Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Rojas in hot water, to manage Aguascalientes in '17

Yes, another story about a managerial change in Mexican baseball.  Like Aunt Minerva's fruitcake, the topic is a gift that keeps on giving and regiving and regiving. This time, it's Homar Rojas' turn. Again.

Rojas (pictured at right with GM Jose Luis Garcia), who was fired a month ago as skipper for the Mexican Pacific League's Jalisco Charros, has signed on to manage the Aguascalientes Rieleros of the Mexican League.  He thus becomes the 30th manager in Aguascalientes team history, which dates back to 1975, including two four-year absences beginning in 2000.  The current edition joined the Liga as an expansion team in 2012, reaching the playoffs that year for the only time in their current five-year existence.

The 52-year-old Rojas is a Nuevo Leon native who broke into pro ball as a catcher with Monterrey in 1982, embarking on a 23-year career that included four years in the Dodgers organization in the late Eighties.  When he retired as a player following the 2004 season, playing 1,487 games in 19 LMB campaigns and compiling a .291 average with 138 homers.  His offseason came with the Mexico City Tigres in 1986, when he hit .319 with 23 homers before signing with the Dodgers in the offseason.

Rojas began his managerial career in 2005 with Oaxaca, with whom he spent his last seven campaigns as a player.  After four years at the helm of the Guerreros, during which they went 202-226, he moved to Reynosa and spent another four seasons running the Broncos, who turned in a 214-213 mark between 2009 and 2012.  After one year in Campeche (47-63 in 2013), Rojas was the dugout boss in Monclova from 2014 through this summer.  He was 176-145 with the Acereros, including the LMB North title in 2015 for a 12-year career ledger of 639-647. Research has not turned up whether Rojas left Monclova by choice or invitation. Despite his ouster in Jalisco last month, Rojas has had more luck managing in winterball, winning MexPac pennants with Obregon in 2007-08 and Hermosillo in 2009-10.

He'll have his work cut out for him with the Rieleros, whose lineup boasted BBM Summer Batter of the Year Diory Hernandez (.319 with 23 homers and an LMB-best 97 RBIs), who led the team to fourth-place finishes in batting (.292), homers (98), ribbies (554) and stolen bases (89).  Pitching was another story, however, as the Rieleros came in 12th in the circuit with a 4.97 ERA, finishing the season with a 53-58 record with veteran DH Saul Soto serving as player-manager following Marco Romero's firing in July.  Aguascalientes finished ninth in attendance, drawing 153,048 fans to 9,000-seat Parque Alberto Romo Chavez over 53 openings for an average of 2,888 turnstile clicks per night.

By the way, a loose translation of "aguascalientes" from Spanish to English is "hot waters," in case the headline was a puzzler.