Friday, November 18, 2016

Tensions remain within LMB over Mexican-American players status

Although things have quieted down since the latest Mexican League Board of Governors meeting in Monterrey early this month, a schism on whether to consider American-born players of Mexican descent as “domestic” remains bubbling below the surface.

On one side of the issue are eight teams led by the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Quintana Roo Tigres who believe such players should be regarded as imports (or extraneros), while another seven clubs, including the champion Puebla Pericos and Yucatan Leones, are lobbying for Mexican-Americans to not count against the LMB limit of foreign players of six per team.  The Reynosa Broncos were in the process of being sold and could not take part in the discussion, which became spirited at times, to say the least.  Liga president Plinio Escalante has sided with the latter group, putting him in the crosshairs of the former.

The reason for the rift is not political, but economic.  Most of the teams wanting Mexican-American players regarded as homegrown are not moneyed enough to develop their own talent from the pool of domestic prospects, thus requiring them to bring in Mexican-Americans to be competitive on the field.  The clubs pushing for import status for Mexican-Americans typically do have the wherewithal to develop native talent, often negotiating with MLB organizations for the external playing rights to their best prospects (but maintaining those rights within Mexico).

It's a labryinthian story, but here's the best BBM can make of it: The tensions had been present for some time until a Governors meeting in September, when the owner of both the Diablos Rojos and Oaxaca Guerreros, Alfredo Harp Helu (pictured), symbolically “resigned” both franchises from the LMB after Tijuana, Puebla, Yucatan and Laguna (the latter two owned by brothers Juan Jose and Erik Arellano) were able to block implementation of Harp’s plan to consider Mexican-Americans as extraneros.  Harp was joined by Monterrey and Quintana Roo in verbal resignation from the league but all are still LMB members as of this writing.

Things took a bizarre turn when members sympathetic to Helu convened their own “assembly” in which they reclaimed positions on the LMB Board of Directors they’d given up by virtue of their September pseudo-resignation.  Tijuana team president Alberto Uribe Maytorena protested vigorously, claiming that such a meeting is illegal and may warrant criminal charges.

A similar split took place last year between largely the same sides regarding Mexican-born players who’d bypassed the usual path of signing with LMB teams as teen prospects and instead signed directly with MLB organizations on their own.  Such players had been blacklisted from returning to play in the Liga for years (Harp and Diablos team president Roberto Mansur were at the center of that one) until that policy was formally reversed.

Some of the fallout from all the internecine squabbling is that Harp’s group has been actively seeking the ouster of Escalante as league president.  The irony is that the Yucatan native had announced his retirement last winter after ten years at his current post effective at the end of the 2016 season.  Instead, he was talked into remaining through next summer because a suitable replacement couldn’t be found, a decision he may now be regretting.