Monday, December 2, 2019


Mexican League president Horacio de la Vega
The Mexican League has named Horacio de la Vega as their new president.  The 44-year-old de la Vegas is a Mexico City native and two-time Olympic pentathlete for Mexico (1996 and 2000) with a Masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Texas and has an extensive background in sports.  He'll replace Javier Salinas, a former Liga MX pro soccer marketing executive who served as LMB president for two years before leaving office following the 2019 season.

De la Vega was the Commercial and Marketing Director for the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara prior to serving as General Director of Sports in Mexico City, helping coordinate events involving the NFL, MLB, NBA, PGA, UFC and Formula One organizations, among others.  During his time in Mexico City, according to an LMB press release, de la Vega oversaw more than 35 international sporting events per year along with about 400 local or national events. 

LMB Home Run Derby in Mexico City Zocalo
He was Mexico City Commissioner for the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico, general coordinator for the 2016 MLB Mexico Series between the San Diego Padres and Houston Astros and Fray Nano Stadium, one of the main drivers of the 2015 Mexican League Home Run Derby in Mexico City's Zocalo (the first time a public square was converted into a ballpark) and helped stage NFL and NBA games in Mexico City.  De la Vega was also president of the organizing committee for the 50th Anniversary celebration of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.  He most recently was a senior advisor for the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

De la Vega will take the Mexican League reins from longtime Liga executive Gabriel Medina, who served as interim president after the LMB and Salinas parted ways.  He'll inherit a 16-team circuit in which many franchises are bleeding red ink with teams playing in front of sparse crowds, although the league did top five million in attendance for the first time since before the turn of the 21st Century.  The vote to name the former National Sports Award winner as a pentathlete reportedly involved all teams, a change from Salinas' 2017 selection originating from just three owners.


Jalisco Charros outfielder Dariel Alvarez
The Jalisco Charros had a good first half to their Mexican Pacific League season, finishing one game behind first place Obregon with a 21-14 to come in third, garnering eight playoff points in the bargain.  Now the Guadalajara side has broken out the second-half gate in a big way by winning seven of their first eight games to take a two-game lead over the 5-2 Mexicali Aguilas, who are trying to rebound from an 18-24 showing in a first half that saw manager Bobby Dickerson fired and replaced by Pedro Mere (whose coaching staff includes former skippers Eddy Castro, Bronswell Patrick and Adan Munoz, who was canned as Navojoa helmsman in the first half).

Back to Jalisco, the defending champions have shown well under manager Roberto Vizcarra.  The Charros have a veteran roster that includes catcher Bruce Maxwell, infielders Stephen Cardullo, Manny Rodriguez, Amadeo Zazueta and Agustin Murillo plus outfielders Carlos Figueroa, Henry Urrutia and Dariel Alvarez.  Four Jalisco everyday starters are batting over .300, led by Zazueta's .350 average and Figueroa at .333.  Much of the power has been supplied by Alvarez, whose team-leading eight homers and 33 RBIs supplement his .295 average.  The Cuban-born rightfielder played six winters in that country's National Series before signing with Baltimore in 2013 (and eventually had two cups of coffee with the Orioles).  Alvarez is not regarded as a power hitter, per se, but he's found his groove in Guadalajara after belting 14 roundtrippers for the Charros last season to finish second in the MexPac behind the 15 of Navojoa's Joan Rosa.

Jalisco left-handed pitcher Marco Tovar
Jalisco's pitching staff isn't as star-studded as their daily lineup, with a team ERA of 3.88 in the bottom half among the LMP's ten teams, but Guadalajara is not the easiest place to pitch with its high altitude so those numbers can be a little deceiving at first glance.  The best starter thus far this season has been lefty veteran Marco Tovar, whose 3-2 record hides an ERA of 2.19 that ranks fourth among qualifying MexPac hurlers.  Tovar is a 30-year-old Tijuana product who's pitched in five Mexican League All-Star Games and was named the LMB's Pitcher of the Year in 2011 after going 12-4 for Reynosa that summer.  Among other Jarros starters, import Mitch Atkins, who pitched in several minor league All-Star Games and had two short stints with the Chicago Cubs in 2010 and 2011, is 4-3 with a 2.80 ERA (8th in the LMP) while Octavio Acosta has a perfect 4-0 record and a 4.03 ERA (12th in the loop).  If the Charros have a weak spot, it's in the bullpen.  Although closer Grant Sides is sixth in the league with seven saves, the former Indians farmhand isn't likely writing home about his 12.75 ERA or opponents' batting average of .373.  Even so, you have to outscore your opponents to win a baseball game and the Charros have shown the offense to continue doing just that and are in good position to repeat as LMP champions.

