Monday, July 25, 2016

Three LMB South teams clinch playoff berths

With three weeks remaining in the Mexican League's regular season schedule, three of the loop's 16 teams have clinched playoff berths.

Puebla (65-29), Yucatan (65-30) and defending champion Quintana Roo (59-37) all reside in the LMB South Division, where the three clubs each have winning percentages of better than .600.  Conversely, the South's bottom four teams (Tabasco, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Carmen) are all below .400 for the season, with Campeche holding fourth place at 47-46, well ahead of 37-59 Tabasco.  The Pericos and Leones are still just a half-game apart as their season-long duel for South supremacy enters the stretch drive of the campaign, but the Tigres and Piratas appear fairly locked in for third and fourth place, respectively.

Although nobody has clinched in the North, teams appear to be positioning themselves for the second season.  Monterrey (60-34) is 3.5 games up on Monclova (57-38) for the lead, but third-place Tijuana 55-40) has won eight of their last ten games under new manager Pedro Mere to close to within two games of Monclova.  Laguna (54-42) has lost their last four contests but still hold fourth place, five games ahead of Mexico City (48-46) and seven games in front of Aguascalientes (46-48).  The Vaqueros host the Diablos Rojos in a three-game series beginning Tuesday that will go a long way towards settling things while the Rieleros visit Monterrey in an attempt to remain in contention.

Puebla catcher Cesar Tapia has cooled at the plate somewhat (4-of-16 over his past four games), but his single in Sunday's 9-7 loss at Mexico City extended his hitting streak to eleven games and Tapia's .381 average still leads the Liga, ahead of Veracruz' Carlos Lopez at .363.  Monterrey third baseman Alex Valdez clubbed a pair of homers in Campeche over the weekend to extend his season total to 26, four more than Quintana Roo's Alex Liddi (pictured above).  The early Triple Crown talk regarding Aguascalientes shortstop Diory Hernandez died weeks ago, but the 32-year-old Dominican swatted a pair of three-run homers last week to push his LMB-leading RBI total to 87.  Liddi drove in four runs on a double and homer against Laguna in Cancun Sunday to close to within four ribbies of Hernandez.  A pair of Saltillo outfielders, Justin Greene and Christian Zazueta, are tied for the circuit lead in stolen bases with 30 swipes apiece, two more than Dustin Martin of Tijuana.

With former Monclova ace Josh Lowey now in South Korea (pitching five innings of one-run ball for the KT Wiz in their win over the Samsung Lions Sunday), former Cubs farmhand Yoanner Negrin has won his last five starts for Yucatan to go to 15-1 for the season, overtaking Lowey's 13 victories for the LMB lead.  Lowey's 131 strikeouts are still well ahead of his former Acereros moundmate Jose Oyervides' 103 and his 1.65 ERA continues to lead the Liga (Tijuana's Miguel Pena is second at 2.04).  Puebla closer Chad Gaudin has gone 7-for-7 in saves situations this month to bring his total to 30, slipping past Monclova's Arcenio Leon for tops in the Mexican League.

Mexican League considering contraction of teams

The 2016 season has been a tough one financially for a large number of Mexican League teams and one result may be the offseason contraction of some of the loop's 16 teams.

Although the Monterrey Sultanes continue to lead all of Minor League Baseball in average attendance with 12,659 fans clicking the turnstiles per opening while Tijuana (8,944), Yucatan (8,767) and Monclova (6,421) have been doing well at the gate, the overall picture for the LMB is a grim one.  Eight clubs are averaging fewer than 3,000 fanaticos per home game, with Oaxaca bringing up the rear at 1,739.  In all, 3,386,938 people attended 727 LMB contests through last weekend for an average of 4,659, a figure surpassed by 15 of 16 Pacific Coast League franchises and 12 of 14 International League teams among other AAA leagues.

Declining attendance south of the border might be partially explained by the rapidly-declining Mexican peso, which was trading at $18.76 per USA dollar as of July 25, but Mexican Pacific League teams dealing with similar peso exchange rates drew nearly 10,000 fans last winter, higher than any professional baseball league outside MLB on the continent.  Civil unrest in Oaxaca has certainly not helped the Guerreros, who lost their first eleven games to quickly fall out of contention, and the ongoing conflict among drug cartels and the government in the north has continued to affect things in places like Reynosa, but the overall picture is bleak.

