Monday, November 13, 2017

2018 LMB season to end in October; two big trades made

LMB Assembly of Presidents meeting in Leon
After weeks of speculation about whether the Mexican League’s proposed two-season calendar in 2018 would extend into November, overlapping the Mexican Pacific League’s 2018-19 schedule by a month and severely curtailing domestic player availability for the winterball circuit, the LMB has set October 8 as the date for Game Seven of their second Serie del Rey.  The first season will open on March 22 while the All-Star Game is scheduled for July 1, amid a four-day break between two 57-game regular seasons plus playoffs.  The decision came at last week’s Assembly of Presidents meeting in Leon.  The MexPac traditionally opens its own season in mid-October, so the threat of scheduling conflicts has been eliminated.  The 16 Liga teams (Durango WILL be back, reportedly under new ownership) own the playing rights to nearly all homegrown LMP players, however, and it may eventually become common for LMB players to be held back from MexPac competition.


The Mexico City Diablos Rojos will move to the South Division for 2018, with the Dos Laredos Tecolotes logically placed in the North after the former Veracruz franchise moves to the border city.  The Diablos lobbied to remain in the North last season even though Mexico City lies south of both 2017 newcomers Durango and Leon.  The move backfired, as the Red Devils missed the playoffs for the second year in a row despite turning in a 57-52 record, which would’ve been a second-place finish in the South.  The Tecos reportedly hope to play two games of each three-game series in Nuevo Laredo with one across the border in Laredo, Texas.  Nuevo Laredo has a 12,000-seat ballpark built in 2007 that would rank among the better facilities in the Liga, but its remote location outside town has been a drawback.  The Tecos may end up back in their original home, the 6,000-seat Parque La Junta, which turned 70 this year.  Their likely home in Texas would be Uni-Trade Stadium, which opened in 2012.  The $18 million ballpark holds 6,000 for baseball.


As expected, former MLB catcher and ex-Diablos manager Miguel Ojeda was named as Monterrey’s new helmsman.  Ojeda took the reins as the Sultanes were trading designated hitter Luis Juarez and shortstop Walter Ibarra to Yucatan for first baseman Ricky Alvarez and outfielder Francisco Lugo.  The deal that raised eyebrows among Mexican baseball cronistas saw Aguascalientes third baseman Jesse Castillo, the Liga MVP for 2017, sent to Monclova for five players, including starting pitchers Andres Meza, Josh Outman and Julio Felix, who combined for 17 wins this summer for Puebla, whose Pericos are owned by the same Gerardo Benavides who also happens to own the Acereros.  The more things change...

Tigres may appeal to LMB with Rookiegate allegations


Tigres owners Fernando Valenzuela and Linda Burgos
The Mexican League is maintaining silence regarding their investigation into a disputed player transfer last year in which five Quintana Roo prospects were sent to Mexico City just before the Tigres were sold to a group led by former Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Fernando Valenzuela. However, Valenzuela’s wife and co-owner Linda Burgos is not being so stoic, and the result may be an appeal to Major League Baseball’s intervention.


The impasse stems from the transfer of five young players from Quintana Roo’s protected list to the Diablos Rojos, two of whom were sold to the Texas Rangers over the summer for a combined US$2.7 million.  The Valenzuelas, who are now sole owners of the Tigres after their partners bailed out earlier this year, claim the protected players list they received from former owner Carlos Peralta and general manager Francisco Minjarez contained the names of the five players in question. After the sale closed, Minjarez left the Tigres front office for the GM position with the Diablos.


Burgos tells Proceso’s Beatriz Pereyra that the Tigres are prepared to call MLB commissioner Rob Manfred seeking an investigation if Liga president Javier Salinas does not rule in their favor, and that Minjarez be expelled for his alleged double-dealing.  “I have my reserve list of the team I bought,” Burgos says.  “The ‘proofs’ of Pollo (Minjarez) are not valid either before the LMB or MLB because it is not an official document.”  She adds that the five prospects were not the only thing missing from the sale:  “The team also purchased furniture, televisions, a van, desks…  And do you know what was there?  Nothing!  Zero!  They stole everything.  There wasn’t even a chair.”  Burgos says repeated requests for information from the LMB office in Mexico City have not been answered.


