Monday, October 31, 2016

Saraperos tab Orlando Sanchez for second managerial go-round

If the 1990's animated kid's series "Captain Planet" was still running on cable TV, it might devote an episode on how Mexican League baseball teams have performed yeoman's work recycling their managers.  There were at least eight managerial changes during the LMB's 2016 season, and most of the outgoing and incoming skippers had already changed jobs and teams with some regularity over the years.  Cory Snyder, who piloted Puebla to the Liga pennant, was one notable exception, as was Aguascalientes player-manager Saul Soto, but the vast majority already had a "been there, done that" resume.

And now we have Orlando Sanchez to add to the list.

Sanchez (hoisting trophy in photo) was hired by the Saltillo Saraperos last week after the club finished 50-61 to come in seventh in the LMB North under Noe Munoz and Francisco "Paquin" Estrada, who was brought in July 1 after Munoz was canned with the team holding a 32-40 mark.  Sanchez becomes Saltillo's 35th manager since the team began play in 1970, but he is no newcomer to the city or Mexican League baseball.  As a player, Sanchez was versatile enough to play catcher, first base and outfield as a pro between 1974 and 1993, including four brief stints in MLB with St. Louis, Kansas City and Baltimore in the early 1980's.  He spent his final eight seasons in Mexico, where he hit .344 with 134 homers over 867 games for six teams, topping the .400 mark twice.

As a manager, he was at the helm for the Saraperos' back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010, but was axed in 2011 when Saltillo was at 36-50.  To illustrate the first paragraph of this story, let's take a Magical Mystery Tour of Sanchez' managerial career in Mexico since his first such job with the Laguna Vaqueros in 2006...

2006:  Led Laguna to a 50-59 record, fired after season.
2007:  Hired by Tabasco. Went 111-106 with Olmecas, fired after the 2008 season.
2009:  First stint with Saltillo. Was 150-147 with pennants in 2009 and 2010, fired during 2011 season.
2012:  Hired by Monclova, went 57-56 managing Acereros, fired after season.
2013:  Second stint with Laguna. Vaqueros had a 51-60 record, fired after season.
2014:  Hired by Yucatan on May 3, went 38-45, fired after season.
2015:  Named interim manager for Aguascalientes on June 21, replaced by Jesus Sommers on July 15.
2016:  Interim manager in Tabasco after Paquin Estrada was fired April 29, replaced by Che Reyes May 6.
2016:  Replaced Jose Offerman in Carmen on May 9, Delfines finished last in LMB South at 31-76.
2016:  Hired by Saltillo Saraperos for 2017 season.

And this is not an unusual pattern among veteran Mexican League managers, many of whom could earn extra income as Samsonite spokesmen.  BBM wishes the best of luck to Orlando Sanchez in his second term with Saltillo, but with a little unsolicited advice:  Rent, don't buy.


Four teams tied for MexPac lead; Roberson tops batting race

Three weeks into the Mexican Pacific League's regular season, four teams are tied at the top of the standings with identical 10-7 record as the first half reached its midpoint.  Los Mochis, Mexicali, Hermosillo and Navojoa are all one game ahead of fifth-place Jalisco and two up on Culiacan in sixth with no team showing any signs of breaking away from the field.

Mexicali has the hottest team in the MexPac right now with four straight wins, including a three-game weekend sweep of Obregon at home.  The Aguilas pounded the Yaquis, 9-1, Sunday as Ramon Rios went 3-for-5 with a homer, two runs and three RBI's Javier Solano earned his third win in four decisions.  A crowd of 15,238 watched at Estadio B'Air as over 45,000 attended the three-game set.  It capped an already tough weekend for Obregon, who learned the Chicago Cubs are shutting down third baseman Christian Villanueva for the rest of the season after hitting .278 with three homers in 15 games for the Yaquis. The 25-year-old Villanueva, last winter's Baseball Mexico MVP, missed the entire summer after suffering an injury during the Cubs' spring training.

