Monday, October 16, 2017

MexPac begins 2017-18 season; 116,306 attend eight openers

Celebration after Culiacan's Josh Fuentes' 14th inning HR
It took a walkoff homer in the bottom of the fourteenth inning, but the Culiacan Tomateros were able to remain one of two Mexican Pacific League teams with perfect 5-and-0 records after nipping Los Mochis, 1-0, Sunday night at Estadio Tomateros.  By the time Josh Fuentes lofted Caneros’ reliever Fabian Cota’s first pitch of the bottom of the 14th over the wall in left-center to end it, the marathon had lasted a total of 395 pitches from 13 pitchers on both teams over 4 hours, 48 minutes.  Fuentes, who hit .307 with 15 homers for the Rockies’ AA Hartford affiliate over the summer, had gone hitless and left seven baserunners stranded in five previous trips to the plate.
Jalisco is the LMP’s other unbeaten team after swamping Obregon, 7-1, in Guadalajara Sunday.  Charros second baseman Manny Rodriguez raised his batting average to .571 after going 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs while scoring twice to support Jalisco starter Tyler Alexander, who spun six innings of three-hit shutout ball for his first win of the winter.
While Culiacan and Jalisco are riding high, Los Mochis and Obregon are at the other end of the spectrum with 0-and-5 records with Navojoa showing just one win thus far.  Obviously no team will never win nor lose all their games, but the Caneros and Yaquis are already five games out of first after the first weekend of the season.  Even if Jalisco sweeps their upcoming midweek series at Los Mochis and Culiacan does the same on the road against defending champion Mexicali, someone’s perfect record would end Friday when the Charros visit the Tomateros in the Sinaloa state capital next weekend.
Attendance was solid throughout the MexPac for the home-and-away openers, as no team drew fewer than 11,000 fans for their respective inaugurals.  Culiacan’s lidlifter against Navojoa on Wednesday attracted 19,912 onlookers to Estadio Tomateros.  Los Mochis’ Thursday opener against Mexicali pulled in the “smallest” crowd at 11,200 but when you consider that Estadio Emilio Almada Ibarra seats 11,000 spectators, it adds a little perspective.  Here are the attendance figures for all eight season openers (an asterisk denotes a sellout):

Tuesday, October 10
Los Mochis at MEXICALI 17,000
Wednesday, October 11
Navojoa at CULIACAN 19,912
Obregon at HERMOSILLO 16,396
Jalisco at MAZATLAN 11,245
Thursday, October 12
Hermosillo at OBREGON 16,500
Mazatlan at JALISCO 12,553
Culiacan at NAVOJOA 11,500
Mexicali at LOS MOCHIS 11,200
TOTAL           116,306
AVERAGE 14,538

As shown, five of the eight openers were sold out, Culiacan came within 100 of reaching Estadio Tomateros’ listed capacity of 20,000 and Jalisco was less than a half-thousand seats shy of a full house.  Mazatlan, which finished last in attendance in 2016-17, came up nearly 3,500 tickets short of a sellout at 15,000-seat Estadio Teodoro Mariscal, which will be getting a major makeover over the coming year.


MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Standings
Culiacan 5-0, Jalisco 5-0, Hermosillo 4-1, Mazatlan 3-2, Mexicali 2-3, Navojoa 1-4, Los Mochis 0-5, Obregon 0-5
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Batting Leaders
Batting-Alejandro Flores (HMO) .722, Runs-Manny Rodriguez (JAL) 8, Homers-Eight players tied with 2 each, RBIs-Manny Rodriguez (JAL) 9, Stolen Bases-Billy Burns (JAL) 4
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Pitching Leaders
Wins-Manuel Flores (JAL) and Gerardo Sanchez (CUL) 2, ERA-Six pitchers tied at 0.00 each, Strikeouts-Casey Coleman (HMO) 9, Saves-Four pitchers tied at 2 each, WHIP-Arturo Lopez (OBR) 0.35

QUESTIONABLE TIGRES-DIABLOS PROSPECTS TRANSFER UNDER SCRUTINY
As if the Mexican League hasn’t already endured more than its share of controversy over the past year, the LMB is now dealing with an apparently surreptitious transfer of five Quintana Roo Tigres prospects to the Mexico City Diablos Rojos last winter one week prior to the sale of the Tigres to ex-Cy Young Award winner Fernando Valenzuela and his wife Linda Burgos.  Two of those players were subsequently sold to the Texas Rangers for a total of $2.7 million over the summer, but the question of whether the Diablos or Tigres should receive the money has arisen in light of concerns over whether rights to the prospects were traded to the Diablos for nothing in return or whether the Tigres “loaned” the players to Mexico City, a common practice south of the border.
According to a story in Proceso by Beatriz Pereyra, the common denominator is Francisco Minjarez, who processed the paperwork as an assistant general manager with the Tigres at the time.  Minjarez left the Tigres after the February sale and landed in the Diablos’ front office in late March, weeks before 16-year-old pitcher Damien Mendoza and 15-year-old infielder Fernando Villalobos were sold to the Rangers for $1.2 million and $1.5 million, respectively in July.
The Proceso story says the players appeared on a Tigres reserve list in January before reappearing on the Diablos’ reserve list one month later.  The Valenzuelas were never formally informed of either the prospect transfers or the sales to Texas, and the cash-strapped Cancun team has received none of the Texas sale proceeds.  Minjarez told Pereyra in a subsequent interview that the initial transfer was a “gentleman’s agreement” between then-Tigres president Cuauhtemoc Rodriguez (who departed shortly after Carlos Peralta sold the team) and recently-retired Diablos team president Roberto Mansur.
Whether anything comes of the LMB’s investigation depends on new league president Javier Salinas, who was not an insider when he was chosen to replace Plinio Escalante after the 2017 season.  Salinas’ handling of the matter will be closely watched.

MEXICAN LEAGUE ANNOUNCES INDIVIDUAL AWARDS FOR 2017
The Mexican League has announced the names of players selected to receive individual awards for the 2017 season.  
Third baseman Jesse Castillo of Aguascalientes heads the list as Most Valuable Player after batting .342 with 20 homers and 82 RBIs, ranking in the top ten for each offensive category.
Veracruz starter Nestor Molina was picked as Pitcher of the Year after leading the Rojos del Aguila to a playoff berth with a 12-3 record and Liga-leading 1.89 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.
Monclova closer Chad Gaudin was chosen as Reliever of the Year.  The former A’s starter led the loop with 29 saves to augment his 2.93 ERA and 2-3 record for the Acereros.
Rookie of the Year honors went to 24-year-old Puebla first baseman Ricky Rodriguez, a Los Angeles native who hit .304, socked 11 homers and drove in 72 runs for the Pericos.
Puebla second baseman Jesus Arredondo was tabbed as Comeback Player of the Year with a .332/15/87 statline in 2017 after going .259/5/38 a year ago.
And Aguascalientes helmsman Homar Rojas received acclamation as Manager of the Year for leading the bargain-basement Railroaders roster to a 64-46 record and a playoff berth.
We’ve already gone over what a tough year it was to pick an MVP but if there’s a clear dispute over who earned which award, it may be Gaudin’s selection as Reliever of the Year. While he did standout work with Monclova in 2017, Tijuana’s Jason Urquidez was a perfect 5-0 with 28 saves and a microscopic 0.98 ERA while striking out 56 batters and walking only seven over 46 innings for the pennant-winning Toros.

Note: Baseball Mexico will now be posted on Mondays with three stories per entry.