The aforementioned Zazueta (he of the .350 average) now leads the MexPac in hitting, twelve points ahead of Christian Zazueta's .338 for Navojoa.  Culiacan's Seastian Elizalde, Leandro Castro of Los Mochis and Monterrey's Michael Choice are all tied for the lead in homers with 10 each while Jalisco's Alvarez and Jesus Valdez of Obregon both top the RBI table with 33.  Rico Noel of Culiacan recently stole five bases in a seven-game stretch to bring his season total to 20 swipes in 24 attempts, well ahead of the 13 apiece for Elizalde and Obregon's Taiki Sekine.

Los Mochis starting pitcher Yoanys Quiales picked up his first win since November 15 last Wednesday in Mazatlan to go to 7-1 for the season, comfortably ahead of eleven pitchers who have four wins each.  One of them, Mike Kickham of Hermosillo, is tops in ERA at 1.96, with Mexicali's Greg Mahle in second at 2.01.  Another four-win pitcher, Obregon's Brazilian starter Andre Rienzo, heads the strikeouts table with 51 ponches, six more than Quiales and Juan Pablos Oramas of Hermosillo.  An Oramas teammate, Trey McNutt, is tied with Jose Rosario of Guasave with an LMP-best 11 saves while Obregon's Samuel Zazueta is best with 11 holds.  It does not appear that any of the three Zazuetas are related.


The Northern Mexico League has added an expansion franchise with the Otay Industriales set to join the Class AA circuit in time for the 2020 season.  At a recent LNM presidents meeting in Tijuana, five existing teams confirmed their participation next year, including the San Quintin Freseros, Caborca Rojos, Ensenada Marineros, La Paz Delfines and the defending champion San Luis Algodoneros.  However, the main topic moving forward was expansion, with Otay brought into the fold and talk of two more new franchises to turn the LNM into an eight-team loop next season.

Mesa de Otay is not an independent city but rather a section of Tijuana, Baja California Norte.  The Industriales will not play in Tijuana's Mexican League ballpark currently used by the Toros during the spring and summer.  Instead, they'll play in Estadio Angel Camarena, a smaller facility where former MLB All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez cut his teeth as a young player, according to El Titan's father David.  The elder Gonzalez is now general director of B.C. Norte's Institute of Sports and Physical Culture, and will help coordinate what is being called "a significant investment" in  the ballpark's remodeling, to be completed by next April, prior to the 2020 LNM schedule.

B.C. Norte governor Jaime Bonilla's first pitch
Gonzalez was joined by Baja California Norte governor Jaime Bonilla, who tossed a ceremonial first pitch before the inaugural game of the Tijuana Amateur Baseball League in late October.  The renovations were announced weeks before the new Liga Norte franchise was granted to Otay, but the two are undoubtedly linked to each other.

Representatives of a second possible team in Baja California Sur were on hand at the meeting.  The LNM made its debut in that state last season when the La Paz Delfines took the field.  No word on where a second team there would be located; the Los Cabos region is the only area with the population to support a franchise but the Mexican League Quintana Roo Tigres could probably testify that selling tickets to baseball games in a tourist center is not the easiest thing to do.  Another potential expansion site was termed "an old acquaintance in the league" in a story posted on Puro Beisbol, but no further details could be given for now.

The Liga Norte also gave Tuesday, April 14 as their 2020 season inaugural date.  If eight teams indeed play next year, each would play an 84-game schedule with the season wrapping up the second week of August.  The LNM is still searching for an executive president, but that topic was tabled at the recent meeting.  The president of the league's Board of Directors, San Luis Algodoneros owner Francisco Montano, has sat behind the big desk the past two years.

