Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mexican League to open 2016 season Friday

The Mexican League will pop the cork for its 92nd season this Friday with games in Cancun and Tijuana.  Six more openers are slated for Saturday and Sunday's schedule has all 16 LMB teams in action.

The Quintana Roo Tigres will host the Yucatan Leones Friday at 9,500-seat Estadio Beto Avila in Cancun, one of two Liga ballparks named after the former Cleveland Indians star (the other is in Veracruz, Avila's hometown).  The Tigres, who moved to the resort city in 2007 after decades in Mexico City and six years in Puebla, won the team's third flag since 2011 last summer for the franchise's 12th title overall.

In Friday's other Liga opener, the Reynosa Broncos will be in Tijuana to take on manager Luis Sojo's Toros at Estadio Gasmart, a 41-year-old ballpark seating 16,811 after renovations in the mid-2000's.  Although there has been good interest in baseball for decades in Tijuana, the sport has had a tough go of it over the years for various reasons.  The Toros entered the LMB in 2014, taking the place of the Minatitlan Petroleros.  They've drawn well the past two seasons with 837,842 fans clicking the turnstiles for an average of 7,830 per opening.

The LMB's twelve other teams will take the field for Saturday's opening games: Ciudad Carmen is at Campeche, Oaxaca welcomes Puebla, Laguna hosts Aguascalientes in Torreon, Veracruz visits Tabasco, Saltillo travels to Monclova and Mexico City is at home against Monterrey.  Venues for all first-day matches will be reversed Sunday to complete each home-and-away series.  As usual, Monday will be a travel day before returning to the traditional three-game series format on Tuesday, April 5.

The Mexican League regular season used to run from March through July, with playoffs taking up the month of August.  This year, the LMB's 16 teams will play 113-game schedules from April 1 through August 12 with the postseason carrying into mid-September, if needed.  LMB standings are determined by won-lost percentage, with the top four teams in each division advancing to the first round of playoffs, followed by division championship sets and the league championship between each division titlist.  All playoff series are best-of-7 affairs.  All-Star Weekend will be June 3-5 in Monterrey.

As mentioned, Quintana Roo won the 2015 LMB pennant, beating Monclova in five games to capture the Serie del Rey.  Yucatan's Jesus Valdez (.365) nosed out Jesse Castillo of Aguascalientes (.363) for the batting crown. Valdez also won the Mexican Pacific League hitting title over the winter, batting .347 for Jalisco.  Mexico City's Japhet Amador ran away with both the Liga's home run (41) and RBI (117) race along with his .347 average to earn MVP honors (doing likewise with Jalisco in the LMP last winter before signing with Japan's Rakuten Golden Eagles for 2016).  Cuidad Carmen's Gilberto Mejia stole 43 bases to lead in that category.

Among LMB pitchers in 2015, Mexico City's Marco Duarte and Josh Lowey of Monclova each won 13 games to edge ageless Tigres hurler Pablo Ortega (12) for the victory title.  Tabasco's Cesar Vargas, who pitched for the Padres against Houston last weekend in Mexico City, led the LMB with two shutouts and 161 strikeouts.  Saltillo's Edgmer Escalona's 2.54 ERA was best in the Liga in 2015.  Former Royals starting shortstop Tony Pena, son of the eponymous former All-Star catcher and American League manager of the year, has converted into a closer, and the 34-year-old saved 25 games for Laguna to top the circuit. Yucatan's 18-year-old middleman Manuel Rodriguez was named Rookie of the Year after he went 4-0 with a 1.84 ERA in 50 appearances out of the bullpen.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Astros, Padres split Mexico City Series; Valencia wins HR Derby

Major League Baseball held its first exhibition games in Mexico City since 2004 over the weekend, with the Houston Astros and San Diego Padres splitting two games at Estadio Fray Nano on Saturday and Sunday.

Festivities kicked off Friday with a home run derby won by Tijuana Toros second baseman Carlos Valencia at a makeshift diamond built on the city's Zocalo (pictured above), Mexico's largest public square and a ceremonial spot dating to the Aztec dynasty prior to the arrival of Hernan Cortez and the Spanish Conquistadores.

Valencia beat out Mexico City Diablos Rojos outfielder Ivan Terrazas and Quintana Roo Tigres teammates Jorge Cantu and Esteban Quiroz for the title.  In the first round, Cantu led all four batsmen with 10 homers, followed by Valencia at 8, Quiroz with 7 and 5 for Terrazas.  Hitting into a headwind in the final round, Valencia jumped out to an early lead over Cantu before the former MLB infielder started finding his groove, albeit a little too late as Valencia finished with 15 dingers to Cantu's 7.

Also on Friday, a clinic for young Mexican ballplayers was held, with former major league third baseman Vinny Castilla joined by ex-pitchers Esteban Loaiza and Ismael Valdez addressing the assembled youths. Oh, and they played a little baseball over the weekend, too.

On Saturday, Houston bombed San Diego, 11-1, behind the strong pitching of Chris Devenski.  An Astros farmhand ticket to start the season at Class AAA Fresno, tossed 4.1 shutout innings and struck out seven Padres batsmen.  The 2015 National League Rookie of the Year, Carlos Correa, joined with Tyler White to open the fourth inning with back-to-back solo homers to give Houston a 2-0 lead.  The Astros put two more scores on the board in the bottom of the sixth before pounding Padres pitching for seven runs in the seventh to put the game away as 5,602 onlookers watched at Estadio Fray Nano.  Mexican product Leo Heras went 2-for-3 for Houston, scoring once and driving in two more runs.

Saturday's contest was a pitcher's duel in comparison to what happened Sunday as San Diego roared back to cop a 21-6 victory in front of 6,143 fanaticos at Fray Nano.  This one was pretty much over after the first inning, with the Padres converting three-run homers by Jabari Blash and Jon Jay plus a two-run longball by Adam Rosales into a nine-run outburst.  The Friars got subsequent homers from Travis Jankowski and Casey McElroy in the blowout.  All the San Diego scoring would have obscured the work of Padres starting pitcher Cesar Vargas had he not been a native of Puebla, 85 miles south of Mexico City.  Vargas went three shutout innings and struck out five Houston hitters to earn the win.  Colin Moran went deep for the Astros, but this game belonged to the Padres from the get-go.