The Valenzuelas (including son Fernando Junior, the Tigres GM) struggled mightily their first year in Cancun and reportedly lost millions.  The Tigres did qualify for the playoffs by finishing third in the LMB South, but they also fired manager Roberto Vizcarra in midseason, went 49-56 before being eliminated by Puebla and came in eleventh in attendance with 147,416 fans coming to 49 home games, an average of 3,008 per opening while financial support from the state of Quintana Roo was cut back dramatically.


Adrian Gonzalez to play in Jalisco this winter


On the heels of the most frustrating season in his 14-year MLB career, five-time All-Star Adrian Gonzalez is now expected to join the Jalisco Charros in December for the stretch drive of the Mexican Pacific League season, according to Mexican newspaper Excelsior.  The 35-year-old Dodger first baseman would be rejoining his brother Edgar, who now serves as a vice president of the Guadalajara team.  The two played side-by-side for a number of winters in Mazatlan before doing the same in San Diego after then-second sacker Edgar was called up to the Padres from AAA Portland for his big league debut in 2009.


While Edgar has gone on to managerial success in Mexicali and now a front office position with the Charros, Adrian maintained his reputation as a smooth fielder at first while being a steady run producer for the Dodgers before injuries hampered him throughout the 2017 season, allowing El Titan to play in just 71 games, batting .242 with three homers.  For his MLB career, which began with Texas in 2004, Gonzalez has a .288 average with 2,010 hits, including 311 homers and 1,176 RBIs.  He has one year remaining on his current MLB contract, which calls for $22.4 million in 2018.


Jalisco has been a contender for first place and the eight points that come with it throughout the first half.  The Charros are presently 15-14 and are tied for fourth place with defending champion Mexicali under first-year manager Tony Tarasco, but only four games separate the top seven teams with six games remaining on the first-half schedule.  Culiacan heads the standings at 17-12 after winning, 6-3, in Los Mochis Sunday as Ronnier Mustelier’s three-run homer in the fifth inning broke a 2-2 tie.  The Tomateros win broke a three-way tie at the top after Mazatlan fell, 8-3, in Mexicali and Hermosillo lost a 16-5 home decision to Navojoa.


Culiacan will host Mexicali in a critical midweek series starting Tuesday while Hermosillo visits Mazatlan.  Next weekend’s showcase set appears to be in Guadalajara, where the Charros welcome the Tomateros for three games beginning Friday night.  The LMP All-Star Game is slated for Monday, November 20 in Los Mochis, one day before the second half begins.


MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Standings (as of November 13, 2017)
Culiacan 17-12, Hermosillo 16-13, Mazatlan 16-13, Jalisco 15-14, Mexicali 15-14, Los Mochis 13-16, Navojoa 13-16, Obregon 11-18..
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Batting Leaders
Batting-Jeremias Pineda (MAZ) .393, Runs-Randy Arozarena (NAV) 25, Homers-Bryce Brentz (HMO) 7, RBIs-Manny Rodriguez (JAL) 26, Stolen Bases-Jeremias Pineda (MAZ) 17.
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Pitching Leaders

Wins-Mitch Lively (MAZ) 4, ERA-Danny Rodriguez (CUL) 0.87, Strikeouts-Cesar Vargas (HMO) 31, Saves-Ryan Kussmaul (MXI) 10, WHIP-Danny Rodriguez (CUL) 0.71.



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Monday, November 6, 2017

Culiacan beats Obregon in 19, tops LMP standings

The Culiacan Tomateros put four runs on the scoreboard in the top of the 19th inning and held host Obregon scoreless in the bottom of the frame to come away with a marathon 7-3 win over the Yaquis Sunday night.  The triumph bumped Culiacan’s Mexican Pacific League record to 14-9, good enough for a one-game lead over 13-10 Jalisco in the LMP first-half standings.  Obregon dropped deeper into last place by falling to 8-15, two games in back of seventh-place Navojoa.

Sunday night’s contest began at 5:13PM local time when Obregon starter David Reyes pitched a high ball to Tomateros leadoff man D’Arby Myers for ball one.  The two teams played scoreless ball until the bottom of the third, when the Yaquis’ Niko Vazquez rapped a bases-loaded double off Culiacan opener Edgar Gonzalez to give Obregon a 3-0 cushion.  The Tomateros chipped away and tied the game by plating single runs in the fourth, fifth and ninth innings (the latter on an Andy Wilkins sacrifice fly to left that scored Sebastian Elizalde from third to even the score at 3-3).

