17 batters in 11.1 innings en route to a 1.59 ERA. Nobody won more than one game as Mexico outscored opponents by a 55-to-47 margin in ten games. Overall, it was a decent showing but with a disappointing ending.

RIVERA SAHPING UP FOR MEX PAC SEASON


If Ruben Rivera struggles at the beginning of the upcoming Mexican Pacific League season, it won’t be because he’s out of condition. The former major league outfielder was hard at work at home getting into shape prior to reporting to the Mazatlan Venados’ training camp. The Panamanian played for Mazatlan’s Mex Pac champions last winter, hitting .296 with five homers and 21 RBIs.

Rivera said he was happy to be back with the Venados for another season, calling last winter “a great experience” and that he is anxious to win another title in Mazatlan. The 35-year-old right-handed batter added that he’d like another shot to play in the majors (where he has not appeared since 2003) or Japan. In 662 games over nine years, Rivera hit .219 with 64 homers and 203 RBIs for his MLB career.

A cousin of New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, Ruben hit .344 and led the Mexican League with 32 homers this summer playing for Campeche.

LIGA GIVES COMEBACK PLAYER, TOP MANAGER AWARDS




The Mexican League announced two more award winners for the 2009 season last week from their office in Mexico City. Puebla skipper Alfonso “Houston” Jimenez was named Manager of the Year, while Mexico City pitcher Roberto Ramirez was given Comeback Player of the Year honors.

A member of the Salon de la Fama as a player, the 51-year-old Jimenez (pictured, left) led the Pericos to a 62-43 record and reached the South Zone Championship Series before losing to Quintana Roo. The former big league shortstop won his 500th game as a Mexican League manager June 6 with a 15-3 clubbing of the Oaxaca Guerreros. 2009 was Jimenez’ first year in Puebla. He’s also managed in Oaxaca, Mexico City and Tijuana, and was a coach for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic last March.

The 37-year-old Ramirez (pictured, right) had a superb regular season for the Diablos Rojos, finishing at 13-4 with a 3.45 ERA to help Mexico City to the regular season title in the North Zone. He was coming off a 2008 season in which he had a 3-4 record and posted a 5.97 ERA in 34.2 innings pitched. Despite winning only seven times between 2007 and 2008, the lefthander from Veracruz has a record of 147-68 for his Mexican League career, and his .684 career won-lost percentage is tops all-time.

CORTES NOT LIKELY TO PITCH IN HERMOSILLO



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.”


Cortes signed with the Atlanta Braves organization in 1996, and made his major league debut in 1999. He later pitched for Cleveland before spending two seasons in Colorado, compiling a career record of 5-1 with a 4.47 ERA. He pitched for Mexico in both the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics, and spent last year in Korea.

MEXICAN BASEBALL HISTORY 4: Mexican Baseball in the 21st Century.



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.