As good a weekend as it was for baseball fans in the capital city, it was at least as good for ticket resellers.  Ducats for the two games were originally priced at up to 1,800 pesos (US$103 at the current exchange rate), but scalpers outside Fray Nano (pictured right) were getting 3,500 pesos (US$206) for some tickets while being unbothered by law enforcement or stadium security officers.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Astros, Padres square off in Mexico City this weekend

The Houston Astros and San Diego Padres are sending split squads to Mexico City for a two-game MLB exhibition series this weekend at Estadio Fray Nano, home of the Mexican League's Red Devils.  There will also be a Home Run Derby involving LMB players and a clinic for youth players overseen by former All-Star third baseman Vinny Castilla, a native Oaxacan.  The games will take place Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

The two teams have finalized their respective 28-man rosters for the trip to the D.F.  Houston has released their list of players, which will include All-Stat second baseman Jose Altuve (pictured), shortstop Carlos Correa (the 2015 National League Rookie of the Year) and outfielder Leo Heras, a veteran of both the Mexican and Mexican Pacific Leagues who is in the Astros' training camp in Florida.  San Diego's entourage will include six Mexican-born players in the Padres' Arizona camp, including 24-year-old right-hander Cesar Vargas of Puebla, who will take the mound to start Sunday's contest.  Shortstop Alexei Ramirez, a Cuban in his first year with San Diego after eight seasons with the White Sox, had both his agent and lawyer clear up any possible visa issues so he could make the trip.

The Home Run Derby was scheduled for Friday at Fray Nano, with Quintana Roo Tigres infielders Esteban Quiroz and former MLBer Jorge Cantu, Diablos Rojos' outfielder Ivan Terrazas and Tijuana second baseman Carlos Valencia (who played in Mexico City from 2006 through 2013) rounding out the four participants.

Castilla, who had more homers, runs batted in, runs scored and hits in his MLB career than any other Mexican-born player, is now a special assistant with the Colorado Rockies, for whom he had his best seasons in the 1990's.  He was to be joined at the clinics by former White Sox pitcher Esteban Loaiza, who won 21 games for the White Sox and led the American League with 203 strikeouts in 2003 (finishing second in Cy Young Award balloting that year) and ex-Dodgers hurler Ismael "Rocket" Valdez, who reached double figures in wins five times in his major league career, including four straight years in Los Angeles in the mid-Nineties.

Estadio Fray Nano is the smallest ballpark in the Mexican League with 5,200 seats, but has been expanded to fit 6,464 fans this weekend.   Saturday's game will be carried live on Univision Deportes in the USA and Telvisa Deportes in Mexico, with Astros Spanish broadcaster Francisco Romero calling the play-by-play.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Veracruz sells OF Jeremias Pineda to Marlins

On the heels of a successful season of winterball in which he played a key role for the Mazatlan Venados in winning both the Mexican Pacific League playoffs and the Caribbean Series, 25-year-old outfielder Jeremias Pineda's rights have been sold by the Mexican League's Veracruz Rojo Aguilas to the Miami Marlins for the coming summer season.  Pineda subsequently signed a three-year contract with Miami.

The switch-hitting Dominican batted .292 for the Deer during the regular season, leading the MexPac in runs scored (50) and stolen bases (31 of 36 attempts) while coming in second to Mexicali's Welington Dotel in hits with 80 in 68 games.  While Pineda struggled in the Serie del Caribe by going just 3-for-20 with no steals, he contributed mightily to the Venados' 80-4 win over Puerto Rico's Santurce on February 5 by singling, doubling, tirpling, scoring three runs and driving in two more as Mazatlan clinched a berth in the CS semifinals.

Pineda made his Mexican League debut with Veracruz in 2015 and was a bright spot in an otherwise bleak season for the Red Eagles, who finished 48-65 to finish last in the LMB South.  Pineda was third on the squad with a .292 batting average (the team was last in the Liga with a .262 mark) while topping the circuit with 60 steals.  On the other hand, he led the LMB with 17 times caught stealing and was second in strikeouts with 104 so his first summer in Mexico fell short of idyllic.

The Marlins are the third MLB organization to have Pineda in their system.  The 5'11", 190-pounder nicknamed "The Jet Blue" signed a free agent contract as a 20-year-old with Boston for the 2011 season and split that year between the Red Sox' Rookie clubs in the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League, hitting a combined .188.  He spent the entire 2012 campaign in the GCL, during which he was traded to the Twins.  Pineda fared much better that time around with a .365 average and 23 steals in 52 games.  He then spent two more years in the Minnesota system with Class A Cedar Rapids and Rookie Elizabethton but hit below .240 both seasons and had his problems in the field as well before being released following the 2014 season.

When announcing finalization of the sale to Miami, El Dictamen of Veracruz reports that Red Eagles chairman Jose Antonio Mansur said, "Pineda came with us to spring training last year in Tucson, showed very well and won a spot on the roster.  We thought that, because he's young, we'd take it step-by-step but you see the results: He won the stolen base title for both of Mexico's leagues and now he's going to the Marlins, which reaffirms us as an organization open to the advancement of our players."

Just in case, Veracruz will retain Pineda's rights in the Mexican League should he return south of the border.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Guadalajara bids for 2017 WBC first round games

The Jalisco Charros are seeking to host first round games for next year's World Baseball Classic.  Armando Navarro, president of the Guadalajara-based Mexican Pacific League team, has applied to Major League Baseball (which oversees the WBC) to bring opening round games to the city of 1.5 million, Mexico's fourth-largest.  The metropolitan population of 4.3 million residents is second in the nation to Mexico City.

Guadalajara has had teams in the Mexican League on four occasions, the most recent run coming from 1991 through 1995.  The Charros won Liga pennants in 1967 and 1971, the later flag coming after manager Cananea Reyes' men trailed Saltillo, 3 games to 0, in the title series.  As well, the Jalisco capital hosted a winterball team for three seasons in the early Fifties in the Pacific Coast League, precursor of the modern-day Mexican Pacific League.  Baseball returned to Guadalajara in 2014 when Navarro led a consortium of investors in buying the Guasave Algodoneros and moving them east.

Past attempts at pro baseball in Guadalajara have failed primarily for two reasons.  The first was an inadequate ballpark.  After calling Estadio Municipal home for three years before it was torn down to make room for a bus station now being used as a federal office building, the Charros took up residence at the 4,000-seat Estadio Tecnologico de Beisbol for their sporadic appearances until the Mexican League pulled out for good in 1995.  That ballpark was razed in 2003, five decades after first opening.  Guadalajara's current ballpark does not pose similar issues.  Built in time to host the 2011 Pan-American Games, Estadio Beisbol Charros (which is now owned by the team) cost US$28 million and has 12,500 seats.