Notice to Readers: BBM to go monthly on interim basis

This will be the only Baseball Mexico scheduled to be posted in December.  I'm moving from the U.S. Pacific Northwest to the Philippines this week and will need some time to somehow get settled during the holiday season.  I'm moving to Baguio, a city of 370,000 with ten universities nestled nearly 5,000 feet above sea level in the Cordillera Mountains.  Baguio is noted for its relatively cool temperatures and is nicknamed "The Summer Capital of the Philippines" for that reason.  

Jose Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium, Manila
They do play baseball in the Philippines, by the way, but only at the amateur or scholastic level. There IS a great old 12,000-seat ballpark in Manila named Jose Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium, where the first homers hit after its 1934 opening were by guys named Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth (you may have heard of them), and I would like to catch at least a couple ballgames there while it's still standing.

Anyway, Baseball Mexico will hopefully be back to a weekly basis by February 2020, just in time for the Caribbean Series.  I'll try to post unscheduled updates between now and February when I can, but I expect to be a little preoccupied until then.

Monday, November 25, 2019


Obregon players celebrate their 10-point first half
Despite dropping the final two games of a midweek series in Culiacan to wrap up the first half of the schedule, the Obregon Yaquis were able to hold on to first place in the Mexican Pacific League at the midway point of the season and pick up the ten playoff points accompanying their finish.  Obregon opened the set with a 4-3 win over the Tomateros last Tuesday as Carlos Sepulveda singled twice and drove in a pair of runs while starter Carlos De Leon allowed two runs on as many hits over five innings on the mound to go to 3-0 on the season.  Although Culiacan came back to win on Wednesday and Thursday, the visiting Yaquis finished the stanza with a 22-13 record to outlast second-place Hermosillo (21-13) by a half-game while Jalisco ended a game back in third at 21-14.

With two new franchises in the MexPac this season, the loops playoff points system has changed from past seasons.  Where first-place finishers used to earn eight points per half, now the top team is awarded ten points while the second-place club picks up nine points.  Eight points now go to the third-place team as the old points system is applied to the rest of the teams, with last-place Navojoa (11-23) coming away with just 3.5 points.  Points accrued over the two halves of the season determine seeding for January's LMP playoffs, which will now include the top eight teams (meaning the former "lucky loser" system, where the team with the most wins in a first-round loss still advanced to the semifinals,  has been shelved).

Speaking of Navojoa, the Mayos have named longtime MexPac manager Lorenzo Bundy as their new skipper.  Veteran catcher Adan Munoz was fired November 6 after leading the Mayos to a 6-14 record in his first season at the helm.  Pitching coach Hector Heredia filled in for the rest of the first half and fared a little better, turning in a 5-6 mark before Bundy's arrival last Monday.  Bundy is no stranger to Navojoa, having led the Mayos to their second (and most recent) LMP pennant in 1999-2000 when they swept Hermosillo in the title series.  Navojoa was swept in Mazatlan to start off their new era under the 60-year-old Philadelphia native, who has managed seven teams in the MexPac over his career, but the Mayos recently activated Red Sox hurler Hector Velazquez (the MexPac's 2016-17 Pitcher of the Year) and outfielder Juan Perez, who hit .335 with 11 homers and 12 steals for Monclova and Aguascalientes in the Mexican League last summer, so Bundy will have two more tools at his disposal along with outfielder Alonzo Harris, third baseman Christian Zazueta and infielder Jovan Rosa.  Harris, who had a banner summer with Quintana Roo, is expected to improve his current .242 batting average.
Lorenzo Bundy managed Navojoa's last title team

Los Mochis outfielder Noel Cuevas is leading the LMP in batting with a .371 average, twenty points ahead of Jalisco speedster Carlos Figueroa.  Monterrey's Michael Choice has 10 homers to top the circuit, one more than Stephen Cardullo of Jalisco and Culiacan's Sebastian Elizalde.  Choice's 27 RBIs ties him for second with two other players behind the 28 of Jalisco's Dariel Alvarez.  Rico Noel of Culiacan is 16-of-19 in stolen base attempts and leads the MexPac in swipes while teammate Elizalde is second with 12 steals.