The two teams went on to play the equivalent of a full second game, going another nine innings without bothering the scorer before bringing their deadlock into the top of the 19th entrada.  Jose Orozco and Josh Fuentes both singled to lead off against Obregon reliever Carlos de Leon, who was then replaced by Martin Sotelo.  Marco Guzman Jr.’s sacrifice bunt moved Orozco and Fuentes up to leave first base open, leading Sotelo to intentionally walk Alfredo Amezaga, loading the bases with Maxwell Leon due up.  Whatever strategy was behind the move was rendered moot when Leon smoked his fourth double of the season to bring in Orozco and Fuentes in with the go-ahead runs.  Sotelo then intentionally walked Myers to pitch to Alexis Wilson, whose liner up the middle scored both Amezaga and Leon to give the Tomateros a 7-3 advantage.

It was then left to David Gutierrez, Culiacan’s eighth pitcher (the Yaquis used nine), to close out the contest.  When Gutierrez induced Sergio Contreras to fly out to Elizalde in right, ending the game, the clock read nine minutes to midnight, or 6 hours, 38 minutes after Reyes’ opening pitch.  Myers and Elizalde each had three hits between 18 combined plate appearances.  Leo Heras and Alex Liddi had three singles apiece for Obregon.  Francisco Rios got the win for the Tomateros, tossing shutout ball for the 17th and 18th innings, while De Leon was the Yaquis hard-luck loser after pitching six scoreless stanzas before allowing those two leadoff singles in the 19th.  A crowd of 9,111 was on hand at Estadio Nuevo Yaquis at game time, but it can be safely assumed that the vast majority were long-gone by game’s end.


MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Standings (as of November 6, 2017)
Culiacan 14-9, Jalisco 13-10, Hermosillo 12-11, Mazatlan 12-11, Mexicali 12-11, Los Mochis 11-12, Navojoa 10-13, Obregon 8-15.  
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MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Batting Leaders
Batting-Jeremias Pineda (MAZ) .394, Runs-Many Rodriguez (JAL) 18, Homers-Bryce Brentz (HMO) 6, RBIs-Manny Rodriguez (JAL) 24, Stolen Bases-Jeremias Pineda (MAZ) 13.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Pitching Leaders
Wins-Danny Rodriguez (CUL), Tyler Kane (NAV) and Mitch Lively (MAZ) 3, ERA-Danny Rodriguez (CUL) 0.98, Strikeouts-Cesar Vargas (HMO) 27, Saves-Ryan Kussmaul (MXI) 10, WHIP-Danny Rodriguez (CUL) 0.65.


Saltalamacchia signs with Jalisco, Japhet Amador arrives

The Jalisco Charros have signed MLB veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a contract. The 32-year-old Saltalamacchia made his big league debut with Atlanta in 2007, hitting .284 over 47 games for the Braves before being part of a seven-man trade in which Atlanta also sent shortstop Elvis Andrus and pitcher Neftali Perez to Texas for first baseman Mark Teixeira and pitcher Ron Mahay.  

While Saltalamacchia never became an All-Star like Andrus and Perez subsequently did for the Rangers, the 2003 first round draft pick (for the Braves) did go on to be a useful player for eleven years, a passable defensive catcher and a guy who didn’t hit for a high average but reached double figures in homers six times and 10+ doubles eight times.  The 6’4” Floridian socked 55 longballs between 2011-13 for Boston, where he was the starting catcher for the 2013 world champion Red Sox.  In all, Saltalamacchia has a .233 career batting average in the majors with 110 homers and 381 RBIs over 890 career games.

Saltalamacchia spent part of the 2017 season in the Blue Jays organization, hitting .040 in Toronto and .162 with AAA Buffalo before he was released in late June.  He played his first two games for the Charros in a weekend home series with Navojoa, going 2-for-6 with a homer and three RBIs.  

Jalisco was not exactly suffering behind the plate, with All-Star Carlos Rodriguez and defensive standout Gabriel Gutierrez already on the roster, but February’s Caribbean Series will be held in Guadalajara and Charros owner Armando Navarro (who normally operates in hyperdrive anyway) really wants his team in it as the Mex Pac champion.

