Friday, September 30, 2011

MEXICAN LEAGUE HANDS OUT GOLD GLOVES

The Mexican League has given out its Gold Glove awards for the 2011 season, with two players each from the champion Quintana Roo Tigres and Veracruz Aguilas earning notice for their fielding.

Second baseman Carlos Gastelum (.994) and left fielder Doug Clark (.995) from the Tigres were awarded for their prowess with the glove, while Aguilas third baseman Jesus Castillo (.974) and right fielder Victor Cruz (.993) were honored for their work in the field.

Also named to the Mexican League Gold Glove team were Monterrey pitcher Walter Silva (1.000), Saltillo catcher Jonathan Aceves (1.000), Tabasco first baseman Michel Abreu (.997), Puebla shortstop Ivan Cervantes (.981) and Campeche center fielder Ruben Rivera (1.000).

The LMB website says Gold Glove awards go to Liga players with the best fielding percentage at their respective defensive positions, in direct contrast to Major League Baseball, in which Gold Gloves are a popularity contest voted upon by managers and coaches and don’t always have a thing to do with fielding. Rafael Palmeiro won an American League Gold Glove as a first baseman in 1999 even though he only donned a glove 24 games for Texas that season. He did hit .324 with 47 homers and 148 RBIs, which maybe proves that the best defense really is a good offense.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A-GON TAKES RED SOX COLLAPSE PHILOSOPHICALLY

After seeing his Red Sox complete a stunning collapse that saw them lose the American League wild card playoff berth on the last day of the regular season, Boston first baseman Adrian Gonzalez took the disappointment calmly.

“It’s definitely something we didn’t plan for,” Boston Globe writer Peter Abraham quoted Gonzalez as saying. “We were wholly confident that we would make the playoffs, but it didn’t happen. We didn’t do a better job with the lead. I’m a firm believer that God has a plan, and it wasn’t in His plan for us to move forward. God didn’t have it in the cards for us.”

Instead of blaming the Man Upstairs, the Red Sox All-Star who grew up in Tijuana pointed to the schedule: “We play too many night games on getaway days and get into places at 4 in the morning. This has been my toughest season physically because of that. We play a lot of night games on Sunday for television and those things take a lot out of you.”

The Red Sox had a nine-game lead over Tampa Bay for the wild card berth on September 3, but hit the skids over the final month of the regular season to lose out to the Rays on the final day of the schedule.

Abraham took umbrage at Gonzalez’ philosophical view of his team’s collapse, but it’s hard to place much blame on the four-time All-Star. In his first season in Boston, Gonzalez batted .338 with 27 homers and 117 RBIs, leading the American League with 213 hits. He also fielded .997 at first base, committing just 4 errors in 1,351 chances. Over the final ten games of the season, he batted .417 by going 15-for-36 plus 8 walks for an on-base percentage of .639.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

REPORT: OSUNA’S RIGHTS SOLD TO JAYS FOR $1.5 MILLION

The Puro Beisbol website is reporting the Mexico City Diablos Rojos has sold the rights to 16-year-old right-handed pitcher Roberto Osuna to the Toronto Blue Jays for US$1.5 million.

Osuna, an Hermosillo native and the nephew of former MLB pitcher Antonio Osuna, pitched 13 times for the Diablos last season, going 0-1 with a 5.43 ERA in 13 appearances, including two starts. He’s listed at 6’2” and 230 pounds, and is said to be able to hit the low to mid 90’s with his fastball.

Osuna had caught the eye of a number of major league organizations, but Toronto appeared to have the inside track for some time. Osuna will keep 25 percent of his signing bonus (US$375,000) and the rest goes to the Diablos, as is customary in Mexico. He was added to Guasave’s Mexican Pacific League roster last summer.

The sale of Osuna marks the second-highest payment for a Mexican prospect. The Pittsburgh Pirates purchased the rights to another 16-year-old hurler, Luis Heredia of Mazatlan, from the Veracruz Aguilas last year for US$3 million, with the Aguilas keeping US$2.25 million of that.

Prior to Heredia’s signing, the most paid for a young Mexican player was the US$1 million spent by the Kansas City Royals for righty Luis Cota. Unlike Osuna or Heredia, Cota signed directly with KC as a tenth-round draft pick in 2003 and spent five years in the Royals organization, going 15-26 with a 5.36 ERA in 82 starts and never climbing higher than High Desert in the Class A California League. Now 26, Cota spent time the past year working as a prison guard in Arizona.

