Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Javier Salinas elected new Mexican League president

The Mexican League's Assembly of Presidents this week named Javier Salinas as successor to Plinio Escalante as league president, effective at the end of the 2017 regular season.

Salinas (pictured, on microphone with Escalante at left) earned a degree in Communication Science at Latin American University plus postgraduate degrees in Sports Sponsorship in the Business School of Sports in Bogota, Colombia with a Masters in Business and Administration of Football from Johan Cruyff University.  His two-decade career has focused on marketing of sports teams and leagues, with time spent in Mexico's Liga MX soccer organization, which has become the preeminent sports league in the country.

After a tumultuous offseason, during which he'd been forced from the president's office by a faction of so-called "Old Guard" owners led by Monterrey's Jose "Pepe" Maiz, only to be reinstated by Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Connor at a February meeting in Houston called by O'Connor himself, Escalante told the league presidents that he would indeed follow through on his desire to leave his current position at the end of the season.  The Liga's Board of Directors, led by Puebla and Monclova owner Gerardo Benavides, then took on the task of interviewing a number of candidates before Salinas was selected.

Salinas will serve as the LMB's Deputy President until Escalante steps down to aid in the transition.  "It is with pride and honor to be the next president of the Mexican League," he said following the meeting.  "I've been a baseball fan as far back as I can remember, and to become the president of the Liga implies enormous responsibility and passion.  I'm grateful to Plinio Escalante, whom I've been close to, and also grateful to the entire Assembly, where I've met Mexican entrepreneurs who love baseball and are looking for significant change.  It's a huge challenge, and we will face it in the best way."

Also during Monday's meeting in Mexico City, the LMB Board of Directors and various committees were restored.  The new Board includes Benavides as President, Mexico City team president Roberto Mansur and Veracruz' Jose Mansur (Roberto's brother) as co-Vice Presidents, Alejandro Uribe of Tijuana (son of Toros owner Alberto Uribe) as Treasurer and Eustacio Alvarez of Aguascalientes as Secretary.

Salinas' election to succeed Escalante at the big desk indicates that the internecine war between the Old Guard of Mexican League teams and the New Breed of franchise owners has been won by the latter group.  The two factions had been split 50-50 and the rift over the winter threatened to break up the LMB into two circuits this season or even cancel the schedule altogether.  While the debate regarding the use of Mexican-American players who do not count against the ceiling of six "foreign" players per team (the Old Guard wanted to limit their numbers, the New Breed wanted no limits) represented the focal point of the schism, it was hardly the only issue between the two groups.  At its heart was a desire by the Old Guard to continue as things had been for years against a New Breed wanting to change the way the Liga is run into a marketing-driven model in which teams generated revenue by selling their product to the public rather than rely on government largesse to meet expenses.  Salinas is clearly cut from the cloth of the New Breed mentality and his election would appear to put the debate to rest.

One has to believe that Plinio Escalante has breathed several sighs of relief this week in the knowledge that he'll be handing the gavel over to Salinas in August.  The Merida native ascended to the LMB presidency in 2007 and brought a sense of stability after four men had held the office since Pedro Treto Cisneros stepped down in 1999.  While the Liga has not made any great leaps forward in Escalante's ten years, he has steered the circuit through at-times turbulent waters in that span.  He had planned to retire in 2016, but was talked into staying on two more years by a group of men led by Carlos Peralta, the then-owner of the Quintana Roo Tigres.

The move took on a sense of irony last winter when Peralta was among the owners who voted to oust Escalante in a rather dubious procedure during which a representative of the Reynosa Broncos (who sided with the New Breed) was kept out of league meetings because the franchise had not yet officially shifted to its current site in Leon.  At that point, Pepe Maiz became the de facto LMB leader in his role as president of the Board until O'Connor stepped in one month later to tell owners that their league's continued membership in MiLB was in question and that the only person he would deal with as Liga president was Escalante.  That meeting shifted the dynamic in favor of the New Breed, culminating in Monday's election of Salinas as Escalante's successor.

Since then, Peralta has sold the Tigres to a group fronted by former Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Fernando Valenzuela while for all intent and purposes, Pepe Maiz has disappeared from the Mexican baseball scene after selling 50 percent of his Monterrey Sultanes to Grupo Multimedios.