Aguilas veteran Chris Roberson, a former Phillies outfielder, is spending his 15th winter in the LMP and his league-leading .434 batting average with four steals in 15 games implies that Robo's tank is far from empty.  His .554 on-base percentage also tops the loop.  Two Cuban outfielders with Los Mochis, Yadir Drake and J.C. Linares, are tied for the lead in homers with five apiece, Culiacan teammates Joey Meneses and Ronnier Mustelier (another Cubano) have an LMP-best 18 RBIs each and Obregon's Justin Greene is tops with nine stolen bases.  Greene was struck in the face with a pitched ball during a bunt attempt in Saturday's game at Mexicali and is out indefinitely to heal, although his injuries are not expected to be serious.

Mexicali's Solano and Hector Velazquez of Navojoa both have three wins thus far, although Velazquez's 2.63 ERA has been much more impressive than Solano's 5.32 figure and his 27 strikeouts are best in the league.  The 2010 Mexican League Rookie of the Year, Velazquez was the LMP's Pitcher of the Year in 2013-14 while Solano was selected last season's top hurler.  Hector Daniel Rodriguez of Culiacan has been the MexPac's hard-luck pitcher in the early going, winning just once with two losses despite a league-leading ERA of 1.93 after four starts and 23.1 innings pitched.  Hermosillo closer Paul Sewald finally gave up a run after five scoreless appearances, but his five saves is tied with Aaron Kurcz of Jalisco and Mexicali's Jake Sanchez, who has yet to let a run cross the plate himself in nine outings.


BBM editor to pen Mexican League wrap for Baseball America '17 Almanac

Ahhhh, I'll write this one in the first person.  I've been contacted by assistant editor Jim Shonerd about sending them a Mexican League 2016 season wrap to be part of next year's Baseball America Almanac.  This will mark the second time I've done so for Baseball America, which has replaced The Sporting News as the Bible of the sport.  The first time was for the 2011 BA Almanac, which featured fellow Washingtonian Tim Lincecum on the cover (I'll concede that Big Time Timmy Jim had the better year).

The LMB writeup was requested to run 450-500 words and (taking that inch) I've sent in a wrap that runs 500 words exactly.  As I told Jim when I sent it in, I can stick with word limits for my columns just as easily as Rick Reilly does with his...he just does it better.  I'll let you know when the Almanac is released but it's expected to be ready in mid-December.

Seriously, getting into Baseball America is an honor almost at the level of the Mexican Pacific League posting my Viva Beisbol columns on the front page of their league website ten years, to date the only English-language content they've ever carried.  I can't think of anything I've done that quite matched that.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Mexican Nationals to play two games in Japan

As a tuneup for next spring's World Baseball Classic, the Mexican National Baseball Team is cobbling together a roster of players to travel to Tokyo for a pair of November exhibition games against their counterparts from Japan.

The Verde Grande will take on Samurai Japan at the Tokyo Dome in November 10 and 11.  Mexican skipper Edgar Gonzalez has already lined up a number of prominent players to make the trip across the Pacific, including a pair of mainstays of Puebla's Mexican League championship team.  Liga MVP Cesar Tapia will take his catcher's gear to Tokyo, where he'll work again with BBM Playoff MVP Mauricio Lara.  Tapia led the LMB with a .383 batting average, including 21 homers and 94 RBIs, to raise his 12-year career batting average to .336.  Lara, the younger brother of former outfielder Bobby "The Animal" Lara, posted a 13-3 regular season record for the Pericos before going 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA in the postseason.