Friday, September 23, 2011

CABORCA TOPS ENSENADA IN 7 GAMES, WINS LIGA NORTE TITLE

A bases-loaded triple by Adan Velazquez (pictured) in the seventh inning pushed the eventual winning runs across the plate as the Caborca Rojos went on to defeat the Ensenada Marineros, 5-3, in Game 7 of the Mexican Northern League championship series on August 16. The Marineros built a 3-0 lead until the fateful seventh, when the Rojos plated all five of their runs en route to dethroning Ensenada as the kings of the Liga Norte. Ramon Cairoz had tossed six frames of scoreless ball for the Marineros, but Caborca teed off on relievers Marlon Arias, Florencio Bustillos and Francisco Butto, a former Caribbean Series MVP.

Tijuana won the regular season title with a 48-30 record, 1.5 games ahead of the 46-31 Rojos. However, Caborca beat the Truenos 4 games to 3 in one semifinal series while Ensenada eliminated Puerto Penasco in six games, setting up the title set.

Jeremy Acey of Caborca led the LNM in batting with a .427 average and his 99 RBIs were tops in the league. Another Rojos extranero, Jason Bass, hit a Norte-best 20 homers.

Daniel Perez, who won the final game for Caborca led Liga Norte pitchers in wins with an 11-2 record, Wington Concepcion of Tijuana had a 1.71 ERA and Agua Prieta’s Santos Hernandez topped all hurlers with 125 strikeouts in 84 innings.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

TIJUANA TO HOST THIRD BASEBALL FESTIVAL

Tijuana will once again host a three-day baseball event featuring four teams from the Mexican Pacific League. The Caribbean Series champion Obregon Yaquis will be in the Baja California Norte city from September 30 through October 2 along with the Culiacan Tomateros, Mazatlan Venados and Mexicali Aguilas. This will mark the first time the Venados have played in the tournament after local fans in Tijuana requested they be invited.

The Beisbol Fest began in 2009, a year after the Tijuana Potros Mexican League franchise shifted to Reynosa. Since then, the border city has had teams come and go. Tijuana presently has a franchise in the summer Class A Mexican Northern League, although it has been mentioned as a possible future MexPac city if expansion talk ever becomes reality (a foolish move given the ongoing mess in Navojoa).

The Beisbol Fest is being promoted by Pro3 Sports & Entertainment and will take place in the 19,500-seat Estadio Cerro Colorado (formerly known as Calimax Stadium). The four teams will play a round-robin format, with a Home Run Derby also planned for October 1.

Monday, September 19, 2011

LIGA NAMES TERRERO MVP, CARRILLO TOP MANAGER

The Mexican League has named its 2011 award winners and, as expected, Mexico City outfielder Luis Terrero has been tabbed as Most Valuable Player. The former MLBer dominated the offensive ranks among Liga batters, leading the circuit in five individual categories and finishing second in three more as he turned in a .390 batting average with 38 homers and 110 RBIs in 97 games for the Diablos.

Other players awarded were Reynosa’s Marco Tovar as Pitcher of the Year after registering a 12-4 record and leading the LMB with a 3.11 ERA; Sandy Nin of Quintana Roo as Reliever of the Year following an 8-4 season with a 2.80 ERA and a league-leading 24 saves; Rookie of the Year Alejandro Martinez, who went 7-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 13 starts for a sixth-place Minatitlan team; and Comeback of the Year winner Pablo Ortega, who went from a 2-6 record and an 8.24 ERA for Quintana Roo in 2010 to a 10-3 season with a 3.29 ERA and three more playoff wins for the Tigres this summer.

Quintana Roo skipper Matias Carrillo was named Manager of the Year after leading the Tigres to a Southern Zone regular season crown and the franchise’s tenth Liga pennant in 2011.

It’s hard to argue against any of these choices: The Mexican League pretty much got it right.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

VAZQUEZ BELTS 32 HOMERS, NAMED INTL LEAGUE 2011 ALL-STAR

Although Jorge Vazquez has yet to receive that call to play for the New York Yankees, the 28-year-old Culiacan native made the most of his season with the Yanks’ AAA affiliate at Scranton/Wilkes Barre by cracking 32 homers, driving in 93 runs and being named an International League All-Star for 2011.

Vazquez’ 32 longballs was tops in the IL, leading runner-up Stefan Gartrell of Gwinnet by six, and “Chato” drove in 93 runs for the year, one behind Gartrell for the league lead. The 5’11, 225-pounder batted .262 for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, picking up 119 hits in 118 games but also striking out 166 times (second in the IL to Ryan Strieby of Toledo). Vazquez finished the season in strong form, hitting .314 with six homers in 24 games the final month of the schedule. He was selected Player of the Week twice this year.

