Friday, February 10, 2017

MiLB: No limit on Mexican-Americans in Liga; Tigres for sale?

One week after meeting with Mexican League team presidents in Houston to hear both sides of the bitter dispute between two factions over the status of Mexican-American players in the LMB, Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Connor has released a ruling that there will be no limit on how many such players can signed to contracts with Liga teams.  There had been a suspension on signings of Mexican-American peloteros (who do not count against the LMB's limit of six foreigners per team) since the Assembly of Presidents meeting in Texas on February 1 while the issue was considered in MiLB offices in St. Petersburg, Florida, but the stay was lifted with Tuesday's ruling from O'Connor.

In a letter to the LMB, O'Connor explained that limiting the number of U.S.-born players with at least one Mexican parent would be in violation of both the Mexican Constitution and federal anti-discrimination laws, and that the Liga could be subject to lawsuits by such a policy.  There were no limits on Mexican-American players last year in the Mexican League which led to Monterrey owner Jose "Pepe" Maiz reacting bitterly to his Sultanes' loss in last September's Northern Division finals to a Tijuana Toros club with a heavy presence of Mexican-Americans on the roster.  Maiz was joined by seven other so-called Old Guard owners in seeking limits for the 2017 season, first a total of nine players per team but lowered to three apiece after the schism among owners deepened even further in January's league meeting, a rift that goes far beyond roster limits.

O'Connor's ruling is a clear victory over the seven "New Breed" owners (including Tijuana's Alberto Uribe, the primary object of Maiz' ire), who wanted no limits on Mexican-Americans, but there's already been one reaction among one of the Old Guard, Quintana Roo Tigres owner Carlos Peralta.  The son of legendary Tigres owner Alejo Peralta, who founded the team in 1955.  The Tigres shared old Parque de Social Seguro with the Diablos Rojos, a rivalry that was the biggest in Mexican baseball until the elder Peralta's death at age 80 in 1997.

Although Carlos has run the team for two decades since his father's passing, his ties to baseball were never as extensive and after a few more years in the nation's capital, the Tigres were moved twice: First to Puebla in 2002 and again to Cancun in 2007.  While the Tigres have indeed won six LMB pennants under Carlos' stewardship (three in Puebla, three in Cancun), the team has never been wholly embraced in either city as the younger Peralta grew more and more distant from the ballclub, largely leaving its operation to team Executive President Cuauhtemoc "Chito" Rodriguez, who came to work under Alejo Peralta in 1995 after 19 years in the Nuevo Laredo Tecolotes front office.

This is not the first time Carlos Peralta has explored selling the Tigres, but it appears to be the most serious effort.  Peralta is seeking to sell the team but keep the Tigres name and intellectual properties.  One asking price that was floated in the Mexican media is US$2,500,000, but it's difficult to place a value on this particular ballclub because it has been a major presence in the LMB for more than six decades, the team has has some financial difficulties operating in Cancun while the franchise will undoubtedly lose luster without the "Tigres" name attached to it.  There is some sentiment among Mexican baseball cronistas for the team to move back to Mexico City and resume their rivalry with the Diablos, but that might be a reach if the Diablos are not willing to share the new ballpark being constructed in Mexico City.

Whatever the outcome with the Tigres, this serves as one more headache for recently-reinstated Liga president Plinio Escalante, who returned to the LMB offices in Mexico City this month.  O'Connor made it clear on February 1 that the Yucatan native is the only person that MiLB will accept behind the big desk.  Besides the seemingly-insoluble division between the two owner factions, ballpark issues in both Durango and Leon still need addressing and there are other Old Guard owners besides Peralta who earlier "quit" the league earlier this offseason (albeit symbolically).  The question of who buys the UnTigres becomes more important in regards to which faction the new owner would align himself with.

The next LMB Assembly of Presidents meeting is scheduled for February 17 in Mexico City.  Tea and scones are not likely on the agenda.