Various baseball columnists in Mexico are starting to file pieces speculating that LMB president Plinio Escalante and team owners will be considering the contraction of four teams after the current season is over. A Saturday column by Puro Beisbol editor Fernando Ballasteros says the most likely candidates for contraction appear to be Aguascalientes and Reynosa in the North and Carmen and Tabasco in the South.  Ballasteros adds that while teams in Veracruz and Cancun have been struggling along with most LMB franchises, the Rojos Aguilas and Tigres likely have too much historic significance to be dropped from the rostrum.

According to Ballasteros, Mexico City Diablos Rojos team president Roberto Mansur floated the idea of contraction to 12 teams a number of years ago, a notion that is now apparently gaining traction (reportedly with support coming from franchises in Laguna, Puebla, Tijuana and Yucatan).  The LMB will likely visit the issue at their 2016 Convention at Oaxaca in late September, and any changes in the Liga lineup would probably be announced at December's Baseball Winter Meetings in Maryland.

2015 LMB Rookie of the Year signs with Cubs

Last season's Mexican League Rookie of the Year, Yucatan pitcher Manuel Rodriguez, has signed a contract with the Chicago Cubs.  The Cubs negotiated last October for negotiating rights to the six-foot right-hander, who turns 20 on August 6, but it wasn't until last Thursday that all parties agreed to a deal that will send Rodriguez north of the border for the next phase of his baseball career.

Rodriguez made his Leones debut as a 17-year-old on May 21, 2014 at Merida's Parque Kukulkan with two scoreless innings against Carmen.  He followed up with two rough outings that week before it was determined "not ready" for AAA ball.  Last year was another story, as Rodriguez turned in a 4-0 record with a 1.84 ERA in 50 appearances out of the bullpen as a middleman for Yucatan, good enough for selection to the All-Star Game plus ROY honors while gaining the attention of the Cubbies in the process, resulting in the rights deal swung between Yucatan and Chicago last fall.

2016 has not gone nearly so well for the youngster nicknamed "Bolon."  Although he still hasn't lost a game since 2014, Rodriguez only won one game with no saves and had an ERA of 5.06 in 19 outings before being placed on the Reserve List for the second time this year on June 27.  Even so, the Cubs were willing to go ahead and sign the Yucatan-born hurler last week.

At a press conference in Merida, Chicago scout Sergio Hernandez said Rodriguez will start out with the Cubs' Arizona Rookie League team in Mesa before their Class A Carolina League affiliate in Myrtle Beach, SC or even their AA Southern League team in Knoxville, TN.  Hernandez added that "Hopefully, he'll become the first Yucatecan to reach the majors and be an inspiration for many young people."  For his part, Rodriguez told the assembled officials and reporters, "I feel very all started as a dream and now God has blessed me by giving me this opportunity."

Monday, July 18, 2016

Cesar Tapia's amazing year continues in Puebla

If you'd never heard of Cesar Tapia prior to the current Mexican League season, you'd hardly be in exclusive company.  In fact, despite career statistics that would usually bring the kind of acclaim that lesser players have received, the Puebla Pericos' 12-year veteran catcher is still a relative unknown even inside Mexico, although that perception may be finally starting to change.

The 33-year-old Tapia (pictured), who has spent all but one of the past twelve summers in Puebla, went 11-for-19 (.579) with seven RBI's and six runs scored in five games last week to raise his season batting average to .387, good for a 21-point lead over Veracruz outfielder Carlos Lopez' .366 mark in the Liga batting race.  Barring a meltdown over the final four weeks of the regular season, Tapia is the odds-on favorite to win his first batting crown for the career .330 batsman.  "Wait a minute," you may be wondering, "he's a catcher with a .330 average after twelve seasons?  Why haven't I heard of this guy before?"  Tapia has good reason to ask that question himself.

Born November 10, 1982 in Empalme, Sonora, Cesar Tapia Figueroa grew up around the game, as so many youngsters in that baseball-crazy part of Mexico do, when he attended a Pericos tryout in 2000 to which one of his friends had been invited.  Former Detroit shortstop Cesar Gutierrez, who was overseeing the tryouts for Puebla, asked Tapia if he'd like to join in and ended up signing the 17-year-old to a contract.  Tapia then had to spend most of four seasons playing A and AA ball in the Mexican minors, often having to share houses with all his teammates while searching for a permanent defensive position.  He finally reached Puebla in 2004 and, except for spending the 2006 campaign with the Angelopolis Tigres, has been in the Pericos' green-and-gold togs ever since.

