Friday, December 1, 2017

BBM EXTRA: Three stories for a Friday Afternoon

  Every so often, stories might pile up between Monday postings that might otherwise get delayed, cut short or even simply lost in the shuffle. Whenever that happens, it seems worth posting a BBM extra on Friday to make sure Mexican baseball news is put out in a timely fashion, and this is one of those days. So here we go...

LMB Assembly of Presidents adjusts 2018 schedules


Mexican League president Javier Salinas
The Mexican League Assembly of Presidents convened a meeting last month at LMB offices in Mexico City and made some adjustments in their upcoming two-season calendar for 2018.  The most notable event may be something that happened before the meeting started, when new league president Javier Salinas confiscated cell phones from all 16 team representatives on hand in an attempt to eliminate leaks of the discussion to the media, in particular the Puro Beisbol website (which has posted LMB information in the past that did not go over well at Liga HQ).  Salinas reportedly told the team owners and presidents on hand that phones would be taken prior to the next Assembly meeting later this month at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando.
The projected schedules were pushed back to earlier in the year, in part to avoid playing the 2018 All-Star Game on the originally-planned date of July 1, which coincides with Mexico's presidential election and the declaration of a national holiday during which events like baseball games are prohibited.  The LMB's version of an Apertura will commence with a March 15 Opening Day (originally slated on March 23), the All-Star Game will now be played between seasons on June 24 while the Clausura playoffs will conclude by no later than October 8, one week earlier than the previous October 15 end date and providing more of a cushion between LMB seasons and the Mexican Pacific League schedule.
Among other changes in the Mexican League structure were the allowance of foreign players to perform for up to three different teams per season (the previous limit was two teams), jerseys will be required to have the wearer's surname printed on the back, and attempts to speed up game will include automatic bases-on-balls and the installation of pitch clocks on outfield walls.  Minor League Baseball tried using pitch clocks this summer but games still averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes.

Japhet Amador returning to Japan in 2018


Rakuten DH/1B Japhet Amador (on left)
Jalisco Charros slugger Japhet Amador will be returning to Japan for a third season in 2018 for a reported US$539,000.  
The 6'4" designated hitter/first baseman (who runs from 305 to 330 pounds, depending on the source) suffered an injury-plagued 2016 Nippon Professional Baseball debut campaign (.258/9/19 in 39 games) with the Rakuten Golden Eagles.  El Gigante de Mulege came back healthier for Rakuten this summer and broke Karim Garcia's record for most homers by a Mexican in NPB with 23 roundtrippers and driving in 65 runs in 121 games.  His .237 batting average in 2017 was not a selling point for his contract renewal, but power hitters are forgiven lower averages and Amador has become a fan favorite in Sendai, home of the Eagles.  Rakuten is a Japanese internet shopping company similar to Amazon and Alibaba.


Before heading to Asia, Amador had established himself as the most-feared batter in Mexico, following a 2015 Mexican League MVP season (.346/41/117) in 101 games with the Mexico City Diablos Rojos with a strong winterball campaign for the Charros in 2015-16 (.288/14/48) before heading off to Japan after 58 regular season games.  He was named the MexPac MVP that season, too.  Amador, who turns 31 in January, showed .270/7/20 numbers over 44 games last winter in Guadalajara and is currently batting .239 with 3 homers in 19 contests for Jalisco after coming home from Japan last month.
Amador's return to NPB next season is the only certain one from among the 2017 Mexican contingent in Japan.  Former Rangers and Royals pitcher Luis Mendoza split a rocky season between the Nippon Ham Fighters and Hanshin Tigers, going a combined 3-9 with a 4.17 ERA, but Luis Alfonso Cruz (whose 73 RBIs for the Chiba Lotte Marines is a record for Mexican-born NPB players) spent this summer playing minor league ball in both the Rakuten and Yomiuri Giants organizations, as did ex-Yankees infielder Ramiro Pena, who played in the Hiroshima Carp system.

Salon de la Fama member Miguel Suarez dies at 65


Former Mexican baseball star Miguel "Mr. Hit" Suarez has passed away in his native Guasave, suffering from circulation problems in the days before his death last month at the age of 65.
The following is a profile on Suarez that was initially posted on BBM's predecessor, Viva Beisbol, as part of a "Maestros of Mexico" series of sketches on past Mexican baseball greats:
While Miguel Suarez does not immediately leap to mind as one of the great batsmen in Liga Mexicana history, his record indicates that he was consistently productive over his 17-year career. While he had neither power nor great speed on the basepaths, Suarez was nonetheless a perennial .300 batter as one of the best leadoff hitters ever in Mexico.
Miguel Suarez Lopez was born September 29, 1952 in Guasave, Sinaloa.  The tiny 5’4” 140-pounder began his pro career with Tampico in the Class A Mexican Center League as a 16-year-old in 1969.  He played two years in Tampico, batting .314 in 1969, followed by a league-best .393 in 1970.  He showed surprising power, knocking out 26 homers over those two seasons, but the longball was not his style, as Suarez would go on to hit only 23 circuit clouts during his LMB career (and never more than three in one season).
Suarez debuted with the Mexico City Diablos Rojos in 1971, and led the Liga with 188 base hits en route to a .372 average and a selection as the LMB Rookie of the Year.  That would set a pattern for his career, as Suarez only failed to hit .300 once in his first eleven seasons, batting .297 in a strike-split 1980 season for Reynosa and the Mexico City Tigres.  He came back with a .303 mark for the Tigres in 1981 and eventually turned in .320 and .332 campaigns for Tabasco and Nuevo Laredo in the early 1980’s.  After consecutive .259 seasons for Veracruz and Monterrey in 1985 and 1968, he called it quits at the age of 33.
Suarez ended his Liga playing days with 2,444 career hits for a .323 average.  While he only had 63 stolen bases (and was actually caught stealing 96 times), he did swat 86 triples, reaching double figures four times between 1973 and 1979.  Although he never led the LMB in batting, Suarez is the only player ever to top the circuit in hits three times (including a record 227 safeties in 1977 when he hit .370 for the Red Devils) and led the Liga in triples with 13 in 1973.  He was not nearly so successful in the winter, with a career mark of .259 in 14 Mexican Pacific League seasons, mostly with his hometown team in Guasave. He was inducted into Mexico’s Salon de la Fama in 1994.