Saturday, February 13, 2016

Canizales talks LMP expansion, rules changes

In the afterglow of watching one of his teams win the Caribbean Series for the fourth time in six winters after setting box office records during the regular season, Mexican Pacific League president Omar Canizales shared his thoughts with ESPN Deportes about possible expansion of the eight-team circuit into the nation's capital and changes in the system used to determine the loop's six playoff teams.

Saying there's no timeline, Canizales admitted that the LMP has already looked at placing a team in Leon while he dreams of a MexPac franchise in Mexico City. "The Liga Pacifico is deeply rooted in the culture of the people of the north," Canizales told ESPN. "We have the challenge of crossing that border.  There are plans to expand to Leon and the dream is to have a team in Mexico City, although that hasn't been talked about."

Leon is a city of more than 1.5 million residents in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato that has had Mexican League teams in the past, most recently in 1991. Leon's ballpark, Estadio Domingo Santana (pictured), underwent renovations in 2014 that included work on the playing surface and in some areas within the existing structure, but the seating capacity remains at 3,000, far too small for a league that averaged nearly 10,000 fans per opening this winter.  Longtime Mexican baseball coach and scout Carlos Fragoso, who has recommended players to both the Red Sox and Yankees, says that while Leon is an open market at present, the LMB has "reserved" it as a possible franchise site should one of its 16 teams seek to move from its current locale in the future.

It would not be any easier to establish a team in the Distrito Federal, where the Mexican League Diablos Rojos have created a virtual baseball hegemony, making it tough for competitors to gain a foothold.  The Diablos could be considered the Liga's flagship franchise, given their location, history of success, the deep pockets of owner Alfredo Harp Helu and the insider power of team president Roberto Mansur.  In addition, Mexico City's best-suited facility for the sport, Estadio Fray Nano, holds only 5,200 onlookers and is controlled by the Red Devils while a new 13,000-seat ballpark is in the works.

Canizales also touched on the end to the MexPac's regular season in December, in which the Jalisco Charros were in the position of qualifying for the playoffs if they LOST their last game.  "It's necessary to improve the system of competition, although there've only been three times when a team has reached the final game needing to lose to advance to the playoffs," he said.  "Maybe a playoff game between the teams involved would provide a solution."