The second reason will be more difficult to overcome.  Never a baseball hotbed like other LMP cities to the north, Guadalajara is home to one of the country's most-beloved soccer teams, Chivas, which (like the Mexican League's Quintana Roo Tigres franchise under the late Salon de la Fama member Alejo Peralta from 1955 to 1996 when they played in Mexico City) has been firmly committed to fielding all-Mexican teams for years. Chivas finished third in the Liga MX's Primera Division in attendance last year by averaging more than 36,000 fans per opening.

Mexico's National Team swept last week's World Baseball Classic qualifier in Mexicali to earn a berth in next year's main tournament, their fourth straight WBC since its inception in 2006.  Next year's event will be held in March.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

LNM prepping for 2016, season to open April 1

The Northern Mexico League (aka LNM) will put eight teams on the field for the upcoming 2016 season, which is set to open with four games on Friday, April 1.  The Liga Norte lansdcape has been rearranged from last season by the deletion of both the Magdalena Membrilleros and Hermosillo Diablos teams, the shifting of the Tijuana Toritos to Tecate and the return of the Cananea Mineros.

The Liga Norte was fored in 2012 and is considered a "Class A" circuit in Mexican baseball, with teams from Baja California and Sonora sprinkled in proximity to the U.S. border from Tecate in the west to Cananea in the east.  With the exception of 17,000-seat Estadio B-Air in Mexicali, home of the Centinelas, all LNM ballparks range in capacity between 2,200 and 5,000.  All but two LNM teams have at least two Mexican League parent clubs.

The following is a list of LNM franchises and their LMB affiliates for 2016:

CABORCA Rojos (Aguascalientes Rieleros, Carmen Delfines)
CANANEA Mineros (Laguna Vaqueros, Yucatan Leones)
ENSENADA Marineros (Mexico City Diablos Rojos, Oaxaca Guerreros)
MEXICALI Centinelas (Monterrey Sultanes)
PUERTO PENASCO Tiburones (Monclova Acereros, Tabasco Olmecas)
SAN LUIS Algodoneros (Puebla Pericos)
SAN QUINTIN Freseros (Campeche Piratas, Quintana Roo Tigres)
TECATE Toritos (Saltillo Saraperos, Saltillo Saraperos)

The LNM's 84-game regular season will run through July 14 with a month's worth of three-tiered playoffs to follow into mid-August.  The All-Star Game is slated for May 27 in Ensenada.  Mexicali is the defending Liga Norte champion.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Mexican Nationals crush Nicaragua, 12-1; qualify for 2017 WBC

Mexico put together two big innings and went on to demolish Nicaragua, 12-1, in Mexicali Sunday to qualify for next year's World Baseball Classic.  The Verde Grande won all three games they played at Estadio B-Air under first-year skipper Edgar Gonzalez, who was named the Mexican Pacific League's Manager of the Year by both BBM and the LMP last month for his work this past winter with the Mexicali Aguilas.

Mexico broke the contest open early with a six-run outburst in the second inning.  Esteban Quiroz opened the gates with a two-run single off Nicaraguan starter Fidencio Flores while Agustin Murillo cleared the bases with a two-out, sacks-loaded triple, converting a 3-and-1 pitch from reliever Carlos Teller into a line drive that got behind center fielder Dwight Britton to cap the scoring for the inning.

Three entradas later, Mexico put another five runs on the board to bring the score to 11-0, an unreachable target for the underpowered Nicaraguans.  Leo Heras and Quiroz had the biggest hits in the fifth: Heras knocked a two-run homer off Teller and Quiroz did the same against the next reliever, Junior Tellez, bracketed around an RBI single from Sebastian Elizalde.  The host team added another run in the bottom of the sixth, courtesy of an Humberto Sosa single that brought in Jose Aguilar.

Nicaragua broke the shutout bid in the top of the seventh when Britton led off with a double off Arturo Barradas, moved to third on a Sandor Guido ground out to second and came in on Elmer Reyes' double to right, putting the score at 12-1.  After Barradas got got Darrel Campbel to fly out to right, Gonzalez brought in Oliver Perez, who induced Wuillians Vasquez to hit an easy fly to center that Perez hauled in to end the game on the ten-run mercy rule, punching Mexico's ticket to their fourth straight World Baseball Classic.

Elizalde, Quiroz and Adrian Gonzalez each hat two hits for Mexico, Quiroz leading the way with four RBI's and two runs scored.  Murillo had just one hit but was still productive at the plate, driving in three with his triple and scoring once.  Hector Daniel Rodriguez pitched the first two innings and was awarded the win as five pitchers took the mound for the winners.

Earlier Sunday in Panama City, Dilson Herrera cracked an eighth-inning solo homer off Manny Corpas to put Colombia ahead for good in a 2-1 qualifier win over Panama.  Colombia will join Australia and Mexico in next year's WBC.  One qualifier remains, to be played at Brooklyn's Cyclone Park in September when Israel, Brazil, Great Britain and Pakistan square off for three days.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Nicaragua holds off Czechs in 11, will play Mexico in Sunday WBCQ final

In perhaps the most thrilling game in the Mexicali World Baseball Classic qualifiers, Nicaragua scored three runs in the top of the eleventh inning and barely held off the Czech Republic, 7-6, Saturday night in Mexicali. The game lasted over four hours with plenty of ups and downs for both sides at Estadio B-Air.

The Czechs jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Jakub Malik homered off Berman Espinoza to straightaway center field with two runners on base.  The teams then swapped zeroes into the top of the fifth, when Nicaragua scored twice with two out when Darrel Campbell came in on Jairo Beras' tapper back to the mound and Wuillians Vasquez came in on third baseman Premek Chroust to pull to within one.

The Czechs got one back in the bottom of the fifth after Jakub Hajtmar scored on a Mike Cervenak fielder's choice grounder to short to boost their advantage to 4-2 before the Nicaraguans came back to knot the score in the eighth.  With two out, Melvin Novoa hit a grounder to Czech shortstop Petr Zyma, who then made an errant throw to allow Dwight Britton to score while Novoa advanced to second base.  Renato Morales' ground-ball single beyond the glove of Zyma into left field sent Novoa motoring in from second to plate the tying run.