Joining Tapia and Lara in Japan will be pitchers Hector Daniel Rodriguez and Jose Oyervides, designated hitter Japhet Amador, catcher Humberto Sosa, second baseman Esteban Quiroz, shortstop Ramiro Pena, third sacker Agustin Murillo and outfielders Jose Aguilar and Leo Heras.  More players are being recruited for the trip and undoubtedly a call will be made to manager Gonzalez' younger brother Adrian, who swatted two homers in the MLB playoffs this month after hitting .285 with 18 homers and 90 RBIs for the Dodgers during the regular season.  However, the smooth-fielding "El Titan" (who tied San Diego's Wil Myers as the top defensive first baseman in the National League with a .998 fielding percentage) just finished his season in Los Angeles and may want to take some time off after ten months of baseball, starting in spring training.

The Dutch National Team will also make the journey to the Land of the Rising Sun, playing the Samurai in Tokyo on November 12 and 13.  Like Edgar Gonzalez, Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens spent time in Nippon Professional Baseball during his playing career.


Amador to make LMP season debut this week

Speaking of Japhet Amador, the hulking slugger is back in Mexico after an injury-plagued first season in Japan and is expected to make his winterball season debut this week for the Jalisco Charros.  The 29-year-old Gigante de Mulege only appeared in 37 games for the Rakuten Golden Eagles last summer, batting .258 with 9 homers and 19 RBIs.  He hurt his left wrist in March during training camp, sustained a bone contusion in his left hand in May and injured his left oblique muscle in September.  His summer wasn't a total so-called "lost season," as his wife gave birth to their second child in August back home in Mexico.

The 6'4" 311-pounder is hoping to get back on track after being named the 2015 Mexican League MVP by batting .346 with 41 homers and 117 RBIs in 103 games for Mexico City.  Amador led the Mexican Pacific League with 14 homers and 48 RBIs for Jalisco last winter despite signing with Rakuten with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

Amador made his Mexican League debut with Minatitlan in 2007, but struggled his first two years before batting .331 with 16 homers for the Petroleros in 2009. From that point on he's been one of Mexico's most-feared batsmen and eventually spent snippets of two seasons in the Astros organization.

According to Puro Beisbol editor Fernando Ballasteros, Amador has been working out with the Charros and is slated to make his 2016-17 LMP debut Tuesday night in Mexicali.


Caneros win four straight to tie Hermosillo for LMP lead

J.C. Linares batted 3-for-4 with three runs batted in and Jesus Arredondo socked a two-run homer to lead the Los Mochis Caneros to a 9-1 home win over Mazatlan Sunday in front of 7,961 fans at Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada.  Former Padres farmhand Alexis Lara pitched five shutout innings to earn the win as the Caneros battered Venados starter Walter Silva for eight runs over 3.1 innings to hand Silva his second loss in three outings.  The victory capped a three-game Mochis sweep of Mazatlan and vaulted Luis Sojo's squad into a first-place tie with Hermosillo with identical 7-4 records.  The Naranjeros dropped home games over the weekend to Obregon.  The Yaquis beat Hermosillo, 5-4, as Christian Villanueva clouted two homers and added the game-winning RBI single in the top of the ninth.

Mexicali and Navojoa are tied for third in the MexPac's first-half standings at 6-5 while Jalisco, Culiacan and Obregon are knotted up in fifth at 5-6.  Mazatlan trails the field in eighth with a 3-8 mark.

Jalisco third baseman Agustin Murillo leads the LMP with a .487 batting average, Mochis' Linares has five homers to top the loop in that category, outfielder Ronnier Mustelier of Culiacan has the most RBIs with 16 while Obregon flychaser Justin Greene (who tied for the Mexican League lead with 29 stolen bases over the summer) tops the list with 7 swipes.

Among pitchers, Los Mochis' Julian Arballo is one of six pitchers with 2-0 records and has yet to give up an earned run in ten innings over two starts.  Another 2-0 hurler, Hector Velazquez of Navojoa, leads the MexPac with 18 strikeouts in 17 inning following three outings.  Hermosillo closer Paul Sewald allowed his first run of the campaign against Obregon in his fifth trip from the bullpen, but has converted four saves to lead LMP relievers in the young season.

