Monday, December 18, 2017

Mexicali opens 4-game lead; Lively win streak ends at 8



The defending champion Mexicali Aguilas have continued to respond to new manager Pedro Mere and have built a four-game lead over Mazatlan and Navojoa in the Mexican Pacific League’s second-half standings.  The Eagles won two of three hard-fought games in a weekend series in Mazatlan to lift their record to 18-6 with nine games left in the regular season. The Venados dropped to 14-10 after losing Sunday’s game, 4-2, falling into a second-place tie with the Mayos.  Righty Mitch Lively took the loss for the Deer to fall to 9-2 on the season after winning his last eight starts.  Meanwhile, Navojoa won in Culiacan, 2-0, as Eddie Gamboa and four relievers combined on the shutout.
A 6’5” Californian, the 32-year-old Lively has enjoyed a banner 2017 south of the border.  He pitched well for a poor Leon team in the Mexican League, going 7-2 with a 2.41 ERA for the Bravos over 74 innings, including 12 starts, to give him a combined 16-4 mark between the two leagues.  The Venados ace leads the MexPac in wins, strikeouts and WHIP and is threatening to become the LMP’s first 10-game winner since Culiacan’s Jorge Campillo in 2004-05.  Campillo went on to pitch in the majors for Seattle and Atlanta and is currently a VP with the LMB Tijuana Toros after serving as the team’s GM for several seasons.
The Hermosillo Naranjeros’ second-half slide following their first-half title has continued, with the Orangemen next-to-last with a 9-14 record, three games ahead of hapless Los Mochis.  Hermosillo’s front office and fans are used to success and rumors have surfaced that manager Lorenzo Bundy’s seat may be getting warm.  The Naranjeros recently became beneficiaries of Obregon’s sell-off by acquiring former MLB and NPB pitcher Luis Mendoza from the Yaquis for three prospects.  One of them, Hermosillo native Isaac Paredes, was a well-regarded Cubs farmhand before being dealt to the Tigers organization last summer.  The infielder spent the entire season playing in the Class A Midwest League, pretty fast company for an 18-year-old who hit .252 with 11 homers and 70 RBIs in 124 games for South Bend and West Michigan.
What’s been a long season in Obregon got a little longer when new fan favorite outfielder Tomo Otosaka returned to Japan after playing the last of his 27 games for the Yaquis on December 14.  Otosaka won over supporters with a .410 batting average with 15 runs scored and another 12 driven in while walking 13 times in 113 plate appearances for an on-base percentage of .487.  The 23-year-old Otosaka has hit .237 with 7 homers and 22 RBIs in 196 games for the Yokohama BayStars of Japan’s Central League since his 2014 debut.  Attendance has plummeted at year-old Nuevo Estadio Yaquis this winter as fans appear to be losing confidence in the Yaquis organization under owner Rene Rodriguez, who bought the team from the Grupo Modelo brewery following the team’s trio of LMP titles earlier this decade.

LMP SECOND HALF STANDINGS
Mexicali (4.0) 18-6, Mazatlan (6.0) 14-10, Navojoa (4.5) 14-10, Culiacan (7.0) 13-11, Obregon (3.0) 11-13, Jalisco (5.0) 10-13, Hermosillo (8.0) 9-14, Los Mochis (3.5) 6-18
First half point totals per team are in parentheses
LMP BATTING LEADERS
AVG-Sebastian Elizalde (CUL) .372, H-Sebastian Elizalde (CUL) 83,  R-Randy Arozarena (NAV) 44, HR-Randy Arozarena (NAV) 14, RBI-Manny Rodriguez (JAL) 50, SB-Jeremias Pineda (MAZ) 29.
LMP PITCHING LEADERS
W-Mitch Lively (MAZ) 9, ERA-Rolando Valdez (MXI) 1.75, SO-Mitch Lively (MAZ) 63, SV-Manny Acosta (OBR) 15, HLD-Edgar Gomez (MXI) 16, WHIP-Mitch Lively (MAZ) 0.96.