In addition to Saltalamacchia, slugger Japhet Amador returned from his second season with Japan’s Rakuten Golden Eagles.  The Mulege Giant made his 2017-18 debut Saturday against Navojoa, socking a homer and double in four at-bats before singling and scoring twice against the Mayos Sunday.


LMB Presidents meeting in Leon; is Durango on agenda?

The Mexican League’s Assembly of Presidents has scheduled their monthly get-together in Leon, Guanajuato this week.  While discussions regarding the proposed move to two 66-game schedules plus playoffs in 2018 will take center stage and may become protracted, it’ll be hard for Liga majordomos to ignore the latest activity going on in Durango.

If you’ve been following that story, you’re already aware of how the Generales (along with the Leon Bravos) entered the LMB last year as replacements for the Carmen Delfines and Reynosa Broncos, respectively, and immediately ran into problems.  Both teams had to play as road warriors for the first month of the season while their ballparks were undergoing late-starting renovations.  The difficulties didn’t end after the two clubs began playing at home.  In Durango, the local fans actually supported the team reasonably well as the Generales finished in the middle of the LMB pack in average attendance despite a last-place finish in the LMB North, but cash flow was a season-long problem as players went unpaid more than once over the course of the schedule.  Several key players were sold off and the 2017 season was by and large a disaster.

As a result, new league president Javier Salinas (along with the Assembly) in late September ordered the Generales to take 2018 off so they could get their financial house in order for another try in 2019.  That move was met by defiance from Durango state governor Jose Rosas Aizpuro Torres, who said in effect that the Generales ain’t goin’ nowhere and that funding would be secured for next year, with new investors to replace overmatched team owner Virgilio Ruiz at the top of the pyramid.  

On top of that, the team swung an October 25 trade with the Tabasco Olmecas in which pitcher Adrian Garza and first baseman Jesus Rivera went to Villahermosa in exchange for outfielder Rogelio Noris and pitcher Hubbie Pellegaud.  October trades do happen but at least scribe at the Puro Beisbol site asked logically what a team that’s been shut down for a year is doing making trades?

It promises to be an interesting three days in Leon this week.



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Monday, October 30, 2017

Venados win 2 of 3 in Jalisco, four-way tie for MexPac lead

Mazatlan Venados outfielder Garin Cecchini
The Mazatlan Venados posted two wins in an important early-season road series at Guadalajara to pull into a four-way tie for the Mexican Pacific League lead with the host Jalisco Charros, Hermosillo and Culiacan.  All have identical 10-7 first-half records.
Mazatlan won Friday’s opener, 9-8, as Carlos Munoz’ two-run homer keyed a four-run seventh in the comeback effort. The Charros came back Saturday night with a 6-1 triumph behind Manny Rodriguez’ third-inning grand slam and Manuel Al Flores’ 4.2 innings of two-hit shutout pitching.  The Venados copped Sunday’s rubber match, 12-8, behind Garin Cecchini’s three-run homer.  Cecchini, who hit .268 last summer for the Royals’ AAA Omaha affiliate, finished a double away from hitting for the cycle.  Jalisco was coming off a sweep of defending champion Mexicali in a midweek home series.
Culiacan likewise won a three-game home set with Navojoa to take their place in the logjam on top.  Lefty Danny Rodriguez registered a brilliant 8.1 innings, allowing one hit in the Tomateros’ 1-0 win.  Culiacan earned a similar 1-0 victory Saturday behind Aldo Montes’ six goose-egg frames.  The Mayos offense finally woke up in Sunday’s 5-0 conquest.  This time it was Navojoa starter Tyler Kane who contributed six shutout innings while Alan Sanchez cracked a two-run homer for the visitors.  The trifecta of games was well-attended, with more than 46,000 fans in the Estadio Tomateros stands.
Hermosillo lost two of three in Los Mochis to fall into a tie for the lead.  The Naranjeros took Friday’s opener, 8-5, with Domonic Brown’s three-run homer highlighting a four-run top of the ninth.  The Caneros won the next two: Leandro Castro’s three-run walkoff homer ended Saturday’s 6-3 game in the thirteenth while Noel Cuevas’ three-run blast in the fourth was Sunday’s difference-maker in a 6-4 Mochis series-clincher.
The four upcoming MexPac midweek series will include matchups of the four co-leaders: Hermosillo will host Culiacan Tuesday through Thursday while Culiacan visits Mazatlan for three games.  Next weekend’s biggest encounter looks to be in Hermosillo, where the Naranjeros will host Mexicali from Friday through Sunday.  The Aguilas sit one game behind the leaders and hope to gain some ground at home against Los Mochis before heading south to Hermosillo.  An interesting note is that Mexicali has a total of two stolen bases as a team through their first 17 games.  In comparison, eleven individual players have three or more steals, led by the six apiece of Mazatlan’s Jeremias Pineda and Billy Burns of Jalisco.  Pineda’s six swipes have come in just nine games after going 25-of-26 on steal attempts over 25 games for Veracruz in the Mexican League last summer.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Standings (as of October 30, 2017)
Culiacan 10-7, Hermosillo 10-7, Mazatlan 10-7, Jalisco 10-7, Mexicali 9-8, Navojoa 7-10, Los Mochis 7-10, Obregon 5-12.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Batting Leaders
Batting-Sebastian Elizalde (CUL) .400, Runs-Jose Aguilar (MAZ) and Manny Rodriguez (JAL) 15, Homers-Bruce Brentz (HMO) 5, RBIs-Manny Rodriguez (JAL) 20, Stolen Bases-Billy Burns (JAL) and Jeremias Pineda (MAZ) 6.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Pitching Leaders
Wins-Thirteen pitchers tied at 2 each, ERA-Danny Rodriguez (CUL) 0.89, Strikeouts-Cesar Vargas (HMO) 25, Saves-Ryan Kussmaul (MXI) 7, WHIP-Danny Rodriguez (CUL) 0.64.