The two teams carried the 4-4 game into the top of the eleventh, when Nicaragua pushed across three counters.  Ofilio Castro broke the deadlock by scoring from third on a Morales sacrifice fly to center.  Later in the frame, Omar Obregon's single up the middle brought in Britton and Janior Montes to give the Central Americans a 7-4 lead.

The Czechs refused to die, however, loading the bases with nobody out for Tomas Polansky's run-scoring walk to close the gap to 7-5.  Zyma then hit a tailor-made doubleplay grounder off reliever Jose Saenz to short, where Obregon bobbled the ball before flipping it to second for one out but too late for the relay to beat Zyma to first as Malik came in from third, bringing the Czechs to within one run with runners at the corners.  Saenz then bore down and struck out Tomas Junec and Petr Sila, both on swings, to close out the win and earn the save.  Jonathan Loaisiga was awarded the win despite allowing the final two Czech runs in the final inning while Martin Schneider was tagged with the loss after coughing up all three Nicaraguan scores in the eleventh.

Nicaragua will take on Mexico Sunday at 7 PM PDT in the final, with the winner qualifying for next year's World Baseball Classic, an event Mexico has never missed since its inception in 2006.  Verde Grande manager Edgar Gonzalez has announced he'll send Caribbean Series hero Hector Daniel Rodriguez to the mound in Mexicali.  Mexico beat Nicaragua,

Elsewhere in WBC qualifier action, Panama overcame a three-run deficit to beat France going away, 7-4, Saturday to advance to Sunday's final against Colombia in Panama City.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Mexico crushes Nicaragua, 11-0, clinches WBC Qualifier final berth

Stephen Landazuri pitched four innings of one-hit shutout ball while Adrian Gonzalez scored twice and drove in another run as Mexico demolished Nicaragua, 11-0, in seven innings Friday night in Mexicali's Estadio B-Air.

The host team scored two runs each in the first and second innings, picked up five in the fourth and added two more tallies in the bottom of the sixth, triggering the WBC's ten-run mercy rule by giving Nicaragua one more opportunity in the top of the seventh before closing the book on the game.  Landazuri, who is 25-30 with a 4.62 ERA after six years in the Mariners system, was lights-out for Mexico.  The 24-year-old righty threw 30 strikes on 49 pitches and Jairo Beras' leadoff single in the fourth was the only safety Landazuri allowed, though he plunked a batter in each of the first three innings, so his control wasn't quite pinpoint.

Mexico scored the only run they'd need in the bottom of the first when, with the bases loaded, Nicaraguan first baseman made a throwing error on a Sebastian Elizalde grounder to plate Jose Aguilar from third with the only marker the Verde Grande would need.  One out later, Agustin Murillo's seeing-eye single to left brought in Gonzalez with his first plate-crossing of the night.

Mexico pushed two more across in the second.  Gonzalez' bases-loaded, two-out groundout allowed Alex Mejia to score.  Then pitcher Kevin Gadea uncorked a wild pitch to Jose Amador, giving the green light for Juan Perez to motor in from third to make it a 9-0 game.

Things got out of hand after Mexico scored five times in the fourth, with two coming in after Beras badly misplayed a Murillo fly ball, allowing both Gonzalez and Elizalde to score while Murillo ended up safe at second.  In the sixth, Murillo doubled in Walter Ibarra for one run while Leo Heras came in on a passed ball for another to cap the night's scoring.

Much of the damage to Nicaragua was self-inflicted with three errors, seven walks, two wild pitches and two hit batsmen to total five unearned runs as the Mexicans scored 11 times on just five hits.  Reliever Osman Gutierrez suffered the most, as three of the four runs that came in during his 2.2 frames were officially "not his fault."  Landazuri got the win and four relievers took part in the combined four-hit whitewash.

With the win, Mexico clinched a berth in Sunday's final.  Nicaragua, who beat Germany Thursday, will have to beat the Czech Republic in a loser-out game Saturday.  The Czechs handed the Flying Deutschmen their second straight loss, 15-3, Friday afternoon in eight innings as the mercy rule was invoked.  Catcher Martin Cervenka crashed a grand slam and ended the day with five ribbies.

In Panama City, Colombia clinched a spot in Sunday's final by beating host Panama, 6-3, and France knocked out Spain, 5-3.  Panama and France meet in Saturday's loser-out game.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Mexico survives Czechs, 2-1, at WBC qualifier

Mexico plated two runs in the bottom of the first inning and the pitching made them hold as the hosts topped the Czech Republic, 2-1, Thursday night at the World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament in Mexicali.  The contest was much closer than expected, as the plucky Czechs held the Mexicans to just four hits on a night that put pitching under the spotlight on a patchy Estadio B-Air playing field.

After Alejandro Soto opened the game by striking out the first three Czech batters (all swinging), Esteban Quiroz and Adrian Gonzalez drew consecutive one-out walks off starter Marek Cervenka in the bottom of the frame.  Jesse Castillo singled up the middle to bring in Quiroz from second and move Gonzalez to third.  Agustin Murillo lofted a sacrifice fly to left that Gonzalez scored on to make it a 2-0 game.  Leo Heras then singled to put Murillo in scoring position but Erick Rodriguez popped out to second to end the threat.

From that point, the two sides traded zeroes into the eighth inning.  Working on a WBC-imposed pitch count limit, Soto gave up just one walk and no hits in three entradas for Mexico, striking out seven.  Mark Serrano replaced Soto and while not quite as lights-out, Serrano tossed three more scoreless innings, allowing three hits and a walk.  For his part, Cervanek settled down to blank the Mexicans in the second and third before giving way to Jan Novak, who tossed 3.2 innings of scoreless ball when he reached HIS pitch limit in the seventh.

Mexico loaded the bases with two out in that stanza but Castillo skied out to left to end the rally without a score.  Jake Sanchez came in from the bullpen to pitch the top of the eighth and gave up a homer to Matej Hema, who lofted a fly to right center that kept carrying until it plopped onto a walkway just beyond the railing atop the wall, bringing the score to 2-1.  After being set down in order in the bottom of the eighth Mexican manager Edgar Gonzalez sent out 34-year-old Oliver Perez to nail down the save in the ninth. Perez, who has been in camp with the Nationals this spring, delivered by turning in a 1-2-3 performance on just nine pitches to seal the deal for the Verdes.

In Thursday afternoon's qualifier opener, Reds prospect Alex Blandino's walkoff double in the bottom of the tenth inning gave Nicaragua a come-from-behind 5-4 win over Germany.  With runners on first and second, Blandino rapped an Enorbel Marquez delivery into deep center field just beyond the glove of Dominique Taylor.  Both runners came in to score with Rangers farmhand coming in from first barely under the tag of German catcher Bruce Maxwell with the winning run.

