Monday, November 13, 2017

2018 LMB season to end in October; two big trades made

LMB Assembly of Presidents meeting in Leon
After weeks of speculation about whether the Mexican League’s proposed two-season calendar in 2018 would extend into November, overlapping the Mexican Pacific League’s 2018-19 schedule by a month and severely curtailing domestic player availability for the winterball circuit, the LMB has set October 8 as the date for Game Seven of their second Serie del Rey.  The first season will open on March 22 while the All-Star Game is scheduled for July 1, amid a four-day break between two 57-game regular seasons plus playoffs.  The decision came at last week’s Assembly of Presidents meeting in Leon.  The MexPac traditionally opens its own season in mid-October, so the threat of scheduling conflicts has been eliminated.  The 16 Liga teams (Durango WILL be back, reportedly under new ownership) own the playing rights to nearly all homegrown LMP players, however, and it may eventually become common for LMB players to be held back from MexPac competition.


The Mexico City Diablos Rojos will move to the South Division for 2018, with the Dos Laredos Tecolotes logically placed in the North after the former Veracruz franchise moves to the border city.  The Diablos lobbied to remain in the North last season even though Mexico City lies south of both 2017 newcomers Durango and Leon.  The move backfired, as the Red Devils missed the playoffs for the second year in a row despite turning in a 57-52 record, which would’ve been a second-place finish in the South.  The Tecos reportedly hope to play two games of each three-game series in Nuevo Laredo with one across the border in Laredo, Texas.  Nuevo Laredo has a 12,000-seat ballpark built in 2007 that would rank among the better facilities in the Liga, but its remote location outside town has been a drawback.  The Tecos may end up back in their original home, the 6,000-seat Parque La Junta, which turned 70 this year.  Their likely home in Texas would be Uni-Trade Stadium, which opened in 2012.  The $18 million ballpark holds 6,000 for baseball.


As expected, former MLB catcher and ex-Diablos manager Miguel Ojeda was named as Monterrey’s new helmsman.  Ojeda took the reins as the Sultanes were trading designated hitter Luis Juarez and shortstop Walter Ibarra to Yucatan for first baseman Ricky Alvarez and outfielder Francisco Lugo.  The deal that raised eyebrows among Mexican baseball cronistas saw Aguascalientes third baseman Jesse Castillo, the Liga MVP for 2017, sent to Monclova for five players, including starting pitchers Andres Meza, Josh Outman and Julio Felix, who combined for 17 wins this summer for Puebla, whose Pericos are owned by the same Gerardo Benavides who also happens to own the Acereros.  The more things change...

Tigres may appeal to LMB with Rookiegate allegations


Tigres owners Fernando Valenzuela and Linda Burgos
The Mexican League is maintaining silence regarding their investigation into a disputed player transfer last year in which five Quintana Roo prospects were sent to Mexico City just before the Tigres were sold to a group led by former Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Fernando Valenzuela. However, Valenzuela’s wife and co-owner Linda Burgos is not being so stoic, and the result may be an appeal to Major League Baseball’s intervention.


The impasse stems from the transfer of five young players from Quintana Roo’s protected list to the Diablos Rojos, two of whom were sold to the Texas Rangers over the summer for a combined US$2.7 million.  The Valenzuelas, who are now sole owners of the Tigres after their partners bailed out earlier this year, claim the protected players list they received from former owner Carlos Peralta and general manager Francisco Minjarez contained the names of the five players in question. After the sale closed, Minjarez left the Tigres front office for the GM position with the Diablos.


Burgos tells Proceso’s Beatriz Pereyra that the Tigres are prepared to call MLB commissioner Rob Manfred seeking an investigation if Liga president Javier Salinas does not rule in their favor, and that Minjarez be expelled for his alleged double-dealing.  “I have my reserve list of the team I bought,” Burgos says.  “The ‘proofs’ of Pollo (Minjarez) are not valid either before the LMB or MLB because it is not an official document.”  She adds that the five prospects were not the only thing missing from the sale:  “The team also purchased furniture, televisions, a van, desks…  And do you know what was there?  Nothing!  Zero!  They stole everything.  There wasn’t even a chair.”  Burgos says repeated requests for information from the LMB office in Mexico City have not been answered.


The Valenzuelas (including son Fernando Junior, the Tigres GM) struggled mightily their first year in Cancun and reportedly lost millions.  The Tigres did qualify for the playoffs by finishing third in the LMB South, but they also fired manager Roberto Vizcarra in midseason, went 49-56 before being eliminated by Puebla and came in eleventh in attendance with 147,416 fans coming to 49 home games, an average of 3,008 per opening while financial support from the state of Quintana Roo was cut back dramatically.


Adrian Gonzalez to play in Jalisco this winter


On the heels of the most frustrating season in his 14-year MLB career, five-time All-Star Adrian Gonzalez is now expected to join the Jalisco Charros in December for the stretch drive of the Mexican Pacific League season, according to Mexican newspaper Excelsior.  The 35-year-old Dodger first baseman would be rejoining his brother Edgar, who now serves as a vice president of the Guadalajara team.  The two played side-by-side for a number of winters in Mazatlan before doing the same in San Diego after then-second sacker Edgar was called up to the Padres from AAA Portland for his big league debut in 2009.


While Edgar has gone on to managerial success in Mexicali and now a front office position with the Charros, Adrian maintained his reputation as a smooth fielder at first while being a steady run producer for the Dodgers before injuries hampered him throughout the 2017 season, allowing El Titan to play in just 71 games, batting .242 with three homers.  For his MLB career, which began with Texas in 2004, Gonzalez has a .288 average with 2,010 hits, including 311 homers and 1,176 RBIs.  He has one year remaining on his current MLB contract, which calls for $22.4 million in 2018.


Jalisco has been a contender for first place and the eight points that come with it throughout the first half.  The Charros are presently 15-14 and are tied for fourth place with defending champion Mexicali under first-year manager Tony Tarasco, but only four games separate the top seven teams with six games remaining on the first-half schedule.  Culiacan heads the standings at 17-12 after winning, 6-3, in Los Mochis Sunday as Ronnier Mustelier’s three-run homer in the fifth inning broke a 2-2 tie.  The Tomateros win broke a three-way tie at the top after Mazatlan fell, 8-3, in Mexicali and Hermosillo lost a 16-5 home decision to Navojoa.


Culiacan will host Mexicali in a critical midweek series starting Tuesday while Hermosillo visits Mazatlan.  Next weekend’s showcase set appears to be in Guadalajara, where the Charros welcome the Tomateros for three games beginning Friday night.  The LMP All-Star Game is slated for Monday, November 20 in Los Mochis, one day before the second half begins.


MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Standings (as of November 13, 2017)
Culiacan 17-12, Hermosillo 16-13, Mazatlan 16-13, Jalisco 15-14, Mexicali 15-14, Los Mochis 13-16, Navojoa 13-16, Obregon 11-18..
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Batting Leaders
Batting-Jeremias Pineda (MAZ) .393, Runs-Randy Arozarena (NAV) 25, Homers-Bryce Brentz (HMO) 7, RBIs-Manny Rodriguez (JAL) 26, Stolen Bases-Jeremias Pineda (MAZ) 17.
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Pitching Leaders

Wins-Mitch Lively (MAZ) 4, ERA-Danny Rodriguez (CUL) 0.87, Strikeouts-Cesar Vargas (HMO) 31, Saves-Ryan Kussmaul (MXI) 10, WHIP-Danny Rodriguez (CUL) 0.71.



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