Monday, October 17, 2016

HERMOSILLO WINS 4 OF 5 TO CLAIM EARLY MEXPAC LEAD

With more than ten weeks and 60-plus games per team remaining in the regular season, it's a little early to be pinning the "contender" label on any Mexican Pacific League team after five games.  On the other hand, the Hermosillo Naranjeros haven't done anything to dispel that notion, either.

Manager Lorenzo Bundy's Orangemen reeled off four wins out the gate, winning both ends of a home-and-away series with ravals Obregon and beating Navojoa two straight before losing their first game, a 3-2 heartbreaker in 12 innings decision at the hands of the Mayos Sunday as 15,615 watched at Estadio Sonora.  Humberto Sosa's single to left scored speedy rookie Randy Arozarena from second in the top of the 12th to give the Mayos the final margin of victory.

The Naranjeros have three hitters topping the .300 mark in the young season: Outfielder Efren Navarro is third in the LMP batting race with a .450 mark, third baseman Jose Amador is fifth at .438 and outfielder Eric Young, Jr. checks in at .381.  Amador is tied for third with Mazatlan's Cyle Hankerd at 2 homers each after a strange summer in which Amador walked out on the Monclova Acereros a day after winning the All-Star Game MVP trophy and eventually forced a trade to Campeche, where he hit .326 for the Piratas en route to an even .300 average with 16 homers for the summer.

Still, it's been pitching that's put Hermosillo on top, with the Naranjeros' 2.25 team ERA standing second in the loop to Obregon's microscopic 1.84 mark.  Starters Juan Pablo Oramos and Casey Coleman are both 1-0 with 1.80 ERAs after each tossing five-inning starts last week.  Closer Paul Sewald has three saves in four relief appearances; the Mets farmhand has yet to give up a run.

Obviously it remains to be seen whether the Naranjeros (who have eleven MLB minor leaguers on their roster) can remain in the front of the MexPac standings.  So far in the early going, however, they've been up to the task.

And, no, she's not on Hermosillo's roster, but she IS wearing a Naranjeros jersey. Good enough.


MEXICALI'S RIOS GOES 10-FOR-21, LEADS LMP BAT TITLE CHASE

Ramon Rios is following up a standout Mexican League season for Monterrey by starting the Mexican Pacific League campaign en fuego at the plate for the Mexicali Aguilas.  Rios batted .344 for the Sultanes last summer to post his third straight .339+ Liga season.  A hitter with more place than power despite tipping the scales at 200 pounds, Rios has just just 14 homers in that timespan.  He then opened the winterball season by going 10-for-21 in his first five games for the Aguilas for a .476 average to top the early MexPac batting leaderboard.  True to form, Rios has nine singles and one double while scoring five runs.  He has yet to strike out at the plate.

Mexicali teammate Luis Juarez is second to Rios in the batting race at .471.  Juarez, who hit a disappointing .258 with six homers for Monterrey over the summer, has a homer and seven RBIs in five contests for the Eagles.  Hermosillo's Efren Navarro is third with a .450 average while Mexicali's veteran outfielder Chris Roberson is fourth at .444.  Jose Amador of Hermosillo is fifth with a .438 mark.

A pair of Cuban outfielders in Los Mochis have taken the lead among home run hitters.  Yadir Drake and J.C. Linares each have four longballs.  Drake poked a pair of homers against Navojoa in the Caneros' October 13 home opener while Linares socked two bombs one night later against Culiacan in the midst of a three-game, four-homer stretch.  Hermosillo's Amador and Mazaltan first sacker Cyle Hankerd are tied for third with two dingers apiece.

Culiacan outfielders Sebastian Elizalde and Joey Meneses are running 1-2 in the RBI derby.  Elizalde, a Reds minor league, has 10 ribbies and Meneses (a five-year player in the Braves system) has driven in 8 runners.  Elizalde, Hermosillo's Eric Young, Jr. and Ronnie Mustelier, Culiacan's third Cuban outfielder are all tied for first with 7 runs scored.  Mustelier defected from Cuba in 2011 on a boat with 20 people, leaving behind a son.  He later signed with the Yankees for $50,000 and spent four years in their organization.  The 32-year-old Mustelier hit .292 and was an International League mid-season All-Star with the Braves' Gwinnett affiliate this summer.