Not that many outside Puebla have noticed.  After batting .229 as a Pericos part-timer in 2005, he hit .301 in his lone Tigres season and has fallen below .300 only once since returning to Puebla in 2007.  Despite consistently batting in the .330-.350 range with moderate extra-base power (Tapia had 227 career doubles and 87 homers through last weekend), he has only been picked for three All-Star Games, including last month in Monterrey.  Tapia has also been obscured by the Pericos' relative lack of success, as Puebla has reached the championship Serie del Rey twice, losing to Saltillo in five games in 2010 and getting swept by Mexico City in 2014.

The relative obscurity Tapia has toiled in for over a dozen years is finally giving way to some attention outside Puebla, where he is the franchise's all-time leader with 214 doubles and ranks among the leaders in several other categories.  Aside from his .387 average, the 5'11" 200-pounder nicknamed "El Natural" has already set career highs with 16 homers and 11 stolen bases (the first time he's ever swiped more than five sacks in a season) with a month to go.  As well, with Puebla holding the Liga's best record at 62-26 and a 2.5-game lead in the LMB South Division, Tapia and the Pericos are a valid pick to bring home the team's first pennant since 1986, which would undoubtedly bring him more attention.

But even if his amazing 2016 campaign didn't result in a noticeable uptick in the amount of attention he's deserved, you get the sense that little would change with Cesar Tapia's approach to the game.  "You just come every day with the mentality of being well-prepared and giving 100 percent all game, not just a few innings...we owe it to the public, the people who come to the game and buy tickets."

Culiacan Academy opens with MLB VP in attendance

Anybody familiar with baseball in Latin American countries are probably well aware that academies for young prospects are almost ubiquitous.  Major League Baseball teams commonly operate academies in nations like Venezuela and the Dominican Republic (the independent movie "Sugar" is a terrific primer in how Latino teens work their way through the system), but no MLB-owned facility has existed in Mexico even though academies have been popping up here and there south of the border.  However, a step in that direction may have been taken with the recent opening of an academy in the Sinaloa city of Culiacan.

Although MLB is not involved with the Sinaloa Baseball Academy & Interactive Museum in a proprietary role, they will serve in a direct advisory capacity, marking the first time the big leagues have had an active hand in developing teen talent in Mexico.  MLB's Vice President for International Operations, Kim Ng, was on hand for inaugural ceremonies on July 8.  Speaking to those gathered, Ng said, "I'm very happy to be with you on behalf of Major League Baseball.  For my part, I'm very happy to be part of something that will be good for Mexico and MLB.  This program is the first of its kind."

Mexican Pacific League president Omar Canizales remarked, "We're all present here because we love baseball, and this unites us because it'll lead us to make baseball bigger."  Canizales also addressed his Mexican League counterpart, outgoing president Pinio Escalante, saying "We need to work hand in hand.  The governor (Mario Lopez Valdez) has united us around this table and this great project.  I think we have a huge responsibility to find points of agreement to grow Mexican baseball."

That latter goal may be difficult to achieve.  The Mexican League has operated its own academy near Monterrey for two decades as part of the control it has exercised over player rights in the country.  Historically, young prospects have signed contracts with Mexican League teams who routinely ship them to the LMB Academy for seasoning before moving them up to Class A or AA teams within the LMB system to determine whether they're ready to play in the Liga.  The LMB has had a virtual monopoly over rights to Mexican players (that last that player's entire career within Mexico), and fees are routinely charged to Major League organizations for the right to negotiate contracts with those players.  Sometimes those fees are too high for MLB teams, who will instead spend a similar amount to sign multiple prospects in other countries.  The result is that several Mexican youngsters with some MLB potential have never been able to head north to further their careers.