Japhet Amador returns to Jalisco, season debut Friday vs. Mayos
Rakuten Golden Eagles DH Japhet Amador
Slugging first baseman-designated Japhet Amador will return from Japan to Guadalajara this week and is expected to be in Jalisco’s lineup Friday when the Charros open a home series against Navojoa.
The 6’4” and 330-pound “Mulege Giant” had a largely successful second Nippon Professional Baseball season, where he hit .237 with 23 homers and 65 RBI’s for the Pacific League’s Rakuten Golden Eagles.  The 23 roundtrippers eclipsed the old single season record for a Mexican player of 21, set by Orix’ Karim Garcia in 2005.  Garcia became the only player in NPB history to belt three homers in two consecutive games, turning the trick August 10-11, 2005 (somewhat ironically against Rakuten, an expansion team that year).
Amador has played professionally since 2007, breaking into the Mexican League with Minatitlan as a 20-year-old.  After playing sparingly for the Petroleros for two years, Amador got off to a hot start in 2009 prior to a midseason trade to Veracruz (finishing with 21 homers and 74 RBIs that year), but it was when he debuted with Mexico City in 2010 that the hulking right-handed batter would really hit stride, batting .366 with 14 homers and 63 ribbies in 79 games for the Diablos Rojos.  In nine LMB seasons, Amador has batted .330 with 167 homers and 599 RBIs over 693 games.
He’s also done well in the Mexican Pacific League over the years, starting in 2009-10 when he hit .270 with eight homers in 44 contests for Gusave, a franchise that shifted to Guadalajara in 2014.  In eight winterball seasons for the Algodoneros and Charros, Amador has a respectable .271 average with 83 homers in 426 games.  He cracked a combined 55 longballs for the Diablos and Charros in 2015-16 before signing with Rakuten that winter.
Amador’s injury-plagued first year in Japan ended with a disappointing nine homers in 39 games in 2016 before turning in better totals during a healthier 2017.  Amador, who makes Boog Powell look like Mark Belanger, even stole his first base since 2013, leading to questions of the third base coach’s sanity in sending him while scientists scrambled to gather Richter readings.
The first-place Charros were already a power-laden outfit even before Amador’s arrival, with sluggers like Matt Clark, Manny Rodriguez, Adan Munoz and former MLBer Chris Colabello on the roster, but first-year manager Tony Tarasco will no doubt find a place for the Mulege Giant in the lineup; he’s a hard one to ignore.