SIX STARTERS TOSS 5+ SHUTOUT FRAMES FOR OPENING WINS

Unlike the summer Mexican League, which has had a "hitter's league" reputation for decades, winter's Mexican Pacific League has long been known as a place where pitcher excel.  While Mexican baseball legend Hector Espino had his way with LMP hurlers for more than two decades, most MexPac hitters have to scrape for everything they get.  Last week served as one more example as six LMP pitchers tossed five or more shutout innings in scoring wins in their first starts of the 2016-17 season.  No pitcher had two wins heading into Monday's travel day.

Julian Arballo (Los Mochis), Blake Beavan (Obregon), Onelki Garcia (Mexicali), Arturo Lopez (Obregon), Hector Daniel Rodriguez (Culiacan) and Hector Velazquez (Navojoa) all went unscathed and took wins in their initial starts of the winter season.  Arballo, a Cal Baptist product who saved 11 games for the Yankees' Gulf Coast League rookie team in 2009, allowed just one hit in five entradas against Culiacan for an October 14 win while one night later, former Mariners starter Beavan carried a shutout into the sixth to take the win over Jalisco. Another starter, Obregon's Marco Carrillo tossed six innings and gave up one unearned run in a no-decision while Jalisco's Marco Tovar pitched in even tougher luck by going five frames against Beavan on the 15th, giving up one unearned run in five innings but being tagged with the loss.

Velazquez struck out eight Los Mochis batsmen in winning his October 12 start for the Mayos to grab the early league lead in that category, one more than Mochis' Manny Barreda, Mexicali's Efren Delgado and Velazquez' Mayos teammate Jose Oyervides.  Hermosillo's Paul Sewald has three saves to top the circuit, one more than Navojoa's Kyle Grana.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Mazatlan bops Mexicali, 7-1, in MexPac opener

The Mazatlan Venados took an early 2-0 lead and went on to defeat the visiting Mexicali Aguilas, 7-1, Tuesday night in the Mexican Pacific League's season opener.  A packed house of 15,320 was on hand at Mazatlan's Estadio Teodoro Mariscal.

The Venados scored the first two runs of the MexPac season in the bottom of the second, when former Angels farmhand Brian Hernandez (pictured, with AA Arkansas), who hit .280 with 8 homers for Laguna in the LMB over the summer, followed a walk to Corey Brown by lining a two-run homer to center field off Aguilas srarter Edgar Osuna.

Mexicali got one run back in the top of the fourth, when Xavier Paul's bases-loaded, fielder's-choice grounder to Mazatlan first sacker Cyle Hankerd plated Ramon Rios from third as Hankerd threw to second to force Yuniesky Betancourt. However, the Venados broke things open in the bottom of the sixth with five runs, keyed by back-to-back two-run doubles by Heber Gomez and Samar Leyva.  From that point on, the Mazatlan bullpen blanked the Aguilas the rest of the way.

Venerable Mazatlan starter Walter Silva went five innings for the host team, allowing one run on four hits and striking out three Mexicali batters.  A Mazatlan native who pitched for San Diego in 2009, Silva turns 40 in January.  This is his eleventh winter with the Venados.  Osuna, another Mazalteco, lasted five innings, allowing two runs on three hits with six whiffs to take the loss in a hard-luck start.

Mazatlan has been receiving a little more attention than usual from the baseball world this year.  Besides the Venados' status as defending LMP and Caribbean Series champions, a new 17,000-seat ballpark is planned for north of the city's Zona Dorado tourist enclave while Yucatan Leones owners Juan Jose and Eric Arellano have been interested in bringing a Mexican League team to their hometown, and recently purchased full ownership of the Laguna Vaqueros.  If the Vaqueros were brought west, Mazatlan would become the first city in Mexico (and possibly the continent) to host professional baseball year-round, although such a development is no sure thing.