The entry of MLB, even peripherally, could alter that dynamic.  There have been attempts at rival academies challenging the Mexican League's hegemony over domestic talent in the past, most notably one east of San Diego owned and operated by Dodgers All-Star first baseman Adrian "El Titan" Gonzalez, his brother Edgar (now Mexico's National Team manager) and their father David, a longtime Mexican baseball figure, but that did not last.  However, direct involvement by MLB in player development south of the border could be a game-changer regarding contractual rights to prospects.  We shall see.

BBM to produce book on Mexican baseball legends

Okay, rather than put together a story where I talk about myself in the third-person (included quoting myself), let's break down the fourth wall for a few lines.  The book that I recently finished about the history of the Seattle Rainiers team that spent five seasons in the Class A Northwest League during the Seventies is done after starting it as a one-page master roster sheet four decades ago.  The finished product is 108 pages long (covers included), I'm reasonably happy with it and am now in the process of figuring out how to sell enough copies at $12 apiece to cover the cost of printing.  It's titled "Anonymous Heroes: Seattle Rainiers baseball in the 1970's" and if you're interested, email me at for details.

Although I'm currently focused on selling the Rainiers book, I'm starting to put together another book with two-page profiles, pictures and stats (where applicable) commemorating 50 of the most important players, owners and writers in modern Mexican baseball history.  The working title is "The Golden Greats of Mexican Baseball" and will be very loosely based on the "Maestros of Mexico" profiles on prominent Mexican baseball figures that I used to write for the old Viva Beisbol site and column.  I expect this book will be in the neighborhood of 120 pages and be published as a digest-sized 5.5" x 8.5" paperback.

Actually, there will be 51 people profiled in "Golden Greats."  I want to give Hector Espino a separate section of his own apart from the 50 others because, well, he's Hector Espino, who I consider a combination of power and pride who really has no counterpart in Mexican baseball history.  Imagine a hybrid between Babe Ruth and Roberto Clemente or Jackie Robinson and you start to get the picture.  I've got the 37 profiles I wrote for VB back in the day with wildly-varying degrees of length and focus that'll need to be revamped into uniform word count (400-500?) and purpose with another 14 people added.  I'd love to have this ready in time for Christmas, but I don't want to rush it into production if it means lesser quality.  I may not take myself too seriously, but I take what I do here VERY seriously and I want to get this right.

More in the months ahead as things develop.  If you're curious about THIS book, email me at  It's a big project in some ways, but long overdue.

Monday, July 11, 2016

LMB "canning season" continues: Three more skippers pink-slipped

Looks like they're getting serious.

In a 2016 season that has already witnessed a number of managerial firings, three more Mexican League skippers have axed days after Noe Munoz was canned in Saltillo on July 1.

Former big league infielder Luis Sojo (pictured during happier times) was fired July 4 as manager of the Tijuana Toros with the team holding fourth place in the LMB North Division at 40-37.  However, the Toros were coming off a three-game sweep in Yucatan and had dropped six of their last seven.  Sojo spent 13 seasons in MLB (11 with the Yankees) as a utility man, batting .261 in 848 games before retiring in 2003.  The Venezuelan later spent seven years between 2006 and 2013 managing the Yankees' Class A farm team in Tampa.  He was hired in Tijuana seven months ago.

Sojo, who was in his first season managing in Tijuana, was replaced by longtime Mexican baseball figure Pedro Mere.  The Veracruz-born Mere was a Mexican League infielder for 22 seasons between 1988 and 2009, batting .261 with 179 homers. He managed Veracruz to a 56-57 record in 2013 but has done far better in winterball, managing the Los Tuxtlas Brujos to six Veracruz Winter League championships in the past eight seasons.  So far, the move is panning out as Mere led the Toros to a three-game sweep of Reynosa and two wins in a set against Monterrey, all at home.  Joining the Tijuana coaching staff was Matias Carrillo, who had recently signed on as coach in Yucatan a month after his surprise firing in Puebla during the All-Star Break after leading the Pericos to the best record in the Liga at that time.