Academy Rookie League 2017-18 season underway
The Mexican League Academy’s Rookie winter league has begun its 2017-18 season at the complex near Monterrey. The academy was the brainchild of former Mexico City Tigres owner Alejo Peralta and opened in 1996 under the auspices of the LMB.  New Liga president Javier Salinas is the nominal president of the Liga Academia, but the campus and the dozens of teen prospects are overseen by director Raul Martinez Salazar.  Two separate leagues are operated at the facility: A Rookie league during the winter months and a class A circuit during the spring and summer.  All six Academy Rookie teams are operated by LMB clubs, with Tijuana, Monterrey and Quintana Roo each supplying one squad and each of the other three Rookie teams shared by two Liga teams apiece.
The rookieball season began Tuesday, September 26 with three games played simultaneously on three diamonds.  As of games through Sunday, Tijuana had an 11-2-2 record (ties count) after 15 games, good for a four-game lead over 8-7 Veracruz/Leon.  Toros prospect Alejandro Gutierrez is hitting an even .500, going 21-of-42 with ten walks in 53 plate appearances. Another intriguing batsman is Mexico City/Oaxaca’s Roberto Mendez (.327), who has five doubles and three homers among his 18 hits in 55 at-bats, with just six strikeouts.  Among pitchers, Tijuana relievers Fernando Gallegos (0.00) and Fernando Olguin (3.57) are both 3-0, as is Monterrey’s Jorge Ramos (3.68).  Luciano Reynoso (2-2, 1.73) of Veracruz/Leon has 30 strikeouts in 20 innings, walking just six.

The Academy Rookie League season will run through Sunday, December 10.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Mazatlan sweeps Mochis, four-way logjam for first in MexPac

Hermosillo's Alejandro Flores leads LMP in batting
While the dreams of undefeated seasons were shattered for both Jalisco and Culiacan have been shattered, the Mazatlan Venados have won four straight games, including a three-game weekend sweep over Los Mochis.
The Charros took a perfect 5-0 record into Los Mochis last Tuesday, where the Caneros rode a three-run homer from Mitch Walding while Ramon Urias added three RBIs in an 11-2 pounding of Jalisco that marked Mochis’ first win of the Mexican Pacific League season.  Culiacan’s first loss after their own 5-0 start also came last Tuesday, delivered in more dramatic fashion as Ramon Rios’ bases-loaded single in the bottom of the tenth gave Mexicali an 8-7 walkoff win over the Tomateros.  Both Jalisco and Culiacan then lost three of their next five games, although the Tomateros did win two of three over the Charros in a home series over the weekend (including a 4-1 Sunday win that saw Culiacan starter Edgar Gonzalez toss six shutout innings for the win. Looks like we'll have to wait until at least the 2018-19 season for a team to go 68-0.
The Tomateros are joined atop the MexPac standings by Mexicali, Hermosillo and Mazatlan, all with 7-4 records.  The Venados have won four straight, including a three-game weekend sweep of Los Mochis at Estadio Teodoro Mariscal that was completed when Roberto Valenzuela singled in Jeremias Pineda in the bottom of the eleventh Sunday to send Mazaltecans in the stands home happy with a 5-4 win.  Mazatlan pitchers have been strong thus far, turning in a team 2.20 ERA.  Oscar Verdugo has won both his starts to go with an 0.89 ERA but the real story may be the Deer bullpen, where seven relievers have combined to hurl 28.1 scoreless innings in 38 total appearances (with three saves for closer Evan Marshall).
For their part, Hermosillo remains tied for first after briefly leading the LMP during the week before losing all three games in Obregon over the weekend.  The Naranjeros top the loop with 11 homers and 56 runs over eleven games as catcher Alejandro Flores has hit a league-leading .529 over his first nine games.  Third baseman Hunter Dozier has cracked three homers in nine contests but he’s also committed four errors in the field (the bat taketh, the glove giveth away).
At the other end of the standings, Los Mochis and Obregon are tied for last at 3-8 but the Yaquis swept Hermosillo at home after losing their first eight games out the starting gate.  That stumbling start led some Obregon fans to call for the firing of GM Manuel Velez, unusual because it’s typically the managers who fall on a sword, but the locals aren’t blaming Yaquis skipper Luis Sojo for the roster he’s working with this winter...yet.  It’s still only October.


MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Standings (as of October 23, 2017)
Culiacan 7-4, Mexicali 7-4, Hermosillo 7-4, Mazatlan 7-4, Jalisco 6-5, Navojoa 4-7, Los Mochis 3-8, Obregon 3-8
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Batting Leaders
Batting-Alejandro Flores (HMO) .529, Runs-Randy Arozarena (NAV) and Sebastian Elizalde (CUL) 9, Homers-Jesse Castillo (NAV) 4, RBIs-Jesse Castillo (NAV) 12, Stolen Bases-Billy Burns (JAL) 5
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Pitching Leaders
Wins-Four pitchers tied at 2 each, ERA-Tyler Alexander (JAL) and Edgar Gonzalez (CUL)  0.00, Strikeouts-Akkem Bostick (MOC) 17, Saves-Ryan Kussmaul (MXI) 5, WHIP-Casey Coleman (HMO) 0.71


Mexican Winter League begins third season
The Liga Invernal Mexicana, or Mexican Winter League, has launched its third season of play with ten Mexican League parent clubs sharing six LIM teams in 2017-18.  While Alfredo Harp Helu’s two Liga teams, the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Oaxaca Guerreros, will supply players and staff for single teams in each city and ballpark, the Celaya Cajeteros will be manned by owner Gerardo  Benavides’ Monclova and Puebla teams, brothers Juan Jose and Erick Arellano will send players from their Yucatan and Laguna teams to the Maravatio Leones Purepechas, the Salamanca Petroleros will feature players from Monterrey and Quintana Roo while the Moroleon Toros Bravos have Tijuana and Leon assignees.  Mexico City has won both previous LIM pennants.
The Invernaliga has three teams in the state of Guanajuato with single clubs in Michoacan, Oaxaca and the Federal District.  With the exception of Oaxaca’s 7,200-seat Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos, LIM ballparks seat between 3,000 and 5,200.  Moroleon’s Estadio Municipal features a manual scoreboard in right field with a man seated on the warning track hanging up numbers, including balls and strikes, while the game is on.  A charming sight for old-school fans to be sure, but what do you bet this guy gets involved in a play before the season is over?
The Mexican Winter League was started by the Mexican League in 2015-16 as a place for prospects and veterans alike to get in some offseason work under LMB auspices.  The LIM was originally considered one of Mexico’s two AA-level winter leagues along with the Veracruz Winter League, but the demise of the LIV after state subsidies followed former governor Javier Duerte into exile led to that league’s collapse, with the present-day Veracruz State Baseball League rising from the ashes.  The budget-conscious LEBV, overseen by former Brewers pitcher Narciso Elvira, plays weekends solely with young players from the baseball-rich state.  While they still send their champion to the Latin American Series every January, it would be a stretch to classify the LEBV as a AA circuit in quality.
Mexico City and Moroleon are tied for first in the current LIM standings with 8-2 records, one game ahead of 5-3 Oaxaca.


New Mexico City ballpark damaged by September quakes
The already-delayed opening of the Mexico City Diablos Rojos’ new 13,000-seat ballpark will be pushed back even further after last month’s devastating earthquakes centered near the nation’s capital damaged the facility.  According to Proceso’s Beatriz Pereyra, the temblors cracked and displaced a concrete platform on which a crane would install the ballpark’s unique trident-shaped roof above the main grandstand.  Instead, the platform has sunk into the ground in the wake of the quakes.  The new ballpark, which was said to be ready for occupancy last summer (the Diablos chose to finish the 2017 campaign at Estadio Fray Nano rather than move during the season), will now not be opened until at least mid-2018.
Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu (it will reportedly be named after the Diablos owner) has run into numerous problems since the team announced in December 2014 that it would be built for 800 million pesos (or US$52.2 million in December 2014 dollars).  The ballpark was supposed to be finished last February.  However, heavy rains in August led to an initial crack in the concrete because there weren’t adequate pilings to support the 3,400-ton crane that would put the roof in place, and the 7.1-degree quake on September 19 expanded the cracks greatly.  
The repairs and delays (Pereyra says the crane costs $30,000-40,000 per day whether it’s used or not) will drive up the ballpark’s construction cost to $1.7 billion pesos, or US$89 million at the current exchange rate.  Major League Baseball had originally planned to host an April regular season series between the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers at the new ballpark, but that set appears to be Monterrey-bound while the Diablos return to Estadio Fray Nano for at least the start of a fourth season as the Liga’s smallest venue.  The Red Devils averaged 2,503 fans over 51 home games in 2015, ranking 14th in the 16-team circuit.