On Friday, the Czech Republic will take on Germany at 12:30PM PDT while Mexico battles Nicaragua in the 7:30PM PDT nightcap at La Nida.

Elsewhere, Panama topped France, 9-2, and Colombia bopped Spain, also by 9-2, in the other WBC qualifier going on this week in Panama City.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Veracruz tops German Nationals, 6-1, in Tucson

The Veracruz Rojo Aguilas have been training in Tucson, Arizona this month, along with the Tijuana Toros and Campeche Piratas.  On Saturday, the Red Eagles took on the German National Team in a tuneup for Germany's participation later this week at the World Baseball Classic qualifier tournament in Mexicali, with Veracruz coming away 6-1 victors at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium (formerly known as Tucson Electric Park).

Veracruz didn't blow Germany away so much as administered a baseball version of "death by a thousand cuts" by scoring single runs in the first and second innings, two more in the third and pushing another pair of runners across the plate in the fourth in building up a 6-0 lead.  Andy Vasquez scored the first run of the game in the first inning by streaking in from third on Roger Kieschnick's tapper back to the mound.  The Rojo Aguilas made it 2-0 in the second when Juan Martinez doubled in Baltazar Lopez from second base.

The Red Eagles got a little more breathing room in the third frame when Kieschnick doubled and later scored on Humberto Sosa's sacrifice fly to bring the score to 3-0.  Later that inning, Veracruz' lead was stretched to four runs when Lopez drew a walk, advanced to second and then scored on Martinez' second hit of the contest.

Veracruz plated their final two scores with the closest thing to a big inning that they'd have in the fourth stanza.  Enrique Osorio led off with a double, Vasquez tripled Osorio in and then scored the Rojo Aguilas' sixth run himself when Juan Silverio singled.

The shutout bid by Veracruz' pitching staff carried into the eighth, when it was broken up by opportunistic German baserunning.  The following sequence comes from a convoluted press release translation, so take it with a grain of salt:  German Eric Brunck singled off Dominican hurler Jailen Peguero, advanced to second on a hit by Christoph Ziegler, took third on a double steal with Ziegler and then scored on a throwing error by Veracruz' unnamed third baseman off a grounder down the baseline by Deutschmen outfielder Kent Matthes.

However they were scored upon, the Veracruz pitching staff turned in a solid performance in the win.  Manuel Flores tossed three innings for the win, allowing two hits and striking out two in relief of starter Jose Miguel Pina, who blanked Germany over the first two frames.  Jan-Niclas Stoecklin took the loss for the Germans after allowing four runs on five hits in three innings.

Veracruz is coming off a 48-65 season in 2015, finishing last in the Mexican League South Division under then-manager Sharnol Adriana, a former Liga star outfielder and Dutch National Team starter.  Onetime Washington Nationals coach Marc Weidemaier has taken over as skipper with the Red Eagles.  A 34-year baseball veteran, the bilingual Weidemaier started his coaching career while studying for his master's degree at THE Ohio State University in 1982.  He briefly managed the LMB's Torreon Algodoneros in 1988, but most of Weidemaier's career has been spent in scouting.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

TJ Toros split two with German National Team

The Tijuana Toros played a pair of exhibition games against the German National Team this past week at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium in Tucson, Arizona.  The Toros are one of three Mexican League teams holding spring training in Tucson while the Germans were in town to prepare for the upcoming World Baseball Classic qualifier tournament in Mexicali.

Manager Luis Sojo's Toros drubbed the Germans, 6-1, Wednesday night at Kino Stadium.  Tijuana scored twice in the first inning on RBI singles from Allan Dykstra and Juan Apodaca, but Germany was able to close the score to 2-1 when Ludwig Glaser's single brought Sascha Lutz from second in a subsequent frame.  Tijuana broke the game open with four runs in the sixth inning, keyed by a two-run RBI triple off the bat of Roman Pena plus run-plating singles by Isaac Rodriguez and Miguel Torrero.  Toros starter Miguel Pena worked two innings and was followed by Jorge Reyes, Mike Serrano, Derrick Miramontes and Jason Urquidez.

The Germans recovered in half a day by beating Tijuana, 3-2, Wednesday morning in Tucson.  The European visitors scored all three runs in a forgettable (for the Toros) second inning when pitcher Alex Sanabia committed two errors to bring in Simon Guhring and Maximilian Boldt, then uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Christoph Ziegler from third.  Tijuana threatened in the fifth by loading the bases with one out, but Carlos Valencia was induced to tap into an inning-ending double play to end the threat without bothering the scorer further.  The Toros finally broke through in the seventh when Adan Munoz led off with a double and later scored on an Isaac Rodriguez single.  Eduardo Arredondo later tripled in Omar Quintanilla to make it a 3-2 contest.  Tijuana put the tying and go-ahead runs on base in the top of the ninth, but German pitcher Kevin Trisl got the third out to save the win for the Flying Deutschmen (sorry...couldn't resist).

Germany's national team has been managed by Greg Frady since 2004.  Frady is a Georgia native who played college ball at Troy before entering coaching.  He's entering his tenth season as head coach at Georgia State, a D1 school in the Sun Belt Conference, where his overall record since 2007 is 228-173.

The WBC qualifier in Mexicali will open with a doubleheader on Thursday, March 17 and wrap up three days later.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Amador injures wrist, out two months in Japan

Mexican import Japhet Amador's foray into Japanese baseball has been sidetracked for eight weeks after the massive slugger suffered a wrist injury during batting practice prior to his first exhibition game with his new team.

Solo Beisbol reports the "Mulege Giant" complained of pain in his left wrist while taking swings in preparation for his first outing with the Rakuten Golden Eagles on March 3 in Kurashiki, where they were hosting the Seibu Lions in preseason-opening action.  Amador signed with Rakuten in the offseason, as did former major league outfielder Jonny Gomes (who played winterball for Mexicali in 2005-06).

Amador was taken to a Tokyo hospital, where he was diagnosed with triangular fibrocartilage damage to his left wrist, shelving him for two months.  It's hoped the 6'4", 330-pounder (give or take a Happy Meal) will be able to make his Nippon Professional Baseball debut in mid-May.