About the same time, the Mexico City Diablos Rojos were replacing a lamb with a flamingo when manager Jose Luis "El Borrego" Sandoval was cut loose in favor of Victor "El Flamingo" Bojorquez.  Ironically, both Sandoval and Bojorquez are natives of Los Mochis and were teammates for years with the Red Devils during their playing careers.  Sandoval was hired last November to replace former LMB catcher Miguel Olivo, who left to manage the Giant's AA Richmond affiliate this year.  Sandoval led the Diablos Rojos' farm team to a Mexican Winter League pennant earlier this year, but was struggling with the big team with a 39-40 record and a tie for fifth with Aguascalientes in the North when he was handed his walking papers July 7 after being swept by Monterrey in a three-game home series. Sandoval spent 23 years at shortstop for the Diablos between 1990 and 2012, batting .295 on 2,186 hits, 244 of them homers.

Bojorquez was brought in from the Diablos' Northern Mexico League affiliate in Ensenada, where the Marineros are currently tied for third in the second-half standings at 18-15 after winning the first-half crown with a 24-14 record.  A former outfielder, Bojorquez led Mexico City to a three-game weekend home sweep of Reynosa at Estadio Fray Nano.  The 41-year-old made his playing debut in 1996 with the Diablos and spent 16 of his 17-year playing career in Mexico City, winning four pennants and batting .310 with 112 homers.  After coaching in Mexico City for three seasons under Olivo, he actually began last winter managing the Red Devils' LIM affiliate before being assigned to the Ensenada job.

Finally, Aguascalientes severed ties with manager Marco Antonio Romero (along with the prerequsite "thanks for your services" line in the press release) last Friday and replaced him with Saul Soto, a 19-year LMB veteran catcher/first baseman still playing for the Rieleros.  Soto was batting .311 with 88 hits for the Railroaders over 79 games when he was elevated to player-manager, the first in the Liga since Willie Romero performed double-duty for Yucatan in 2012.  Yet another Los Mochis product, the 6'4" 245-pound Soto was a 19-year-old rookie for Reynosa in 1998 and (minus two years in the Dodgers system) has played in the Liga ever since.  He's a career .305 batsman south of the border with 222 homers.

Marco Antonio Romero (no relation) had Aguascalientes at 39-41 when he was let go from his first managerial post in the LMB, where he spent 20 years as a first baseman for several teams and hit .292 with 235 homers (leading the Liga with 30 longballs for Dos Laredos in 1994).  Romero's ouster in Aguascalientes is the ninth managerial firing (that we know of) in the Liga this season.  And just in case you were wondering, he's NOT from Los Mochis...he's from Culiacan.

MexPac to hold first All-Star Game since 1997

For the first time in 19 seasons, the Mexican Pacific League will host an All-Star Game.  The contest will be played at Obregon's new ballpark on Sunday, November 27.  The last MexPac Juego de Estrellas was held at Estadio Manuel "Ciclon" Echevarria in Navojoa on November 24, 1997.

According to ESPN Deportes, LMP president Omar Canizales said, "There was an opportunity to wait until next season for an All-Star Game, but we believe there's already a demand and desire among fans and we want to meet them."  Details beyond date and place have not been announced.

Obregon's new 16,500-seater is expected to be completed by September, with a pricetag of approximately US$27 million.  The unnamed facility will replace Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan, which seats 13,000 fans and has hosted home games for the LMP Yaquis since 1971.

Puebla creates a little breathing room in LMB South race

The Puebla Pericos won four of five games last week to extend their season record to 57-25 and firming their tenuous hold on first place in the Mexican League's South Division.  Puebla swept a three-game home series over the Carmen Delfines to open the week's schedule and endured two rainouts bracketing a Saturday doubleheader in Campeche to split two contests there.  Chad Gaudin picked up saves in three of the four Pericos triumphs.  Second-place Yucatan had a tougher go of it last week, losing two of three tilts in Tabasco before coming home to Merida and dropping the last two games of three against Veracruz in a pair of series the Leones had high hopes for going in.  Instead, their 55-28 record drops them two-and-a-half games behind Puebla heading into the final weeks of the regular season.  Quintana Roo is third in the LMB South at 50-34 while Campeche has a firm grip on the fourth and final playoff berth at 41-40.

In the North, Monterrey swept Mexico City in three straight games and took one of three games against Tijuana to go 4-2 on the road swing in lifting their season mark to 54-29, five games up on 49-34 Monclova, who broke even by winning once in Saltillo and twice in Aguascalientes between Tuesday and Sunday.Laguna is hot on Monclova's heels at 49-25 while Tijuana is firmly ensconced in fourth with a 45-38 ledger.

