Thursday, November 19, 2009

MAZATLAN CLINCHES FIRST HALF MEX PAC TITLE

The Mazatlan Venados reeled off a seven-game winning streak to clinch the first-half title in the Mexican Pacific League, putting an exclamation point on what has been a dominant season thus far for the defending Mex Pac champions. Mazatlan finished with a 25-10 record to outdistance second-place Mexicali, who ended the primera vuelta four games back at 20-14.

The Venados’ strength lies in their pitching, as their 3.24 team ERA ranks first in the league. Mazatlan pitchers have allowed the fewest runs, hits and walks among the eight Mex Pac teams. While the Deer batters started off slowly and ranked near the bottom of the LMP for much of the first half, the team has surged to second with a .275 average, thanks in no small part to Jon Weber’s (pictured) phenomenal .432 mark since joining the club ten games ago.

The second half, as always, could be an entirely different story as teams load up their rosters for the playoff drive. Hermosillo has activated all-time Mexican great Vinny Castilla, former big leaguer Benji Gil began playing with Guasave last week, and Australian National Team star Chris Snelling (another ex-MLBer) made his debut with Obregon last Tuesday.

ALL-STAR TIME FOR OTHER MEXICAN WINTER CIRCUITS

All three of Mexico’s other professional winter leagues are in All-Star Game mode these days. The Northwest Mexico League, which is centered well south of Mazatlan on the Pacific Coast, held its All-Star Game in Santiago last week, with the North defeating the South by a score of 8-4 as Eloy Gutierrez of Tepic bashed two homers.


While the six-team LBN consists mostly of second- and third-year pros, the Academy Rookie League near Monterrey is a collection of eight complex teams of first-year players. Two different Mexican League clubs assign players to each Academy League team. In their All-Star Game, the North beat the South, 11-7. Laguna property Gilbert Galaviz won MVP honors with three singles and four RBIs for the North.


Finally, the Veracruz Winter League’s All-Star Game will be held this weekend in Los Tuxtlas. The LIV is an independent eight-team circuit featuring a number of familiar names in Mexican baseball, including Sharnol Adriana (pictured), Jayson Bass and Rudy Pemberton (who will all take part in the Home Run Derby). Last week, 2008 Mexican League Triple Crown winner Kit Pellow joined Los Tuxtlas, who ran away with the first half title by winning 22 of 25 games.

A-GON WINS SECOND CONSECUTIVE GOLD GLOVE AWARD

Adrian Gonzalez capped off another standout season with the San Diego Padres by earning his second consecutive Gold Glove as the National League’s best defensive first baseman. Gonzalez committed just seven errors on 1,367 chances at first in 2009. He also put together another solid year at the plate, batting .277 with 40 homers and 99 RBIs. In four seasons with his hometown Padres, the 27-year-old two-time All-Star has stroked 130 homers and driven in an even 400 runs while hitting a cool .286.

Gonzalez has two years left on his contract and has been sought by several teams looking for a trade. He and his wife Betsy are currently spending the month in Europe.

1) MAZATLAN VENADOS (25-10/.714/0.0GB/8.0PTS)

Mazatlan cruised to the Mex Pac’s first half title on the strength of their pitching, but their offense hasn’t been bad, either. Jon Weber is crushing the ball at a .469 clip in 10 games while Rogelios Noris is batting .369 in 15 games, giving the Venados a great tandem in left field. Ruben Rivera has 8 homers and an LMP-best 34 RBIs.

Pablo Ortega is 5-1 and leads the Mex Pac with a 2.09 ERA. When former 20-game winner Esteban Loaiza is your least effective starter at 2-1 and 4.35, you’ve got a good staff. Gabe DeHoyos has 11 saves in 15 outings.

2) MEXICALI AGUILAS (21-14/.600/4.0GB/7.0PTS)

While Mazatlan has won with pitching, Mexicali has done it with hitting. The Aguilas lead the LMP with a .305 team batting average. Roman Pena is second in the league with a .393 mark, and regulars Brad Snyder (.354), Oswaldo Morejon (.333), Matt Camp (.329), Emmanuel Valdez (328) and Adam Morales (.321) are all above .320.

The Aguilas pitching has been mediocre at best. Newcomer Thomas Diamond is 2-0 with an 0.64 ERA after three starts, and although veteran Oscar Rivera is just 2-3, he does have a 3.69 ERA after six starts.

