Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Columnist Braverman skeptical of incoming LMB president

The announcement earlier this month that former soccer executive Javier Salinas will replace Plinio Escalante as president of the Mexican League has been met with skepticism among a number of Mexican baseball columnists.  Salinas, who will serve as Escalante's vice president until the latter retires following the current season, has spent the past two decades in marketing roles of the Liga MX, Mexico's most popular sports entity with crowds averaging about 27,000 per match, so he's had some earlier success before joining forces with the LMB.

However, Salinas (who has already floated the idea of breaking the LMB baseball season up into two Apertura and Clausura "tournaments" similar to the Liga MX) also has no prior experience in baseball, something that has raised concerns among more than one cronista. Among them is David Braverman, one of Mexico's leading baseball writers whose "Out 27" column is carried by Puro Beisbol, among others.  A recent Braverman offering was less than sanguine about the future of the Mexican League under Salinas, whose name was interestingly never mentioned.  The following is one far-from-perfect translation of that Braverman column (the original in Spanish can be found on the Puro Beisbol site):

In the weeks since the last assembly of the LMB, where the successor of Plinio Escalante for the presidency of the circuit was announced, many comments have begun to emerge about the immediate future of the top summer circuit of our country.

It seems that more than 90 years of existence have not been enough for the tycoons, or at least some of them (including the multiple-team owners), to conscientiously analyze the present and the future of the league without forgetting the past, a long history that no other professional sports league in our country can boast.

And, of course, we do not want to be spoilers and think that only the usual works. But baseball is traditional, and anyone who tries to break it is simply an ignoramus of the King of Sports.

Commencing the talk of baseball in full transition is the idea of ​​changing the format a full season into two "short tournaments" in what is nothing more than a soccer mentality. The difference with soccer is that their two short tournaments span the whole year.  In the LMB, the season runs from late March to early September, around six months in which the regular schedule and the long playoff round are completed. The "brilliant" idea is to make two small seasons with many playoffs, making believe that sponsors will be found to enter baseball and fans will invade all the stadiums.

This simplistic idea is filled with baseball ignorance. Do you think that having two seasons, with the All-Star Game in between, the standings will change so that the interest is greater and people go to the stadiums?  Of course not.  The teams that have worked to arm themselves to the teeth will continue dominating in fan attendance and in the standings and the stragglers will continue staying there, with disappointed fans waiting anxiously to finish the season and praying that the following year will go better.

The poor attendance at most of the stadiums of the LMB, the lack of institutional sponsorships and the pending retirement of Plinio Escalante to leave the presidency caused so much despair among some magnates that many decisions have turned to steam. The arrival of Durango and León, both operating on hope and a shoestring, is just one example.  Of course, they are within their right to do it since they are the owners of the league, although in the group of 16 only a few who actually command and decide.  The LMB is lying in its presentation bulletin of who will replace Plinio, noting that they interviewed several candidates to select the candidate.  There were certainly several but they blocked the path.  Voting or analysis was not in full, in the purest style, with some executives in the Assembly of Presidents who could not and would not comment.

It is a fact: Baseball is behind and the league will function as an advertising agency, something that has already happened in the past with poor results.  Alejandro Hutt, Raul Gonzalez and Jose OrozcoTopete were presidents who came from outside to venture into baseball.  Some current magnates did not live through it, but now they want that experience in the middle of despair.

Another topic that caught my attention was the suggestion that came from Monterrey, where the Sultanes have some soccer fans among their new Directors. An idea was thrown out when proposing the former president of the Mexican Futbol Federation, Justino Compean, to occupy the presidency of the LMB: Why not have two tournaments for two leagues, with promotion and relegation so that poorer teams in Tabasco, Durango, León, Saltillo, Veracruz, Campeche, Oaxaca and others can move up to the LMB “Premier Division?”