The 2011 season was Vazquez’ third in the Yankees system after he was signed by New York as a free agent on December 7, 2008. In that time, he’s hit 63 homers with 217 RBIs in 261 games at the AA and AAA levels Prior to that he’d spent ten seasons in the Mexican League, mostly with the Tigres franchise playing in Puebla (Angelopolis) and Cancun (Quintana Roo). His top two seasons were in 2005 and 2005, when he hit .379 and .359 while whacking a combined 64 homers and 194 RBIs.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

HEREDIA STRUGGLES THROUGH TOUGH YEAR FOR PIRATES GCL TEAM

Heralded pitching prospect Luis Heredia found the going tough in his first season of pro ball in the Pittsburgh Pirates system.

The 6’6” 17-year-old righthander struggled his way to one win in eleven starts for the Pirates’ Gulf Coast League rookie team in 2011, going 1-2 with a 4.75 ERA in 30.1 innings. He had a fair strikeout total of 23 (a rate of 6.8 whiffs per nine innings), but his early control problems never completely went away. Heredia dished up 19 walks and hit four batsmen, also a rate of 6.8 per nine frames for free passes.

The campaign ended on an upswing for the Mazatlan native, however. Heredia pitched scoreless ball over nine innings in three appearances (two starts) between August 8 and 19 before getting racked up for three runs on four hits in three entradas against the Phillies in his last start of the season on August 25.

Heredia's lone win against the Tigers on September 8 began his scoreless stretch, but even that was somewhat flawed. While Heredia did toss three shutout innings with two strikeouts, he gave up two hits and two walks in his only relief outing in ten appearances for the Pirates under manager Tom Prince.

Given his $3 million bonus and mid-90’s fastball, Heredia remains one of Pittsburgh’s top prospects and should develop once the Pirates let him throw more than just heaters as he matures.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

BASEBALL MEXICO’S 2011 Mexican League All-Star Team

1B-Barbaro Canizares, Oaxaca (.396/20/76): Led the Liga in batting, hit .526 over last 10 games of season to win title.

2B
-Jose Amador, Saltillo (.355/18/79R): Bright spot in dismal year in Saltillo. Hit .324 or better each month of season.

3B
-Marshall McDougall, Reynosa (.327/15/79): Ex-Florida State star returned from Asia to provide clutch hitting for Broncos.

SS
-Domingo Castro, Reynosa (.321/2/58R): Slap hitter with little power has topped .300 mark all three years in Reynosa.

LF
-Luis Terrero, Mexico City (.390/38/110/30SB): Ex-MLBer had monster year, only second 30/30 season in Liga history.

CF
-Leo Heras, Mexico City (.342/18/60/25SB): Solid first year with Diablos, 5’8” 155-pounder socked career-high 18 HRs.

RF
-Jorge Guzman, Veracruz (.290/39/97): Led Liga in HRs to form great 1-2 punch with Victor Diaz, raised BA 52 points.

C
-Iker Franco, Quintana Roo (.276/23/74): Solid vet and clutch hitter led champs in HRs and RBIs, 72 HRs in last 4 years.

DH
-Edgar Quintero, Monterrey (.357/32/78): Longtime star was backbone for surprising Sultanes despite tailing off late.

LHP
-Marco Tovar, Reynosa (12-4/3.11/80K): Former reliever led Liga in ERA, tied for top in wins in second full year as starter.

RHP
-Francisco Campos, Campeche (12-5/3.42/113K): Only got better as season progressed. The Salon de la Fama awaits.

RP
-Sandy Nin, Quintana Roo (8-4/2.80/24SV): Led circuit in saves, won or saved 32 games. Only 15 walks in 70.2 IP.

MGR
-Daniel Fernandez, Veracruz (54-49/.524/3rd): Rebuilt moribund team around pitching, led them to LMB South finals.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

SUMMER 2011 BBM AWARDS Most Valuable Player: Luis Terrero, Mexico City Diablos Rojos

With two weeks to go in the regular season, Luis Terrero had a valid shot at winning no less than EIGHT offensive titles in the Mexican League for 2011: Batting average, hits, homers, RBIs, runs scored, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, on-base-plus-slugging percentage and stolen bases. And remember that the Liga is very much a hitter’s league.

While it’s true that Terrero had to settle for leading the LMB in runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and OPS while finishing second in batting average, homers and on-base percentage (he was “only” third in stolen bases) takes nothing away from what ended up being one of the most remarkable offensive seasons in any professional league in the past several years.