The reigning Mexican League MVP, Amador hit a combined 55 home runs in 161 regular season games for the Mexican League's Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Mexican Pacific League's Jalisco Charros in 2015, more than any other pro player in the world last year and leading both circuits.  He had seven multiple-homer games for Mexico City last summer, including a three-dinger day against Campeche on June 19.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Mexico's WBC Qualifier roster announced, Adrian Gonzalez to play

Now that the Mexican League has given its blessings to allowing Liga players to take part in next week's World Baseball Classic qualifier tournament in Mexicali's La Nida ballpark, the names on Mexico's 27-man roster have been released.

Thirteen of the 27 players in uniforms will be pitchers, including BBM Winter Award winners Hector Daniel Rodriguez (Playoff MVP) and Javier Solano (Pitcher of the Year).  Former major leaguer Oliver Perez will be wearing the green along with Mexican Pacific League ERA champ Alejandro Soto and record-setting reliever Andres Avila.

There are plenty of familiar names among position players, including Caribbean Series title game hero Jorge Vazquez, but none more prominent than Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (pictured), who will play under both his brother and former San Diego and Mazatlan teammate Edgar, Mexico's manager for the four-team tourney and current Mexicali Aguilas skipper, and father David, who'll serve as first base coach.  The 34-year-old Adrian (also known as "El Titan") has played in five MLB midsummer classics, including last year's event, and has a career .290 average with 290 homers and 1,056 RBI's in all or part of twelve seasons.

Here is the complete roster of Mexico's national team for the 2016 WBC Qualifier:

Pitchers (13)
Armando Aguilar, Andres Avila, Arturo Barradas, Carlos Fisher, Jesus Garcia, Geovanny Gallegos, Steven Landazuri, Oliver Perez, Hector Daniel Rodriguez, Jake Sanchez, Mark Serrano, Javier Solano, Alejandro Soto
Catchers (3)
Xorge Carrillo, Erick Rodriguez, Humberto Sosa
Infielders (6)
Adrian Gonzalez (1b), Walter Ibarra (ss), Alejandro Mejia (1b-3b), Agustin Murillo (3b), Esteban Quiroz (2b), Issmael Salas (ut)
Outfielders (4)
Sebastian Elizalde, Leo Heras, Efren Navarro, Juan Perez
Designated Hitter (1)
Jorge Vazquez
Manager
Edgar Gonzalez
Coaches
Rigo Beltran (pitching), David Gonzalez (first base), Bobby Magallenes (bench), Anthony Medrano (third base), Alejandro Pelaez (batting), Jose Silva (bullpen)

The Mexicans will open their qualifier schedule on Thursday, March 17 against the Czech Republic.  Germany and Nicaragua will square off that afternoon.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Vet SS Heber Gomez recalls Academy experience

Veteran Monterrey Sultanes infielder Heber Gomez is readying for his 21st summer of playing in the Mexican League.  The native of El Carrizal, Veracruz struggled during his Liga debut as a 19-year-old in late 1996 with a six-game audition for the Tabasco Olmecas, batting just .154 with two singles in 13 trips to the plate as the overmatched youngster struck out five times.

Despite his inauspicious beginning, Gomez persevered and has since built a reputation as a steady glove at short and an opportunistic batsman, one with a good eye who rarely strikes out with the patience to draw a walk.  Over 1,757 career games, including the past 13 seasons in Monterrey, the 38-year-old has collected 1,886 LMB hits for a .289 average (topping .300 four times) with 351 doubles, 73 homers, 883 runs scored and 738 RBI's plus an OBP of well over .300.  He batted .275 in 95 games last year for the Sultanes.  Gomez has also spent ten of the past eleven winters with similar results in Mazatlan, where the Venados retired his number 34 last November. While not a perennial All-Star, he's been a consistent player and contributor on winning teams.

It all had to start somewhere and for Gomez, it was at the Mexican League Academy in Carmen, near Monterrey.  The Sultanes hold their training camp at the so-called University of Baseball, where Gomez recently reflected back to when he arrived in Carmen as a teen in 1996, the year the facility opened.  "Those were two very intense months at the Academy," he's quoted as saying in a story on the Liga website.  "I remember very well that after training, we had to water the fields, raking and clearing rocks."

Gomez was one of the first products of the Academy to advance to the Liga, along with catcher Saul Soto and shortstop Domingo Castro, both of Aguascalientes.  Castro hit .333 while Soto batted .331 for the Rieleros in 2015.  "We got to be the first generation and didn't have the things the boys have now," recalls Gomez.  "They've got air-conditioned rooms and service for laundry, which we had to do ourselves.  What's been the same for years is the dream the guys have of making their debut in the Mexican League, but now they have a better gym, better fields and better equipment."

Shortly before his number was retired by the Venados four months ago, Gomez was asked how long he hoped to keep playing in Mazatlan and replied he'd like to play another two or three years.  However, he added, when he retires as a player he'll probably be done with the game altogether.  "I don't see being either a manager or coach.  I don't have plans to stay in baseball.  I want to return to Veracruz.  I have some investments there with my dad and want to be in business."

When that time comes, it's not hard to envision Heber Gomez approaching business the way he's approached baseball the past two decades:  Focused and prepared to make sure the job gets done right.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

LMB allows players to represent Mexico at WBC qualifier

Reversing an earlier decision, the Mexican League has reached an agreement with the Mexican Baseball Federation, also known as Femebe, in which players on current Liga rosters will be allowed time off from their summer teams to represent Mexico later this month at the four-nation World Baseball Classic qualifier in Mexicali.  The LMB had previously delined to make players available to the Mexican National Team, which is forced to qualify for next year's full 16-team tournament after finishing last in first-round pool play at the 2013 WBC.

LMB president Plinio Escalante recently met with Femebe majordomo Alonso Perez after it became apparent that the Mexican team would be shorthanded with some Major League Baseball organizations dragging their feet on sending players to Mexicali for the qualifier.  After an agreement was hammered out and approved by Mexican League owners and managers, Escalante and Perez jointly announced that the LMB would cooperate in sending players to the WBC event at the 17,000-seat Estadio B'Air, home to the Mexican Pacific League Aguilas.

Mexicali manager Edgar Gonzalez, whose family has had their own past differences with the Liga, will serve as skipper for the national team when they welcome sides from Nicaragua, Germany and the Czech Republic.  The four-day even will open Thursday, March 17 with a doubleheader when Germany plays Nicaragua at 12:30PM PT and Mexico takes on the Czechs in the 7:30PM PT nightcap.