Yoanys Quiala of Los Mochis is 6-1 for the Caneros (who have a 16-20 overall record) to lead the league in wins, two more than five pitchers with four victories apiece.  Mexicali's Jon van Meter is only 1-2 after sevens starts for the Aguilas but his 1.86 ERA tops the loop ahead of the 1.91 of Navojoa's Raul Carrillo while Obregon's Arturo Lopez and Juan Pablo Oramas of Hermosillo are tied for the lead in strikeouts with 40 each.  Hermosillo's Trey McNutt tops the table with ten saves and the holds leader is Monterrey reliever Nick Struck with 10.

Final 2019-20 First Half Standings
Obregon 22-13 (10.0 points), Hermosillo 21-13 (9.0), Jalisco (21-14 (8.0), Culiacan (19-16 (7.0), Monterrey (18-17 (6.0), Mazatlan 17-18 (5.5), Los Mochis 15-20 (5.0), Guasave 15-20 (4.5), Mexicali 15-20 (4.0), Navojoa 11-23 (3.5).


Sweeping Group A and then qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympics by finishing third in this month's World Baseball Softball Confederation Premier12 tournament was enough for Mexico manager Juan Gabriel Castro to keep his job for the Olympics in Tokyo nest summer.  It's been quite a month for the retired infielder, who spend 17 seasons playing in the majors.  While managing the Verdes Grande in the Premier12, he was hired by the Philadelphia Phillies as a coach for the 2020 campaign under new manager Joe Girardi.  Now it's on to Japan and managing Mexico's first Olympic baseball team, assuming the Phils allow him to leave the team for the Olympics, which will take place between July 24 and August 9 next year.

Although Mexico was defeated by Japan and South Korea in the Premier12 Super Round after winning all three of their Group A games in Guadalajara and topping Taiwan and Australia in the second stage, their win over the United States in the Bronze Medal game at the Tokyo Dome punched their ticket to the Olympics as the highest-placing team from the Americas in the Premier12.  "Our thought in this tournament was to be champions," Castro told Beatriz Pereyra of Proceso.  "We did not succeed and we are left with that little thorn, but I think that Mexico has the possibility of winning the gold medal in the Olympic Games.  I'm proud to have been present, to be part of the history of the Mexican National Team in the Olympics...I hope it is a big step for the Mexican baseball team to continue growing, keep improving."

Castro told Pereyra that he regretted questions about members of the national team who have dual citizenship in Mexico and the United States, an issue he said generated annoyance not only among the player but their families as well.  "I gave them a personal example," explained Castro, who was born in Los Mochis in 1952.  "My children were born in the United States.  They are American by birth, but they are also Mexican...My oldest son was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico bus I think he feels more Mexican than me. He even just had an Emiliano Zapata tattoo on his arm.  I think that was a reason for the boys to feel more proud and give extra for the team, and I'm very proud of them."  Castro stressed that he still down know what the process will be for putting together an Olympic team, noting that while he was able to carry 28 players for the Premier 12, he'll be limited to a 24-man roster in Tokyo.

Mexican players after Olympics-clinching win
Mexico is one of four teams to clinch a berth in the Olympic field, which will consist of just six nations in 2020.  Japan automatically qualified as host team, South Korea earned their slot by reaching the Premier12 title game against the Baseball Samurai and Israel (like Mexico) will make their Olympic baseball debut after a surprise win in September's Europe/Asia qualifying tournament in Italy.  Israel and The Netherlands tied for the lead in the round-robin tourney with identical 4-1 records and earned the nod by virtue of their 8-1 win over the Dutchmen on September 19 in Parma.  The final two berths will be determined at an Americas qualifier in Arizona next March and a Final qualifying Tournament in Taiwan next April.  The Olympics will consist of a 16-game schedule with two round-robin pools followed by a rather convoluted double-elimination bracket.


San Juan's Bithorn Stadium to host 2020 CS
The Caribbean Series will return to Puerto Rico next February and the schedule for the six-team field had been announced.  Panama returns to the Crown Jewel of Latin Baseball after being a surprise winner last winter as a late entry, meaning the event will feature five days of round-robin tripleheaders between February 1 and 5, followed by a pair of semifinal games on February 6 and the championship game on February 7.  Colombia and Nicaragua were expected to join the competition this winter, bringing the number of nations involved to eight, but their entry will apparently be delayed at least one season.

