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.