3) HERMOSILLO NARANJEROS (18-16/.529/6.5GB/6.0PTS)

Hermosillo has added former MLB All-Star Vinny Castilla, who hit .467 with 2 homers and 4 RBIs in his first 4 games. Geronimo Gil is hitting .327 while Luis Alfonso Garcia is tied for the LMP lead with 11 homers and ranks second with 31 RBIs, but Australian Trent Oeltgen’s.348 average is parked on the disabled list.

The Naranjeros are second in the LMP with a 3.50 ERA. Starter Juan Delgadillo is 3-2 and has allowed 3 runs in 21.2 innings in his last 4 starts. Closer Dennis Sarfate has 7 saves with no walks in his last 8 appearances.

4) OBREGON YAQUIS (18-17/.514/7.0GB/5.0PTS)

After a slow start for Obregon, John Mayberry Jr. has gone 10-for-21 over his last 5 games to bring his average to an even .300. He’s hit 3 homers in that span. MLB vets Chris Snelling and Erubiel Durazo have joined the Yaquis, but defending Mex Pac MVP Agustin Murillo is hitting just .242 with 2 homers and 8 RBIs in 16 games.

Luis Mendoza is 4-1 with a 3.32 ERA and 40 strikeouts, but has been inconsistent. Bryan Corey’s return this week from a tryout in Japan would help. Closer Mario Mendoza Jr. has 2 wins and 4 saves in his last 10 games.

5) NAVOJOA MAYOS (17-18-0/.486/8.0GB/4.5PTS)

Navojoa is last in the LMP with 21 homers and a .255 batting average, but the Mayos are far from helpless. Matt Young is batting .306 and is second in the league with 13 steals, and Francisco Arias has hit a productive .293. Longtime Mexican infielder Abel Martinez (.226) and Javier Robles (.194) need to pick up the pace, though.

Mayos starters Orlando Lara, Tim Gustafson and Brian Adams have combined for a 7-2 record and each has a sub-4.00 ERA, but the bullpen has struggled. Brett Butts has 5 saves, but his ERA is a toxic 5.40.

6) LOS MOCHIS CANEROS (14-20/.412/10.5GB/4.0PTS)

Sandy Madera of Los Mochis continues to lead the LMP with a .442 batting average and is tied for the top with 11 homers. Saul Soto and Sebastian Valle have alternated catching and DH duties, combining for 19 homers, 42 RBIs and a .305 average. Beyond them, though, the Caneros offense is a mess. Expect lots of walks for the Big 3.

The Mochis pitching is little better. Closer Jorge Vasquez has been rock solid, with 6 saves and a .171 ERA in 19 trips from the pen. Ex-Red Sox pitcher Juan Pena was just brought in, but the Caneros will need more help.

7) GUASAVE ALGODONEROS (13-20/.394/11.0GB/3.5PTS)

Like Mochis, Gusave is an “offensively challenged” team. Unlike the Caneros, the Algodoneros don’t have a Madera, Soto or Valle in the middle of the order. Marshall McDougall has hit .311 with 3 homers and 12 RBIs in 16 games and MLB vet Benji Gil arrived last week. Japhet Amador is batting .364, but rarely seems to get into a game.

The Cotton Pickers pitching situation isn’t as dire. Robert Coello is 2-0 after 6 starts and his 2.70 ERA is fourth in the LMP while 4-1 Jim McGrane’s 3.20 ERA ranks sixth. Closer Tim Lavigne is 0-2, but has 4 saves and a 2.63 ERA.

8) CULIACAN TOMATEROS (11-22/.333/13.0GB/3.0PTS)

Paquin Estrada’s return as manager has not helped Culiacan as much as they'd hoped, as the Tomateros have gone 5-9 since Estrada replaced Nick Leyva. Mike Cervenak is hitting .348 and has combined with Refugio Cervantes for 16 homers and 51 RBIs, while Mike McCoy has a .327 average and leads the LMP with 15 steals.