Talk is cheap, so let the numbers do the talking for us: .390 batting average, .485 on-base percentage, .770 slugging percentage, 1.254 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 38 homers, 109 runs, 110 runs and 30 steals. We have hardcore researchers who read BBM: They’re all invited to find a single-season performance with those kinds of totals in Organized Baseball over the recent past. There may be someone who can match them, but I can’t think of him.

Luis Terrero not only deserves to be named Most Valuable Player by the LMB itself, anything short of a unanimous vote reflects a case of denial that belongs in the same room as Lindsay Lohan at the Betty Ford Clinic.

Friday, September 9, 2011

LIGA NAMES TERRERO MVP, CARRILLO TOP MANAGER

The Mexican League has named its 2011 award winners and, as expected, Mexico City outfielder Luis Terrero (pictured) has been tabbed as Most Valuable Player. The former MLBer dominated the offensive ranks among Liga batters, leading the circuit in five individual categories and finishing second in three more as he turned in a .390 batting average with 38 homers and 110 RBIs in 97 games for the Diablos.

Other players awarded were Reynosa’s Marco Tovar as Pitcher of the Year after registering a 12-4 record and leading the LMB with a 3.11 ERA; Sandy Nin of Quintana Roo as Reliever of the Year following an 8-4 season with a 2.80 ERA and a league-leading 24 saves; Rookie of the Year Alejandro Martinez, who went 7-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 13 starts for a sixth-place Minatitlan team; and Comeback of the Year winner Pablo Ortega, who went from a 2-6 record and an 8.24 ERA for Quintana Roo in 2010 to a 10-3 season with a 3.29 ERA and three more playoff wins for the Tigres this summer.

Quintana Roo skipper Matias Carrillo was named Manager of the Year after leading the Tigres to a Southern Zone regular season crown and the franchise’s tenth Liga pennant in 2011.

It’s hard to argue against any of these choices: The Mexican League pretty much got it right.

SUMMER 2011 BBM AWARDS Pitcher of the Year: Francisco Campos, Campeche Piratas

One of the things modern baseball managers need to be concerned with is overworking their pitchers. When one of those pitchers is 38 years old, in his 21st season of pro ball and relatively slight of stature at 5’11” and 185 pounds, the risk of having that hurler wear down in the hot summer months rises exponentially. Unless that pitcher is Francisco Campos.

The Campeche veteran not only didn’t lose steam over the steamy weeks of July in the Yucatan peninsula in the southern tip of Mexico, he actually seemed to get stronger. In his last ten starts in the regular season between June 1 and July 25, the man they call “Pancho Ponches” because he’s been perhaps the top strikeout artist in Mexico over the past two decades put together a 7-1 record with a 2.89 ERA, striking out 68 batters over 65 innings with just 16 walks (including only four free passes in 32.2 innings over his last five starts. In fact, in his last regular season outing against the eventual Liga champion Tigres in Cancun, Campos struck out nine while walking one batter in 5.1 frames. So much for wearing out.

For the season, the native of Guaymas registered a 12-5 record with a 3.42 ERA, including 138 whiffs and 38 walks in 137 innings while tying for the Liga lead in wins. Since debuting as a 17-year-old in 1995 with the Piratas (except for a 5-0 record in five starts with Monterrey in 2005, he’s never pitched for another LMB team), Campos has gone 146-85 with 1,604 strikeouts in 2,181 innings along with an ERA slightly under 3.00.

Campos may not just be the Liga’s best pitcher in 2011…he has a valid argument for being the best pitcher in Mexico of this generation.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

SUMMER 2011 BBM AWARDS Playoff MVP: Pablo Ortega, Quintana Roo Tigres

Observers might’ve had an inkling that Ortega was in for a solid postseason when he narrowly missed a perfect game in his final start of the regular season, but even the wily right-handed veteran would’ve been hard-pressed to predict how well he’d pitch en route to the Tigres’ tenth Mexican League pennant since their first LMB season in 1955.

Ortega went on to win three games in four decisions among his five starts, giving up just four earned runs over his 32 playoff innings to post a microscopic 1.13 ERA. Although his control wasn’t as sharp as he’d have liked it in issuing 13 walks while hitting four other batsmen, the 35-year-old Nuevo Laredo product scattered 24 hits through three playoff rounds (and just one homer) in picking up a win in each series. Ortega helped Quintana Roo’s four-game sweep of powerful Mexico City in the Mexican Series by combining with relievers Juan Sandoval and Sandy Nin on a 1-0 shutout in front of a sellout crowd at home in Cancun on August 22.