Monclova suffered a severe blow to their chances of returning to the Serie del Rey in September when ace pitcher Josh Lowey left the team after receiving an offer to pitch for the KT Wiz in the Korea Baseball Organization.  The Floridian's contract with the Acereros allowed him to accept the offer, rumored to be worth US$220,000 (including a US$50,000 signing bonus), to pitch the rest of the KBO season.  The 5'11" righty was leading the Liga in all three pitching Triple Crown categories with 13 wins, a 1.65 ERA and 131 strikeouts and although Jose Oyervides appears healthy after missing a month to injury, Lowey is not someone easily replaced.  Acereros closer Arcenio Leon leads the circuit with 27 saves, one up on Puebla's Gaudin.

Puebla catcher Cesar Tapia raised his LMB-leading batting average to .373 after going 5-for-12 over the week, but Veracruz outfielder Carlos Lopez has been hitting .419 in July to bring his season average up to .371 after missing most of April before joining the Rojos Aguilas lineup.  Monterrey third baseman Alex Valdez socked two homers in the Sultanes series with Mexico City to take the LMB lead in roundtrippers with 22, two more than Qunitana Roo's Alex Liddi.  Diory Hernandez of Aguascalientes drove in two runs last week to bring his season RBI total to 77, six more than Liddi's 71.  Saltillo outfielder Justin Greene stole a pair of bases, giving him 28 swipes on the campaign while twelve-year veteran outfielder Christian Zazueta has 25, seven more than last year's career high of 18.

Two important series over the coming week will be held in Monterrey, when the Sultanes host Quintana Roo starting Tuesday before Yucatan visits Estadio Monterrey Friday through Sunday.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Paquin Estrada hired as new Saltillo skipper

After finding themselves in the unusual position of seventh place in the Mexican League's North Division with a 32-40 record, the Saltillo Saraperos fired manager Noe Munoz last Friday and brought in the venerable Francisco "Paquin" Estrada to take over the foundering club.  Estrada began the season as manager in Tabasco before getting canned one month into the campaign.

Estrada (pictured), who is mostly known to North Americans as a catcher sent by the Mets along with Nolan Ryan and two other players to the California Angels in exchange for shortstop Jim Fregosi after the 1971 season, during which he played in the only game of his Major League Baseball career.  South of the border, however, Paquin is regarded as far more than the answer to a trivia question.

The Navojoa native made his Mexican League debut in 1966 as an 18-year-old with the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and went on to play until 1994, spending 26 of his 29 playing seasons in the Liga.  Although he topped .300 seven times, he was widely hailed for his defense and ability to handle a pitching staff.  Estrada caught a minor league record 2,847 games with 2,415 of them in the LMB, where he hit .275 with 2,706 hits, 84 homers and 923 RBI's.  He also spent 30 winters in the Mexican Pacific League, including two championship seasons to go with the two LMB pennant-winners he played for during the summer.

He began managing in 1983 when he was playing for Campeche and ended up winning a pennant.  Estrada's 1,567 career wins (including two of his first three games with Saltillo at Carmen over the weekend) places him second in Liga annals to only Jose "Zacatillo" Guerrero.  Estrada has led three teams to Mexican League pennants (Campeche in 1983 and 2004, Leon in 1990) and seven more flags in the Mexican Pacific League plus two Caribbean Series crowns.  He was inducted into Mexican baseball's Salon de la Fama in 2000 and the Caribbean Series Hall of Fame in 2013.

Munoz spent 25 seasons in pro ball as a catcher himself.  He was 32 when he came to Saltillo as a player in 1999 and went on to become one of the squad's most popular in 16 seasons in a Saraperos jersey, many as the team captain, before retiring at 46 in 2014.  Munoz played 2,060 games in his LMB career, collecting 2,059 hits (including 127 homers) for a .301 average.  He played for pennant winners in 2010 and 2011 and his number 28 was retired in Saltillo last year.

Matias Carrillo now coaching in Yucatan after surprise Puebla firing

While Noe Munoz begins his job search after getting sacked in Saltillo, another longtime Mexican Leaguer ended his after a surprise firing last month.  Matias Carrillo, a former Marlins outfielder and one of the top sluggers in Liga history, was hired last Friday by Yucatan as a coach under manager Willie Romero, who has the Merida club tied with Puebla for first in the LMB South with identical 53-24 records after the Leones won 17 of 21 games in June to eliminate what had been a solid Pericos lead.