The rest of the LMP swings into action Wednesday night.

Monday, October 10, 2016

MexPac to open 2016-17 season in Mazatlan Tuesday

As is often said here, there is no such thing as an offseason in Mexican baseball and Exhibit A will be on display Tuesday night in Mazatlan.

Less than four weeks after the Puebla Pericos ended the summer season with a pennant-clinching Game Six win at Tijuana in the Mexican League Championship Series, winterball gets underway in the Pearl of the Pacific when the Venados host the Mexicali Aguilas at Estadio Teodoro Mariscal Tuesday in the Mexican Pacific League season opener.  The two teams met in the LMP title series last January, with Mazatlan winning the MexPac pennant en route to their second Caribbean Series crown.

Juan Jose Pacho, who had managed Mazatlan to both their Serie del Caribe crowns, is back for another year with the Venados.  Gil Velazquez will be starting his first winter as Mexicali's helmsman.  Velazquez, a former MLB outfielder who managed the Dodgers' Class A Great Lakes team of the Midwest League over the summer, replaces ex-Padres second baseman Edgar Gonzalez, who will manage the Mexican National Team in next March's World Baseball Classic.

The same eight teams return for another 68-game MexPac season, the loop's 72nd since beginning as the Pacific Coast League in 1945-46.  Last winter, the LMP averaged nearly 10,000 fans per opening, more than any summer minor league in North America, although Indiana Jones had an easier time finding the Holy Grail than he would searching for team-by-team attendance.  The Culiacan Tomateros, who will host the Caribbean Series next February, drew more than 16,000 a game at their brand new ballpark, the 20,000-seat Estadio BBVA Bancomer, which features Latin American baseball's largest video display board at 36 feet high by 108 feet wide.

One more new ballpark will make its debut Wednesday when the Obregon Yaquis welcome Hermosillo at the creatively-named Nuevo Estadio de Yaquis, a 15,900-seater that replaces Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan (which the Yaquis had called "home" since its 1971 opening).  Other openers on Wednesday include Navojoa at Los Mochis and Culiacan at Jalisco.  The Charros will host first round games for next March's World Baseball Classic at Guadalajara's Estadio Charros.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE 2016-17
Omar Canizales, president
CULIACAN TOMATEROS
City: Culiacan, Sinaloa
Team colors: Red, Maroon
First year: 1965
Pennants: 14
2015-16 record: 28-40 (7th place, missed playoffs)
Manager: Lino Rivera
Stadium (capacity):  Estadio BBVA Bancomer (20,000)

HERMOSILLO NARANJEROS
City: Hermosillo, Sonora
Team colors: Orange, Black
First year: 1945
Pennants: 18
2015-16 record: 27-40-1 (8th place, missed playoffs)
Manager: Lorenzo Bundy
Stadium (capacity): Estadio Sonora (16,400)

JALISCO CHARROS
City: Guadalajara, Jalisco
Team colors: Blue, Gold
First year: 2014
Pennants: None
2015-16 record: 30-38 (6th place, lost in first round of playoffs)
Manager: Homar Rojas
Stadium (capacity): Estadio Charros (13,000)

LOS MOCHIS CANEROS
City: Los Mochis, Sonora
Team colors: Green, Yellow
First Year: 1947
Total pennants: 3
2015-16 record: 35-33 (5th place, lost in first round of playoffs)
Manager: Luis Sojo
Stadium (capacity): Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada (11,000)

MAZATLAN VENADOS
City: Mazatlan, Sinaloa
Team colors: Red, White
First Year: 1945
Total pennants: 14
2015-16 record: 38-30 (3rd place, won League Championship, Caribbean Series)
Manager: Juan Jose Pacho
Stadium (capacity): Estadio Teodoro Mariscal (14,000)