Chris Waters has gone 3-1 with a 3.98 ERA, and Hector Rodriguez is 1-0 and 2.05 after 4 starts. The Tomateros bullpen isn’t bad, and Jose Silva is now the closer with 2 saves and no runs allowed in 3 appearances.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Results (11-13-09 through 11-19-09)

FRIDAY, November 13
Mazatlan 6, Navojoa 0
MZ-Pablo Ortega 7IP/5H/0R, Brian Bixler 2H/HR, N-Concepcion Rodriguez 2H
Obregon 6, Hermosillo 5
O-Agustin Murillo 4-5, Said Gutierrez 2B/HR/2RBI, H-Geronimo Gil 2-4/HR/2R, Jesus Castillo 2-4/2B/3RBI
Los Mochis 4, Culiacan 3
LM-Salvador Arellano 4IP/1H/0R/4K, Saul Soto 3-3/2HR/3RBI, Sandy Madera 3-4/R, C-Mike McCoy 1-2/R/RBI
Mexicali 10, Guasave 6
MX-Oswaldo Morejon 4-4/R/2RBI, Matt Camp 3-4/2B/3R, G-Jose Rodriguez 2-5/HR/3RBI, Eduardo Arredondo 3-5/2B

SATURDAY, November 14
Mazatlan 3, Navojoa 2
MZ-Walter Silva 5IP/2R. Christian Quintero 2-4/R/RBI, N-Alejandro Garrido 5IP/1ER, Raul Lopez 2-4/RBI
Obregon 8, Hermosillo 0
O-John Mayberry Jr. 4-5/2B/3RBI, Mauricio Lara 4.2IP/0R/4H, H-Vinny Castilla 3-4/2B, Carlos Gastelum 2-3
Culiacan 4, Los Mochis 3
C-Mike Cervenak 2-4/R/RBI, Andres Meza 6IP/2R/4H, LM-Edgar Quintero 2-4/HR, Sandy Madera 2-4/R
Mexicali 8, Guasave 4
MX-Oscar Rivera 6IP/0R/1H, Roman Pena 2-4/3B/2R/2RBI, G-Eduardo Arredondo 2-5, Cristian Presichi 2B/RBI

SUNDAY, November 15
Mazatlan 3, Navojoa 2
MZ-Hector Garanzuay 2-3/2-2B/R, Ehren Wassermann 5IP/1ER/3H, N-Concepcion Rodriguez 2-4/2B/R
Hermosillo 4, Obregon 3
N-Luis Alfonso Garcia GHSR, Juan Delgadillo 7.2IP/0R/6H, O-Luis Mendoza 7IP/0R/2H, John Mayberry Jr. 2-4/HR/2RBI
Culiacan 5, Los Mochis 2
C-Refugio Cervantes 2RHR, Hector Rodriguez 5.2IP/1R/3H/5K, LM-Saul Soto 2-3/2-2B/RBI, Sandy Madera 2-4/R
Guasave 9, Mexicali 5
G-Francisco Mendez 3-4/HR/2R/4RBI, Benji Gil 2-4/RBI, MX-Brad Snyder 2-2/HR/3RBI, Oswaldo Morejon 3-5/R/RBI

TUESDAY, November 17
Mexicali 12, Navojoa 1
MX-Roman Pena 4-4/2B/3B/2HRs/4RBI, Noe Munoz 3-4/2HRs/3R/4RBI, Thomas Diamond 6IP/1R/2H, N-Matt Young 2-4/HR
Culiacan 4, Obregon 2
C-Luis Cruz 3-4/2-2B/2RBI, Salvador Valdez 3.1IP/0R/1H/6K, O-Chris Snelling 2RHR, James Tomlin 2-4.
Mazatlan 8, Guasave 6
MZ-Freddy Sandoval 2-5/2B/HR/3RBI, Jon Weber 3-4/HR/2R, G-Marshall McDougall 3RHR, Gabriel Gutierrez HR
Hermosillo 4, Los Mochis 3
H-Vinny Castilla 2-5/2RHR, Francisco Campos 6IP/0R/5H/5K, LM-Ivan Terrazas 2B/R, Salvador Arellano 4.2IP/1R/3K

WEDNESDAY, November 18
Mexicali 13, Navojoa 6
MX-Adam Rosales 5-6/2B/2R, Oscar Robles 3-5/2R/3RBI, N-Adan Munoz 1-2/2RHR/3R, Francisco Arias 4-5/2RBI
Obregon 5, Culiacan 4
O-John Mayberry Jr. GWHR-B9, Carlos Valencia HR, C-Refugio Cervantes 2B/R/RBI, Jesus Cota 2-4/RBI
Mazatlan 10, Guasave 9
MZ-Jon Weber 4-5/HR/2R/2RBI, Christian Quintero 3-5/2R, G-Marshall McDougall 2-4/2B/2RHR/4RBI
Los Mochis 8, Hermosillo 3
LM-Omar De La Torre 3-4/2RHR/4RBI, Sandy Madera 2-3/HR/2R/2RBI, H-Vinny Castilla 2RHR, Carlos Gastelum 2-4/2-2B

