Monday, February 13, 2017

2016-17 BBM Winter Awards: Luis Sojo, Manager of the Year

Managing a minor league baseball team in Mexico comes with about as much job security as a pet rock salesman enjoys.  While it's a decades-old axiom that managers are hired to be fired (unless you're Connie Mack), there may be no place on Earth where that's as true as it is south of the border, where no less than eight skippers were pink-slipped in the Mexican League during the 2016 season.  Luis Sojo was one of them, yet he rebounded from being fired by Tijuana last summer to leading the perennial also-ran Los Mochis Caneros to the Mexican Pacific League championship series this winter.

The former infielder, who spent over a decade as a utilityman for five teams (including seven with the New York Yankees), spent a number of years after his 2003 retirement as a player coaching and managing in the Yankees system while also managing his native Venezuela at the World Baseball Classic in 2006, 2009 and 2013. After more than ten seasons managing and coaching in pinstripes, Sojo took the managerial reigns with the Mexican League's Tijuana Toros last season and was able to keep his job until July 5, when GM Jorge Campillo fired him with Tijuana in third place at 40-37.  Pedro Mere, a longtime skipper in the Veracruz Winter League, went on to take the Toros to the Northern Division title and an LMB championship series against eventual pennant-winner Puebla.  Mere is scheduled to return to the helm in Tijuana this season.

Licking his wounds after being canned in Tijuana, Sojo was able to get a head start preparing for the recently-concluded Mexican Pacific League season, his second managing Los Mochis after going 35-33 in 2015-16 before a first-round playoff loss to Obregon.  Sojo's Caneros finished third in both halves of the MexPac schedule with a 38-30 overall record thanks to a lineup infused by newcomers like outfielder Leandro Castro, second baseman Isaac Rodriguez, third baseman Brian Hernandez and shortstop Yosmany Guerra (who all hit .300 or better) plus hurlers Manny Barreda, who won the LMP's ERA title, and swingman Jon Sintes.

In the January playoffs, Mochis knocked out defending Caribbean Series champion Mazatlan in five games and went seven games to eliminate Culiacan in the semifinals before falling to Mexcali in the title series, 4 games to 2, dropping the last three in a row as the Caneros sought their first pennant since 2002-03.  Although Mochis fell short of capturing the flag, the Caneros overachieved enough for skipper Luis Sojo to win the BBM Winter Award for Manager of the Year.

2010       Eddie Diaz, Oaxaca
2010-11  Matias Carrillo, Guasave
2011       Daniel Fernandez, Veracruz
2015-16  Edgar Gonzalez, Mexicali
2016       Willie Romero, Yucatan
2016-17  Luis Sojo, Los Mochis