Puerto Rico last hosted the Caribbean Series in 2015, when Cuba's first CS entry since 1960, the Pinar del Rio Vegueros, went 3-3 in the first round before winning the title.  San Juan's 18,264-seat Hiram Bithorn Stadium (home of the defending Roberto Clemente League champion Santurce Cangrejeros) will host the event.  The venue served as "home" field for the MLB Montreal Expos for 22 games in both 2003 and 2004 before the Expos were moved to Washington and renamed the Nationals in 2005 and has also hosted World Baseball Classic group play in 2006 and 2013.  A number of Major League exhibition games have been played at the facility, which was opened in 1963 and received a major overhaul prior to the Expos' two-year stint there.

The Serie del Caribe will mark the first large-scale baseball event to be staged in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September 2017.  The storm resulted in over three thousand fatalities and over US$90 billion in damages, from which the country is still recovering in many areas.  The host Roberto Clemente League, which dates to 1938, was struggling financially for several years prior to Hurricane Maria, which exacerbated things to the point that the LBPRC was limited to a one-month schedule of daytime games in 2017-18 with only four teams.  The adverse conditions did not prevent the Caguas Criollos from repeating as league and Caribbean Series champions that winter.

Tickets for the 2020 Serie del Caribe range in price from US$7.50 to US$56.00 and are on sale at the website.

Saturday, February 1:  Cuba vs. Venezuela (10:00AM), Mexico vs. Dominican Republic (2:30PM), Panama vs. Puerto Rico (8:00PM).
Sunday, February 2:  Cuba vs. Panama (11:00AM), Puerto Rico vs. Mexico (3:30PM), Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela (8:30PM).
Monday, February 3:  Panama vs. Mexico (10:00AM), Dominican Republic vs. Cuba (2:30PM), Puerto Rico vs. Venezuela (8:00PM).
Tuesday, February 4:  Dominican Republic vs. Panama (10:00AM), Mexico vs. Venezuela (3:30P), Cuba vs. Puerto Rico (8:00PM).
Wednesday, February 5:  Panama vs. Venezuela (8:00AM), Cuba vs. Mexico (2:30PM), Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico (8:00PM).
Thursday, February 6:  Semifinal 1 (2:30PM), Semifinal 2 (8:00PM).
Friday, February 7:  Championship Game (8:00PM).
All games played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico.  All times local.

Monday, November 18, 2019


Mexico's Efren Navarro and Matt Clark
Matt Clark's ninth-inning solo home run put the game into extra innings, but it was Efren Navarro's single in the bottom of the tenth that gave the Mexican National Team a hard-fought 3-2 win over the United States in Saturday's Premier12 Bronze Medal game at the Tokyo Dome.  More important, the Verdes Grande's second win over the USA in the tournament meant that Mexico will make their Olympic baseball debut next summer in Tokyo.

The Americans sprinted to a quick 1-0 lead when Angels prospect Jo Adell socked an opposite-field solo homer off Mexican starter Arturo Reyes in the top of the first, but Reyes settled down to toss two-hit shutout ball before giving way to reliever Brennan Bernardino with one out in the sixth frame with the score still at 1-0.  Mexico tied the contest up in the bottom of the sixth when Clark drilled a sharp bases-loaded single to right off reliever Daniel Tillo to plate Jonathan Jones from third base.  Tillo had replaced Cody Ponce, a Pirates farmhand who whitewashed the Mexicans on three hits with six strikeouts over the first five entradas.

The USA regained the lead in the top of the seventh when Andrew Vaughn led off with a single, moved to second on Eric Kratz' sacrifice hit and scored when Bobby Dalbec singled up the middle off Jesus Rios to make it a 2-1 contest, a score that held up until Clark belted a leadoff four-bagger deep to center off American closer Brandon Dickson to tie things up at 2-2.  Dickson got out of the inning without further damage and manager Scott Brosius decided to keep the former St. Louis pitcher (who's spent the past seven years with NPB's Orix Buffaloes) on the mound for the tenth after the USA failed to score on Mexican closer Carlos Bustamante in the top of that inning.

