Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Leon Bravos in danger of being DQ'd by Mexican League

If Plinio Escalante is counting the days until he officially retires as president of the Mexican League, it's pretty hard to blame him.  Ever since the end of last season, the Merida native has had to put out more fires than a San Francisco fireman in 1906.  The latest involves one of the Liga's two new franchises, and it isn't the Durango Generales.  After an unbelievably shaky start since the former Carmen Delfines moved to Durango last November, the Generales have settled down to play decent, even inspired, ball while larger than expected crowds have been showing up at Estadio Francisco Villa.  Durango is hardly problem-free, but this fire comes courtesy of the Leon Bravos.

While the situation in Durango may have received more attention leading up to the start of the season, there were problems in Leon as well after the former Reynosa Broncos moved west to the Guanajuato city of 1.6 million inhabitants.  Veteran manager Francisco "Paquin" Estrada, who managed the original version of the Bravos to three winning seasons earlier in his 30-year career as an LMB skipper, was the victim of a so-called "virtual kidnapping" during training camp, going missing for two days in a story that gained international attention.  Estadio Domingo Santana, like Durango's ballpark, was behind in needed renovations, causing the Bravos to play their first five series on the road (going 7-8 during that stretch) before finally playing their home opener more than two weeks into the schedule.

Even then, the April 18 opener versus Mexico City was cancelled after complaints from Diablos Rojos players and management about poor lighting, stirring up bad blood between the two organizations after Leon team president Mauricio Martinez called the Red Devils "delicate."  As the opener was finally being played a day later, the game was delayed in the fifth inning after winds blew a metal structure near the centerfield fence onto the playing field, injuring two videographers and striking players from both teams in their respective bullpens.  Play wasn't resumed until more than two hours after the incident and the game was eventually ended by umpires after the seventh inning with Leon winning, 8-0, to even their record at 8-8.  That may have been the high point of the season for the Bravos, who then lost 12 of their next 14 games before Estrada was fired with the team at 10-20 and replaced by Luis Rivera.  The team has since gone 9-17 under Rivera.

With all that going on, news has recently broken that Escalante has begun the process of expelling the Bravos from the Liga.  According to Beatriz Pereyra in Proceso, owner Arturo Blanco Diaz has yet to pay the LMB an undisclosed price to buy the Reynosa franchise, an amount agreed upon during last November's Assembly of Presidents meeting.  Pereyra states that Escalante has informed the Bravos' board of directors that he's initiated the process of expulsion of the team and that the matter will be taken up on June 16, when the Assembly meets during All-Star Weekend in Campeche.

None of this can be a welcome development for Blanco Diaz, who owns the Laredo-based Potosinos courier company, a season sponsor for the Mexican Pacific League the past two winters.  Pereyra reports that Blanco Diaz supposedly made required payments to the LMB two days before the March 31 season opener, but that was apparently untrue and that even Bravos players were late in receiving their paychecks at one point.  Ironically, Pereyra adds, the Broncos closed shop after the 2016 season due to financial problems and lack of liquidity.

The semi-educated guess here at BBM is that Escalante and the team presidents will agree to at least a partial payment of the amount owed by the Bravos and allow the team (which is next to last in LMB attendance at 2,404 per opening after 21 home dates) to finish the season.  Logic at least suggests that while Leon may end up being a season-long headache for the Liga, it's nothing like the scheduling nightmare that would result if the circuit went down to an odd number of teams for the rest of the 111-game schedule.

As for Plinio Escalante, each day will be one day closer to September 13, when the Serie del Rey for the LMB championship is scheduled for a Game Seven, if needed.  Then again, he probably already knows that.