THURSDAY, November 19
Mexicali 4, Navojoa 1
MX-Calvin Medlock 5IP/0R/3H/5K, Brad Snyder 3-4/2B/3B/R/3RBI, N-Tim Gustafson 8IP/3R/7K, Matt Young 1-3/SB/R
Obregon 5, Culiacan 4
O-James Tomlin HR/3BB/2R, Said Gutierrez 2-3/R/RBI, C-Damian Moss 5IP/1R/3H/6BB, Mike McCoy 2-4/2B/3B/R/RBI
Guasave 8, Mazatlan 7
G-Jose Rodriguez 4-5/HR/2R/3RBI, Japhet Amador 3-5/3-2B/RBI, MZ-Brian Bixler 2-4/HR/2RBI, Ruben Rivera 2RHR
Hermosillo 11, Los Mochis 7
H-Fernando Villalobos 4IP/1R/2H, Humberto Cota 2-3/2B/2R/2RBI, LM-Omar De La Torre 2-4/HR/2R/RBI, Sebastian Valle 2-2/HR

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE SCHEDULE
NOV. 20-22 Guasave @ Los Mochis, Obregon @ Navojoa, Culiacan @ Mazatlan, Hermosillo @ Mexicali
NOV. 24-26 Los Mochis @ Obregon, Mazatlan @ Hermosillo, Mexicali @ Culiacan, Navojoa @ Guasave
NOV. 27-29
Obregon @ Guasave, Los Mochis @ Navojoa, Culiacan @ Hermosillo, Mazatlan @ Mexicali

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #8): Mexicali, Baja California Norte



We’ll finish the Mexican Pacific League portion of our Road Trip by heading north from Hermosillo towards Arizona on Highway 15 until turning left at a fork that puts us on Highway 2. We’ll follow Highway 2 through Caborca and come right up to the Mexico-Arizona border at the town of Sonoyta, then head west along the border through a natural reserve and the city of San Luis Rio Colorado before crossing into the state of Baja California Norte and stopping in Mexicali, a city of 575,000 on Mexico’s border with California.

Historically, Mexicali is a fairly “recent” city, developed as a center for area farmers 100 years ago. After becoming the capital of Baja California Norte in 1915, it grew as a place for North Americans to engage in illicit activity as the 20th Century progressed (like many border towns). The economy expanded further as foreign companies established maquiladoro factories in Mexicali. Maquiladoros are common in Mexican cities along the USA border, and are built primarily by North American companies who seek to take advantage of Mexico’s lower labor costs while having close access to the USA market. Maquiladoros account for much of Mexicali’s burgeoning population. Across the border lies Mexicali’s twin city of Calexico, California. Both share a 24-hour border crossing.

While Mexicali is not the tourist draw Tijuana has become to the west, there are still local points of interest. It has the Mexico’s largest Chinatown (La Chinesca), and there are a large number of shops and restaurants in a triangular area near the border. In the former state governor’s mansion on Avenida Alvaro Obregon lies the Galeria de la Ciudad, which hosts art works from many Mexican artists. Mexicali is also home to the University of Baja California, which features a regional museum featuring exhibits of paleontology, archeology, ethnography, landscape photography and missions of Baja California. The annual Fiesta del Sol in October is one of the year’s highlights. Still, Mexicali is not a textbook example of a traveler’s paradise. It is very hot during the summer, gets below freezing during the night in winter, and in general is not tourist-oriented despite being one of the most prominent border crossings between the USA and Mexico. Millions of people have passed through Calexico and Mexicali, but few of them have stayed overnight.

Mexicali’s baseball team is called the Aguilas, or Eagles. The Aguilas were formed in 1976, and are in their 34th winter in the MexPac, having won three LMP pennants and a Caribbean Series championship in 1986 under legendary manager Ben “Cananea” Reyes. Their home stadium, Estadio Casas GEO seats 15,000 fans around a symmetrical field measuring 330 feet down the foul lines and 400 feet to straightaway center. Mexicali hosted the 2009 Caribbean Series, becoming the northernmost venue in which the tournament has ever been held.


NEXT WEEK (Stop #9): Chihuahua, Chihuahua