Using WBSC tiebreaker rules, Noah Perio was placed on second base and Jorge Flores on first to start the bottom of the tenth for Mexico.  Jones led off with a sacrifice bunt to Dickson on the mound, moving Perio to third and Flores to second.  Dickson then intentionally walked Esteban Quiroz to load the bases before being pulled for Caleb Thielbar to face Navarro, who blooped a broken-bat single to shallow center to bring Perio in from third for the walkoff game-winner.   Navarro, who was 0-for-4 for the game at that point, fouled off four consecutive Thielber deliveries before delivering the coup de grace for Mexico on the eighth pitch in the count.  Bustamante earned the win by hurling a scoreless tenth while Dickson was tagged with the loss.  Clark finished with a pair of hits and two RBIs for Mexico while Adell singled and doubled for the Americans while contributing defensively with a diving catch of a Navarro fly to left field in the eighth.

Verdes Grande: "We're going to Tokyo (again)!"
After sweeping all three of their Group A games in Guadalajara, Mexico won their first two Super Round contests in Japan, including a 2-0 shutout over Taiwan last Monday in Chiba as Reyes and five relievers combined on a three-hitter while Ali Solis contributed a solo homer.  The Verdes Grande followed that up with another shutout on Tuesday, this one a 3-0 blanking of Australia in Tokyo with Eduardo Vera and four relievers tossing a four-hitter while Jones and Clark went deep for the winners.  Mexico then lost for the first time in six games Wednesday, dropping a 3-1 decision to host Japan in the Tokyo Dome despite Jones' second homer in as many nights.  Then it was a second loss in a row on Thursday as manager Juan Castro's side fell, 7-3, to South Korea with Jones homering once again for Mexico, who finished third in the Super Round with a 3-2 record, including a Group A win over the USA (2-3) that counted in the second stage to set up the Bronze Medal contest.  Japan (4-1) and South Korea (3-2) squared off Saturday for the Gold Medal, with the Baseball Samurai emerging victorious by a 6-3 score.

By defeating the second-ranked Americans, Mexico (rated sixth in the world by the WBSC prior to the Premier12) qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, marking the first time the Verdes Grande will play in the Games.  After Saturday's win, Navarro was humble. "You must credit all of the team for this accomplishment, " he said,  "including the pitchers and Matt Clark, who kept us in the game with his homer."  For his part, Clark said, "We're going to the Olympics.  You can't put it in words.  It's such a great achievement as a country, as players, as coaches...everyone that's involved back home, the fans.

"It's going to be an amazing experience for everybody to be able to go there and show the world what we have."


Obregon lefty Arturo Lopez
With just six games remaining in the Mexican Pacific League's first-half schedule, the Obregon Yaquis have pulled into a two-game lead over Jalisco in a battle for first place and the eight accompanying playoff points.  The 21-11 Yaquis completed a three-game road series in Navojoa Sunday with a 4-0 shutout over the Mayos as Arturo Lopez and four relievers combined to hold the host team to three singles while number nine hitter Ricardo Valenzuela keyed a four-run seventh inning for Obregon with a two-run single.  Jesus "Cacao" Valdez contributed a pair of doubles and scored once for the winners while leadoff batter Taike Sekine, an import from Japan's Yokohama BayStars, chipped in with two singles, one of them scoring a run.

The Yaquis have been led offensively by outfielder Jose Aguilar, who leads the team with a .358 average and 25 runs scored.  Aguilar has had his share of misadventures on the basepaths thus far this season, however, and has been caught stealing seven times in eleven attempts.  Obregon's power has been supplied by the triumvirate of Valdez, Paulo Orlando and Art Charles, who have six homers each and a combined 68 RBIs through 31 games.  Orlando is second to Aguilar on the Yaquis with a .326 average.  Charles has otherwise struggled to a .216 mark but his 19 hits have produced six homers and 21 ribbies.  Sekine, a 24-year-old outfielder who bats left, has hit .282 since joining the Yaquis after the season started, but his most valuable asset may be his speed.  On a team where no other player has more than four stolen bases, Sekine has 10 swipes in 11 attempts over 23 games.  To put that into perspective, the rest of the Yaquis are a combined 10-for-27 in steals, which makes the 5'6" Sekine even more valuable to manager Sergio Gastelum.