El Titan traded to Atlanta, designated for assignment
Five-time All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez could be forgiven if he’s beyond ready to turn the calendar to 2018 a couple weeks early as his nightmarish 2017 has taken yet another couple of dagger-like twists.  The man known as “El Titan” and considered by many to be the best MLBer of Mexican descent was one of four Los Angeles Dodgers players sent to Atlanta last weekend in a trade for outfielder Matt Kemp.  Also dealt to the Braves were veteran pitchers Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy and young infielder Charlie Culberson in a transaction regarded by some as a salary dump for both teams.  Gonzalez is scheduled to make $22.4 million for the last year of his contract in 2018, of which the Dodgers picked up $4.5 million of the tab as part of the swap.
However, if the 35-year-old Gonzalez had even begun thinking of hitting in the high-altitude, homer-happy environment of Atlanta’s new ballpark (a 13-year-old Little Leaguer homered off the left field upper-deck facade in August), such thoughts were dashed as the Braves designated him for assignment almost as soon as the trade was announced, in effect putting the 14-year-veteran back on the trading block.
Gonzalez has collected 2,010 career hits, including 311 homers and 1,176 RBIs, with a slash line of .288/.359/.488 over 1,875 MLB games since he debuted with the Texas Rangers in 2004.  Along with his five All-Star picks, the San Diego native (who spent many years growing up in Tijuana along with brother Edgar, now in the Jalisco Charros front office) has won four Gold Gloves and two Silver Slugger awards while being named Player of the Month once in each league and picking up eight Player of the Week designations.
There had been speculation in some quarters that Gonzalez might join his brother in Guadalajara and play for the Charros this winter, but that appears unlikely.


Tijuana’s Blanca Uribe first woman LMB Executive of the Year
The Mexican League Assembly of Presidents enjoyed a relatively quiet week at the annual Baseball Winter Meetings earlier this month in Orlando, and even made a little history in the process when Tijuana Toros’ deputy vice president Blanca Uribe became the first woman to receive Executive of the Year honors in the LMB’s 92-year history.  Uribe is the daughter of Toros owner Alberto Uribe and sister of team president Alejandro Uribe, and was recently promoted from a vice president’s position she’d held since 2014.
While her father and brother are more involved in the baseball end of the Toros, Blanca has served a more “heart-and-soul” role with the team, organizing several events and creating tie-ins involving charitable organizations along with other outreach efforts.  The Toros have become one of the Mexican League’s model franchises in just four years.  They won their first LMB pennant in September and their Academy Rookie League affiliate won that loop’s title.  The Toros’ Mexican Winter League club in Moroleon (shared with Leon) qualified for the LIM playoffs, but was swept by Oaxaca in the first round.  Mexico City then beat Oaxaca to win their third straight LIM flag.
Also at the Winter Meetings, the LMB confirmed their two 2018 short-season schedules.  The first season will run between March 22 and May 28 with three-tiered playoffs to follow in June.  After a June 29 All-Star Game scheduled for the perpetually-delayed Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu in Mexico City, the second season will open July 3 and end September 8 with another month-long playoff ending with an October 8 Championship Series Game Seven (if needed).  Each regular season will consist of 57 games, although the schedules will not be evenly balanced in games between divisions.
For the second Assembly of Presidents meeting in a row, LMB president Javier Salinas confiscated all cell phones from participants to prevent leaks to the media.  The move worked, as no mention was made of either the Rookiegate imbroglio between the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and the Quintana Roo Tigres or the volatile ongoing ownership situation involving the Durango Generales.  Durango has been included as one of the 16 teams playing in 2018 but the question of whether embattled Generales owner Virgilio Ruiz can hang on to the team remains a mystery.

3,000 attend Liga Olmeca opening ceremony in CDMX
Mexico’s largest Little League organization held opening ceremonies for the 2017-18 season earlier this month at the Liga Olmeca complex in Mexico City.  An estimated 3,000 people were on hand as New York Yankees pitchers Luis Cessa and Giovanny Gallegos joined Lee Sigman (the Yanks’ Mexican scouting director) to help first-year Liga Olmeca president Carlos Fragoso welcome players and parents to another season of amateur baseball in the capital city.
Fragoso, an Obregon native who grew up with David Gonzalez (father of Edgar and Adrian) and works as an engineer for Siemens, himself has been a scout for both the Yankees and Boston Red Sox as well as a coach at the national level in Mexico.  According to Fragoso, there are about 900 youth baseball and softball players in Liga Olmeca while another 500-plus adults play softball at night for a total of nearly 1,500 ballplayers.