The playoffs capped a terrific comeback year for Ortega, who looked like he might’ve been all but finished after a disastrous 2010 season in which he went 2-6 with an 8.24 ERA in 17 games for the Tigres after going 36-14 the previous three Liga campaigns. Instead, he turned in a 10-3 record during the 2011 regular season and finished third in the LMB with a 3.29 ERA, trailing only Reynosa’s Marco Tovar (3.11) and Puebla’s Andres Meza (3.14) before his sterling playoff work.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

SUMMER 2011 BBM AWARDS Manager of the Year: Daniel Fernandez, Veracruz Aguilas

The Aguilas had an entirely forgettable 2010 in which they went 39-66 (winning just 15 of 52 games in the second half), but Veracruz native Fernandez took the reins last winter and led the Red Eagles to a solid 54-49 record and a berth in the Southern Zone finals against the Tigres. Veracruz was probably best-known for the 1-2 power punch of Liga home run champ Jorge Guzman and Victor Diaz, who combined for 73 longballs, but it was pitching that was the main reason for the Aguilas’ 16-game improvement over their 2010 showing.

Fernandez cobbled together a pitching staff led by starters Joel Vargas (11-7/3.60) and Juan Acevedo (9-5/3.68) plus relievers Hector Navarro (3-3/4.25/15 saves) and Jailen Peguero (5-0/1.40/8 saves) into one with the Liga’s lowest ERA at 4.24. Granted, the starting rotation was thin after Vargas and Acevedo, which makes the Aguilas’ season all the more remarkable, given that their .273 team batting average was the worst in the circuit.

The 2011 season serves as sweet vindication for Fernandez, a former Mexico City Diablos Rojos star who was dumped unceremoniously by the Diablos two years ago, one season after leading them to their last LMB pennant in his first year as mananger and then to the league’s best regular season record in 2009. Fernandez then spent 16 games in 2010 on the Tabasco managerial merry-go-round before getting canned with a 5-11 record with the hapless Olmecas.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

SUMMER 2011 BBM AWARDS Newcomer of the Year: Doug Clark, Quintana Roo Tigres

Having spent more than one winter in the Mexican Pacific League, the 35-year-old native of Springfield, Massachusetts is no stranger to baseball south of the border. However, 2011 was Doug Clark’s first season in the Mexican League after spending the previous three summers playing in Korea, and he made the most of it for the Quintana Roo Tigres.

A former MLBer with the San Francisco Giants in 2005 and Oakland Athletics in 2006, Clark had a strong first year in Cancun by batting .315 in 97 games for the Tigres and turning in one of just two 20/20 seasons in the Liga with 21 homers and 20 stolen bases. He played in the All-Star Game after batting .346 with 13 homers before the break, although he tailed off a bit in the second half of the season after playing continuously since the spring of 2010. While Clark’s 67 runs scored and 58 RBIs weren’t head-turning numbers, he had a knack for getting a hit when it counted late in games. Then came the playoffs.

Over 16 games, Clark’s .259 average was somewhat negligible, but his productivity wasn’t. His 14 runs and 14 ribbies were both among the postseason Liga leaders, his 4 homers tied Willie Romero and Albino Contreras for the Tigres team lead, his 4 stolen bases was tops among all players in the playoffs, and he went 6-for-12 in the Mexican Series against Mexico City as the Tigres swept the Diablos for their tenth LMB pennant. Not bad for a guy who didn’t play varsity baseball in high school before walking on at the University of Massachusetts, where he was on scholarship as a football wide receiver.

Monday, September 5, 2011

SUMMER 2011 BAMMYS COMING THIS WEEK

Winners of the Summer 2011 Baseball Mexico Awards (otherwise lovingly known as the Bammys) will be announced this week, beginning Tuesday with the Mexican League Newcomer of the Year. Other awards include Manager of the Year (Wednesday), Pitcher of the Year (Thursday), Playoff MVP (Friday) and Most Valuable Player (Saturday). The BBM Summer All-Star Team will be released Sunday.

The BBM Awards are given out twice a year: Once for the Mexican Pacific League season in winter, and once for the Mexican League season in summer. Here is a list of past Bammy winners...

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Summer 2010: Sandy Madera, Yucatan Leones
Winter 2011: Barbaro Canizares, Obregon Yaquis

MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Summer 2010: Eddie Diaz, Oaxaca Guerreros
Winter 2011: Matias Carrillo, Guasave Algodoneros

PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Summer 2010: Bobby Cramer, Quintana Roo Tigres
Winter 2011: Jose Silva, Culiacan Tomateros

PLAYOFF MVP
Winter 2011: Iker Franco, Obregon Yaquis

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Summer 2010: Willis Otanez, Puebla Pericos
Winter 2011: Justin Christian, Los Mochis Caneros