Yaquis outfielder Taiki Sekine
The aforementioned Lopez has been the most consistent pitcher among a pretty good mound staff.  His win Sunday brought his record to 3-1, his 2.04 ERA ranks third in the MexPac behind Navojoa's Raul Carrillo and Jon van Meter of Mexicali and Lopez' 35 strikeouts leads the league.  While no other Obregon pitchers ranks in the top 20 of qualified hurlers in the ERA race, the Yaquis' team ERA of 3.42 is fifth in the circuit and their collective 242 strikeouts lead the LMP.  Former White Sox prospect Ryan Kussmaul has been the primary closer for the Yaquis and while his 2.37 ERA over 18 outings has been fairly impressive (as is his limiting opponents to a .222 batting average), he's only got a team-high five saves for the season thus far and none since November 1.  The Obregon roster generally doesn't stack up favorably compared to the likes of Culiacan or Jalisco, but Gastelum has shown over his short managerial career that he can figure out ways to win with limited resources and took an underpowered Oaxaca Mexican League team to the Fall 2018 Serie del Rey so the Yaquis shouldn't be summarily counted out either.

Los Mochis outfielder Noel Cuevas leads the MexPac in batting with a .371 average, just ahead of Navojoa veteran Christian Zazueta's .368.  Jalisco first baseman Stephen Cardullo's nine homers is tops in the LMP with four players tied at seven roundtrippers apiece, while Cardullo teammate Daniel Alvarez (one of that foursome) leads with 27 RBIs, one more than Monterrey's Felix Perez.  Rico Noel of Culiacan continues to pace base stealers with 15 SBs, while Tomateros teammate Sebastian Elizalde has 11.  Elizalde has reached double figures in steals once in his 10-year professional career.

Yoanys Quiala of Los Mochis earned a win over Guasave Friday night to run his record to 6-0 in seven starts for the Caneros and still leads the LMP in wins.  As mentioned, Obregon's Lopez leads with 35 strikeouts while Navojoa's Carrillo leads in ERA at 1.71.  Ralph Garza of Monterrey and Trey McNutt of Hermosillo are tied at the top with nine saves apiece and Monterrey's Nick Struck's nine holds head that list as well.

Obregon 21-11, Jalisco 19-13, Hermosillo 18-13, Culiacan 17-15, Monterrey 16-16,  Los Mochis 15-17, Mazatlan 14-18, Mexicali 14-18, Guasave 14-18, Navojoa 11-20.


Rodriguez, Valenzuela, Fernandez and Saenz
Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitching star Fernando Valenzuela was one of four new members who were inducted into the Mexican baseball hall of fame last week in Monterrey.  Valenzuela was joined by Daniel Fernandez, Ricardo Saenz and Cuauhtemoc "Chito" Rodriguez at ceremonies held at the new Salon de la Fama facility, which was completed earlier this year and largely bankrolled by Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Oaxaca Guerreros owner Alfredo Harp Helu.  The foursome were elected in 2014 and become the first actual inductees since a similar ceremony was held in 2011, after which the old Salon de la Fama on a brewery site was shut down by its owners and all plaques and other treasures were placed in storage until last spring.

Valenzuela, who now owns the Quintana Roo Tigres with his wife Linda Burgos, was the Mexican League Rookie of the Year with Yucatan in 1979 as an 18-year-old before being purchased by the Dodgers.  He made his MLB debut one year later, going 2-0 in ten relief appearances in 1980.  However, it was in 1981 when "Fernandomania" gripped southern California and baseball in general as the Navojoa native went 13-7 with a 2.48 ERA and a league-leading 180 strikeouts, winning the Cy Young Award and Rookie of the Year while making the first of six All-Star game appearances as the Dodgers won the World Series that Fall, all at the ripe age of 20.  Valenzuela went on to a 17-year MLB career and finished with a lifetime 173-153 record and a 3.54 record.  While he likely won't end up elected to the other Hall of Fame in upstate New York, "El Toro" was easily the most popular Mexican player in the big leagues and is still beloved by fans south of the border.