MEXICALI AGUILAS
City: Mexicali, Baja California Norte
Team colors: Red, White, Blue
First year: 1948
Pennants: 3
2015-16 record: 38-29-1 (1st place, lost League Championship Series)
Manager: Gil Velazquez
Stadium (capacity):  Estadio B'Air (17,000)

NAVOJOA MAYOS
City:  Navojoa, Sonora
Team colors:  Red, Yellow
First year: 1950
Pennants: 2
2015-16 record: 36-32 (4th place, lost in semifinals)
Manager: Matias Carrillo
Stadium (capacity): Estadio Manuel "Ciclon" Echeverria (11,500)

OBREGON YAQUIS
City: Obregon, Sonora
Team colors: Blue, Orange
First year: 1947
Pennants: 7
2015-16 record: 39-29 (2nd place, lost in semifinals)
Manager: Eddie Diaz
Stadium (capacity):  Nuevo Estadio de Yaquis (15,900)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Laguna Vaqueros sold to Arellano brothers; move to Mazatlan next?

The Mexican League's Laguna Vaqueros have been sold to brothers Juan Jose and Erick Arellano, who also own the Yucatan Leones.  The Mazatlan natives first purchased 33 percent of the Vaqueros in March, and La Aficion reports the infusion of cash the Arellanos put into the club made it possible to bring in better players, resulting in a playoff berth before losing to Monterrey in the first round.  The Arellanos purchased the remaining 67 percent of the Vaqueros in late September and are now sole owners of the franchise.

They followed a similar path in Torreon as in Merida, where the Arellanos purchased a share in the Leones in 2014 before subsequently buying control of that team.  While the Vaqueros were hardly a washout at the gate this season, averaging 5,395 fans per opening for a total of 285,952 for the season (finishing fifth among 16 teams), there was discussion that the Arellanos would entertain offers to move the team.

In the past, the brothers have floated the idea of buying an existing Liga team and moving it to Mazatlan, where they would share 14,000-seat Estadio Teodoro Mariscal with the Mexican Pacific League Venados while a new ballpark north of town is constructed.  However, Yucatan's La Verdad newspaper reported Sunday that Leones general manager Juan Carlos Canizales says that while the brothers are still interested in bringing LMB baseball to the Pearl of the Pacific, they will operate the Vaqueros in Torreon for the 2017 season.

Wherever the Cowboys play next year, they'll do it without manager Daniel Fernandez.  The former Mexico City pilot, whose Diablos Rojos won the 2008 LMB pennant, was hired one month into the season to replace Mario Mendoza (who'd been hired by Laguna in the offseason).  Fernandez, one of the LMB's all-time leading batters after a 26-year playing career (all but one with Mexico City), won 48 of 82 to take the Vaqueros to the postseason, but mounting criticism during the team's four-game sweep at the hands of Monterrey, were a prelude to his ouster after Laguna failed to win a pennant for the 66th consecutive season.  The team plays in 8,500-seat Estadio Revolucion (pictured), which was completed in 1932, eight year before Union Laguna made its Mexican League debut.  The 84-year-old ballpark was renovated in 2002.


More turmoil in the Mexican League; five teams threaten to leave circuit

Internal squabbles among Mexican League owners resurfaced at a meeting of LMB team presidents in late September and, at least on the surface, the impasse may be reaching critical mass.

The main issue appears to be centered on Mexican-born players who signed with Major League Baseball teams without going through the usual process of first signing with a Mexican team, who would then negotiate with MLB organizations for the rights to the player (with the vast majority of sale proceeds going to the Liga team and not the player).  Those players had been effectively blackballed from returning to play in Mexico after their careers in the states were over, but that rule was overturned earlier this year over the strenuous objection of a number of LMB owners.