Carrillo should be more than able to give Romero good advice in how to fight off Puebla over the final month of the regular season, since he was the Pericos manager up to the All-Star Break.  All the Los Mochis product did was lead the Parrots to a Liga-best 38-15 record at that point, leaving his dismissal perhaps the least-explainable during a season that has seen even more firings than usual in a league not known for managerial stability in even the best of times.

As a player, Carrillo debuted in the LMB in 1982 as a 19-year-old with Poza Rica, hitting .309 in 99 games.  After two years with the Petroleros, he was dealt to the Mexico City Tigres in 1984 and spent three years with them before his contract was sold during the 1986 season to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.  He ended up spending eight years in the USA (with a two-year return to the Tigres in the middle), hitting .251 in 104 games with the Florida Marlins in 1993 and 1994 before returning to Mexico for good in 1995.

El Coyote spent the last 14 years of his career with the Tigres in Mexico City, Puebla and Cancun before officially retiring in 2008 at 46 (he did play one game in 2009).  In 22 Mexican League seasons, he played 2,113 games and collected 2,484 hits for an average of .335 along with 325 homers and 1,526 RBI's.  He is not a member of the Salon de la Fama, which has not inducted a new member since 201, closed its doors in Monterrey at about the same time and now resides in storage while a permanent site is discussed and discussed and discussed.

Although he's been replaced as Puebla manager by former MLBer Cory Snyder, Carrillo will manage Los Mochis in the Mexican Pacific League's upcoming winter season, replacing Enrique "Che" Reyes, who was replaced as manager in Oaxaca one month into the current LMB schedule before finding work shortly thereafter in Tabasco to replace Paquin Estrada, who was just hired to replace Noe Munoz in Saltillo.

Sultanes maintain lead over LMB North field

The Monterrey Sultanes have won five of their last ten games to bring their Liga record to 50-27, good enough to hold a four-game lead over 46-31 Monclova in the LMB North standings.  The Acereros have closed what had been a seven-game gap in part by winning seven of their last ten contests.  Laguna (43-34) has heated up with six straight wins to pull past Tijuana into third place, knocking the 40-37 Toros into fourth.

Yucatan and Puebla continue to duke it out in the LMB South, both teams showing 53-24 records. The Leones have only lost once in their last ten games while the Pericos have won eight of ten.  Defending champ Quintana Roo is alone in third at 46-32, six games up on 40-38 Campeche.  Oaxaca has played better after an awful start, but the 30-46 Guerreros are nine games out of the fourth and final playoff berth.

Puebla's Cesar Tapia continues to lead the batting race with a .370 average as former Cal State-Fullerton outfielder Carlos Lopez' first year in Mexico has seen him turn in a .366 mark for Veracruz to pull into second while Oaxaca infielder Irving Falu, who joined the Guerreros early in the season from Omaha of the PCL, is third at .359.  Quntana Roo's Alex Liddi and Alex Valdez of Monterrey are tied for first in homers with 20 apiece, Aguascalientes' Diory Hernandez continues to lead the loop with 75 RBI's, eight ahead of Mario Lisson of Saltillo, but Hernandez has not driven in a run since June 23.  Former White Sox farmhand Justin Greene has six stolen bases in his last seven games to push his season swipes total to 27, five up on Tijuana's Dustin Martin at 22.

Monclova pitcher Josh Lowey pitched five innings of one-run ball Friday at home against Veracruz to pick up his 13th win of 2016 to maintain his lead in that department over Yucatan's Yoanner Negrin, a 31-year-old Havana native pitching in Merida via the Chisox system, who is 12-1.  Lowey also leads the Liga in ERA (1.65), WHIP (0.93) and strikeouts (131).  Given the LMB's 109-game regular season schedule, yesterday's 20-game winner is today's 15-game winner and Lowey is a good bet to reach that total by mid-July.  Former Astros minor leaguer Arcenio Leon earned two saves last weekend to raise his total to 27 for the season, four more than the 23 of Puebla's former big leaguer Chad Gaudin.  Prior to this season, Gaudin had saved a total of 28 games in 12 seasons of major and minor league ball combined.