There are four such qualifiers scheduled this year.  Australia beat out New Zealand, South Africa and The Philippines last month in Sydney.  Panama City will host a qualifier the same weekend as Mexicali, with Panama, Colombia, Spain and France battling for a 2017 slot; Great Britain, Brazil, Pakistan and Israel will converge on Brooklyn for the final qualifier September 22-25.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

List of past and present BBM Award winners


MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Summer 2010 - Willis Otanez, 1B, Puebla Pericos
Winter 2011 - Justin Christian, OF, Los Mochis Caneros
Summer 2011 - Luis Terrero, OF, Mexico City Diablos
Winter 2016 - Christian Villanueva, 3B, Obregon Yaquis

PLAYOFF MVP
Winter 2011 - Iker Franco, C, Obregon Yaquis
Summer 2011 - Pablo Ortega, P, Quintana Roo Tigres
Winter 2016 - Hector Daniel Hernandez, P, Mexicali Aguilas

BATTER OF THE YEAR
Winter 2016 - Jose Amador, Hermosillo Naranjeros

PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Summer 2010 - Bobby Cramer, Quintana Roo Tigres
Winter 2011 - Jose Silva, Culiacan Tomateros
Summer 2011 - Francisco Campos, Campeche Piratas
Winter 2016 - Javier Solano, Mexicali Aguilas

MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Summer 2010 - Eddie Diaz, Oaxaca Guerreros
Winter 2011 - Matias Carrillo, Guasave Algodoneros
Summer 2011 - Daniel Fernandez, Mexico City Diablos Rojos
Winter 2016 - Edgar Gonzalez, Mexicali Aguilas

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Summer 2010 - Sandy Madera, 1B, Yucatan Leones
Winter 2011 - Barbaro Canizares, 1B, Obregon Yaquis
Summer 2011 - Doug Clark, OF, Quintana Roo Tigres

Friday, March 4, 2016

2015-16 BBM Winter Awards: Playoff MVP

Before I say anything else, I wanted to mention how tough it's been to pick these awards for this season. There were a lot of worthy recipients and I've had to agonize over every selection even more than American League managers and coaches did when they gave Rafael Palmeiro a Gold Glove in 1999 after he played all of 28 games at first base that year. Now that took courage.

Bearing all that in mind, the Baseball Mexico Winter Award winner for Playoff Most Valuable Player is going to left-handed pitcher Hector Daniel Rodriguez, who went 2-1 with a 1.38 ERA for Mexicali through three rounds of the LMP postseason, striking out 28 batters in 26.1 innings.  Rodriguez turned in an 0.84 WHIP after allowing just 16 hits and six walks as a reinforcement for the Aguilas followed a good regular season for his hometown Culiacan Tomateros, for whom he was 7-3 with a 3.00 ERA in 14 starts to give stability to a pitching staff that saw 31 hurlers combine for an LMP-worst 4.97 ERA during the Tomateros' 28-40 season.

After beating Jalisco 5-2 on January 2, topping Navojoa 10-1 on January 11 and throwing 6.1 shutout innings in a ten-inning 1-0 Aguilas loss to the Mayos on January 17, Rodriguez went all the way in a 1-0 Mexicali loss to Mazatlan in Game Three of the MexPac championship series on January 23.  That outing was enough for Venados manager Juan Jose Pacho to pick him up for the Caribbean Series in what turned out to be a prescient move for Pacho.

The 31-year-old opened the Caribbean Series for Mazatlan February 1 against Dominican host Escogido, tossing five innings and striking out five to earn the win in the Venados' 3-2 win over the Leones.  He then pitched six innings of shutout ball five days later in a 7-2 semifinal win against Cuba's Ciego de Avila to win his second CS start, setting the table for the Venados' series-clinching win over Venezuela's Aragua Tigres the following day.

It's been a rocky road for Rodriguez since he won the 2010 BBM Summer Award for Playoff MVP after going 5-0 in the postseason, including two victories over Puebla in the title series, to lead Saltillo to the Mexican League pennant.  At least four MLB teams were interested in the 5'11" portsider at the time, but the restrictive (some would say punitive) nature of Mexican baseball meant he would toil for two more seasons with the Saraperos before finally signing with Atlanta in 2012 after going 11-4 for Saltillo and leading the Liga in strikeouts with 135 that summer.  He had two uneventful years with the Braves' AAA Gwinnett affiliate in 2013 and 2014, turning in an aggregate 9-16 record with an equally-unimpressive 5.26 ERA over two years.

After one scoreless relief appearance last season for Norfolk (the Orioles' AAA farm team), "Dany" returned to Saltillo and pitched in 33 games, all in relief, going 3-1 plus three saves with a respectable 3.16 ERA over 44.1 innings.  While it's unknown whether Saraperos manager Noe Munoz plans to return Rodriguez to the bullpen for the upcoming season, the starting rotation thins out when one gets past 2015 LMB ERA champ Edgmer Escalona, import Michael Nix and Santiago Gutierrez (who all combined for a 29-15 record last year), so it would seem logical that Rodriguez should get a shot at regaining a starting berth this spring.

While his summer address has changed from time to time the past few years, Rodriguez has been a constant during the winter, spending the past eight MexPac seasons with Culiacan, mostly as a starter.  While he's had his moments with the Tomateros in that span, this past season was easily the best of his LMP career.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

2015-16 BBM Winter Awards: Most Valuable Player

Although the Obregon Yaquis were unable to make it past the second round of the Mexican Pacific League playoffs this winter, losing in seven games to Mazatlan in their hard-fought semifinal series after losing the first two games at Estadio Tomas Gaytan (neither team would win a home game in that set), they did turn in the best overall regular season record in the circuit at 39-29, just missing the top postseason seed by a half-point to Mexicali.  That they were able to finish as well as they did despite mediocre batting and pitching means some players had to rise to the occasion when the occasion called for it, and few did it as well as Yaquis third baseman Christian Villanueva, our BBM Winter Award winner for Most Valuable Player.

The Guadalajara native finished in the LMP's Top Ten in ten different offensive categories in 2015-16, coming in sixth in the MexPac with a .322 average, tied for seventh in homers with 9, fifth in RBI's with 38, second to Mazatlan's Jeremias Pineda with 43 runs scored, second to Jose Amador with a .434 on-base percentage and third behind both Amadors in OPS at .914.  He hit better on the the road, knocking pitchers around for a .339 average with seven homers away from home while batting .302 at Tomas Gaytan.