Now, after the latest meeting, five teams are threatening to leave the circuit altogether.  Mexico City Diablos president Roberto Mansur and his Quintana Roo Tigres counterpart, Carlos Peralta, both resigned from the LMB Board of Directors and were joined by the Monterrey Sultanes, Oaxaca Guerreros and Carmen Delfines in rebelling against league president Plinio Escalante, who had planned to retire after the recently-concluded season but was talked into staying two more years after a suitable replacement wasn't found.

The situation is complicated enough that further explanation here would be speculation, something that would be unfair to the parties involved.  Needless to say, with neither side of the split apparently willing to budge, this is a story that bears watching.


Mexican Baseball Fiesta held in Tucson

With the Mexican Pacific League 2016-17 season opener less than ten days away, when Mexicali visits Mazatlan on Tuesday, October 11, training camps for all eight teams are in full-tilt boogie mode.

While players have engaged in the timeless traditions of calisthenics, drills and generally getting set for the winterball season less than a month after the Mexican League summer season concluded, "preseason" in the MexPac has come to include heading north of the border to play exhibition games in front of audiences in the U.S. Southwest as part of LMP president Omar Canizales' vision of expanding the circuit's brand into new territory.

Part of that expansion has been the Mexican Baseball Fiesta, in which several MexPac teams play in places like Fresno, California, Round Rock, Texas and Mesa, Arizona before culminating with a four-day event in Tucson, Arizona before heading back home.  This fall, the sixth Fiesta featured five LMP squads who were joined by a team of Kansas City Royals' prospects at Tucson's Kino Memorial Stadium for eight games between Thursday, September 29 and Sunday, October 2.

Former Tucson Padres general manager Mike Feder has spearheaded the event in the Old Pueblo since its 2011 inception and this year, the former PCL Executive of the Year brought in six Mexican bands to play live following the four twinbills to go along with $1 beers and sodas on Thursday, a Kid's Night promotion on Friday, appearances of players and team mascots at a couple of local auto dealerships in Saturday and a Sunday Family day featuring discounted tickets.  "This tournament includes some of the most popular teams in Mexico," Feder said in a press release.  "We're excited that the Mexican Baseball Fiesta continues to grow every year."

The Mexicali Aguilas opened play last Thursday with a 2-1 win over Obregon, but the scheduled nightcap between Hermosillo and Kansas City was called off because of rain.  There were no other washouts the rest of the way, although rain did delay at least one game for half an hour.  The unbalanced schedule had Obregon playing four games (including two against traditional rival Hermosillo) while Los Mochis and Culiacan played just two games apiece.

Results, let alone box scores and attendance figures, at this event were not easily available, but a little digging around on MexPac team websites turned up these results and highlights:

THURSDAY, September 29
Mexicali 2, Obregon 1 (Ramon Rios hit an RBI single for Mexicali)
Hermosillo vs. Kansas City Royals prospects rained out

FRIDAY, September 30
Hermosillo 7, Obregon 4 (Roberto Ramos homered for Hermosillo)
Mexicali 6, Culiacan 4 (Chris Roberson hit an RBI doubled, scored a run for Mexicali)

SATURDAY, October 1
Obregon 5, Hermosillo 2 (Juan Pablo Oramos allowed 1 run in 3 innings for Obregon)
Los Mochis 6, Culiacan 2 (Saul Soto drove in 2 runs for Mochis)

SUNDAY, October 2
Hermosillo 5, Mexicali 4 (Hermosillo turned triple play in fifth inning)
Obregon 4, Los Mochis 3 (Leo Heras hit walkoff two-run triple for Obregon)

Final MBF Standings:  Mexicali 2-1, Hermosillo 2-1, Obregon 2-2, Los Mochis 1-1, Culiacan 0-2.

Saturday, October 1, 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
Summer 2016 - Cesar Tapia, C, Puebla Pericos

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
Summer 2016 - Mauricio Lara, P, Puebla Pericos

BATTER OF THE YEAR
Winter 2016 - Jose Amador, 1B, Hermosillo Naranjeros
Summer 2016 - Diory Hernandez, Aguascalientes Rieleros

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

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

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