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.