More to the point, he was the linchpin of a lineup that had plenty of holes in it, thus seeing fewer hittable pitches as opposing pitchers were willing to nibble the corners with him and take their chances with the rest of the Yaquis order, yet still collecting timely hits throughout the campaign.  He spent 29 games at third base, fielding 82 of 87 chances cleanly for a .943 average and taking part in eight double plays from the hot corner, not Brooks Robinson territory but not the second coming of Hector Lopez either. In a season that saw no clear standout performances, Villanueva gets the slight nod for our LMP MVP.

The 24-year-old Villanueva was signed as a free agent by Texas in August 2008 and spent four years in the Rangers system before moving to the Cubs organization in mid-2012 in a trade that sent pitcher Ryan Dempster to Arlington.  Ranked eighth among prospects in the Cubbies minors heading into the 2013 season, Villanueva hit .261 with 19 homers and 72 RBI's at AA Tennessee that year but suffered a downturn in 2014 by batting a combined .230 with 10 roundtrippers between the Smokies and AAA Iowa.  He reversed his fortunes somewhat last summer by cracking 18 homers with 88 ribbies in Des Moines to go with a .259 average.  In all, Villanueva has averaged 16 homers and 75 RBI's over the past five minor league seasons and while he has zero chance of unseating Kris Bryant in Wrigley Field, he's on Chicago's 40-man roster and will challenge former Atlanta third sacker Tommy La Stella for the backup role.

This winter was his fourth in the MexPac, all with Obregon, and clearly his best.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

2015-16 BBM Winter Awards: Pitcher of the Year

Although the Mexican Pacific League's longstanding tradition of top-notch pitching didn't really show itself until the playoffs last season, there were still plenty of strong candidates for BBM's Pitcher of the Year for 2015-16.  Mazatlan's Alejandro Soto led the loop with a 2.63 ERA but somehow only finished 4-4; Navojoa's Eddie Gamboa was 5-2 with a 3.13 ERA and only 15 walks in 80.2 innings, remarkable for a knuckleballer; and Los Mochis closer Andres Avila tied a 25-year-old LMP record with 23 saves. However, Mexicali's Javier Solano was just a little better than everyone else.

The 25-year-old Solano, a right-hander from Rio San Luis Colorado, led the MexPac with eight wins and 72 strikeouts over 81 innings, ending the regular season at 8-3 and coming in ninth in ERA at 3.33.  While the quality of outings was spotty over the final month of the schedule, Solano went 6-2 with a 2.84 ERA in his final ten starts.  He turned in a gem of a seven-inning effort against Hermosillo on December 18, shutting out the Naranjeros on two hits while striking out ten batsmen and walking one to win a 6-0 whitewash.  Solano then started five more times in the playoffs for Mexicali, registering a 2-0 record, striking out 25 batsmen and walking just five in 26 innings, although his 4.15 ERA was nothing to write home about.

Few would've predicted the winterball season Solano turned in for manager Edgar Gonzalez' Aguilas.  After spending five seasons toiling in the Dodgers' chain as a middle reliever between 2008 and 2012, going 13-7 with five saves a 4.19 ERA in 152 trips from the bullpen, he returned home to Mexico in 2013 and turned in a 4-1 mark in relief for Monterrey.

It was when he moved west to Mexicali for the 2013-14 season that Solano got his first chance to be part of a rotation.  After starting the winter in his accustomed setup role, he got nine starts and came in at 5-2 with a 2.28 ERA that season.  After that performance, he was given 12 starts in 43 appearances for Monterrey in 2014 but had a bad year, going 5-7 and 5.51.  The pattern continued last year, when Solano started 14 times and was 8-2 with a 3.39 ERA before another forgettable campaign with the Sultanes last summer in which he was 6-7 and 5.44, although he did start 21 times in 22 appearances.  Then came his third season in Mexicali, and the rest is history.

It remains to be seen whether the portly Solano, who is listed at 180 pounds but is reminiscent of Mickey Lolich in appearance, can finally translate a solid winter performance into summertime success, but he may never have a better springboard than the one he has now.




Tuesday, March 1, 2016

2015-16 BBM Winter Awards: Batter of the Year

For all the talk the past year (including here) about the batting feats of slugging first baseman-DH Japhet Amador, who is about to discover the joys of training camp on a Japanese baseball team, it was the "other" Amador who gets the nod for a BBM Winter Award as Batter of the Year in the Mexican Pacific League.  While Japhet got the homers and headlines before departing for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in December with two weeks left in Jalisco's regular season schedule, it was Hermosillo infielder Jose Amador (no relation to the Mulege Giant) who turned in a brilliant campaign across the board throughout the playoffs to earn the Bammy for top batsman.

 A 36-year-old Mexicali product, Amador finished fifth in the MexPac with a .323 batting average, came in third behind Japhet Amador and Yuniesky Betancourt with 11 homers, tied for third with 39 RBI's and led the circuit in both on-base percentage (.436) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.970) while his .535 slugging percentage was second only to Japhet Amador's .558.  Although Jose hit only .229 with two homers and seven RBI's in 13 playoff games as a reinforcement for Navojoa, his quietly dominant (pardon the oxymoron) regular season was enough to win the first-ever Bammy for Batter of the Year.

"Quietly" was how Amador fashioned a reputation as a second baseman who could hit a little during the first decade of his career between 2001 and 2010, a guy who could give you a .275-.300 average with some pop playing for Laguna and Veracruz in the summer Mexican League while wintering with Navojoa of the Mexican Pacific League for a number of years prior to moving to Mexicali in 2009.  Not a bad player, not a star, just a steady everyday infielder.

That changed in 2011 when he spent his first full year in Saltillo after the Saraperos picked him up in a trade with Veracruz late in the previous season.  Amador moved between first, second and third bases that year and hit .355 while bashing 18 homers and scoring 79 runs for Saltillo.  He followed that up in 2012 with a .323 average and 22 homers with the Saraperos before moving on to Aguascalientes for two seasons and spending 2015 in Monclova, hitting .305 with 18 homers for the Acereros.  In all, Amador has hit 97 homers and topped the .300 mark four times in the past five Mexican League summers.

Things haven't gone quite the same in the LMP, where Amador had spent ten years compiling a .275 average prior to this season's offensive explosion.  After playing four seasons in Navojoa, he moved home to Mexicali for a couple seasons prior to the past five winters in Hermosillo.  The 5'10" right-handed batter hit .295 with 11 homers for the Naranjeros in 2014-15, typically decent numbers but no portent of what was to come this season.