Fernandez is a Veracruz native who spent 26 seasons playing in the Mexican League, all but one with the Diablos Rojos, and hit .315 lifetime (including sixteen .300+ campaigns).  The 5'8" outfielder, who tipped the scales at 170 pounds, was never a slugger and hit fewer than 100 homers for his career.  However, Fernandez was a productive leadoff batter who had enough gap power to stroke 388 doubles while his 111 triples are tied for third all-time in the Liga.  He was also speedy enough to steal 479 bases (also third on the all-time list) and his 1,837 career runs are the most ever scored by an LMB player and nearly 200 more than his nearest competitor.  Fernandez also managed Mexico City to a pennant in 2008, his first year as a skipper, but has yet to duplicate that success since.

Saenz was another longtime veteran in the Mexican League, as the Coahuila product patrolled left field over 25 seasons for several teams during his playing career, primarily for Saltillo and Monclova.  Although he didn't hit for as high an average as Fernandez did (batting .296 for his career, although he did top .300 twelve times), Saenz had much more power and belted 296 career homers among his 2,453 career hits, topping 20 homers five times and once hit four longballs in a single nine-inning game.  He also drove in 1,318 runs and had enough speed to swipe 102 bases.  Saenz is the LMB's all-time leader with 496 doubles.  Saenz also spent 21 winters in the Mexican Pacific League, knocking out 102 homers in that time.

Rodriguez is a Sonora native who made his mark in Mexican baseball off the field, spending over four decades in the front office as a general manager with LMB teams, primarily the Tecolotes and Tigres.  He was in Nuevo Laredo from 1975 through 1994 before joining the then-Mexico City Tigres in 1995 and remaining with them through franchise shifts to Puebla and Cancun until his retirement in 2017, shortly after Carlos Peralta sold the Tigres to the Valenzuelas.  Between the two organizations, Rodriguez oversaw nine Mexican League pennant-winning teams.  He was also part of a player selection committee for Mexico in three World Baseball Classics (2006, 2009 and 2013) and represented the LMB for several years with Minor League Baseball, who named him "King of Baseball" in 2011.

New Salon de la Fama in Monterrey
Salon de la Fama director Francisco Padilla welcomed guests to last week's ceremony before turning things over to new Electoral Committee president Antonio de Valdes.  Also taking part were Harp and Nuevo Leon governor Jaime Rodriguez as the four Salon newcomers brought the total number of enshrinees to an even 200.  Mexican League co-founder Alejandro "Fray Nano" Aguilar, a sports writer by trade, introduced the Salon de la Fama in 1939, albeit on more of a conceptual basis.  Annual inductions began in 1973 in Monterrey at a building on the Cuahutemoc Brewery grounds and continued until the brewery decided to shut down the Salon in 2012.  There was an abortive attempt to resurrect the Salon in Culiacan a few years ago but it wasn't until the billionaire Harp stepped up to cover the cost of construction that a permanent home in Monterrey was opened this year.

Monday, November 11, 2019


The Mexican National Team clobbered The Netherlands, 10-2, last Tuesday in Guadalajara to complete a three-game Group A sweep in the World Baseball Softball Confederation's Premier12 tournament.  The Verdes Grande had earlier defeated the Dominican Republic and the United States to clinch a berth in the second stage of Premier12 competition, the Super Round, this week in Japan.  No players on a 40-man roster in Major League Baseball are being allowed by their respective teams to play.

Mexico took an early lead over the Dutchmen in the bottom of the first when leadoff batter Jonathan Jones singled to left, advanced to third base on Noah Perio's single up the middle and then came home to score when Holland centerfielder Roger Bernadina made an errant throw to the plate that catcher Chadwick Tromp couldn't make a play with.  Perio advanced to second on Bernadina's throw, took took when Netherlands starting pitcher Tom Stuibergen uncorked a wild pitch to Efren Navarro and then plated a tally on Navarro's groundout to Sharlon Schoop at second base.

The Mexicans added two more runs in the third when Navarro doubled in Perio and Jesus Araiza later punched a two-out single to plate Navarro, bringing the score to 4-0.  After three scoreless innings, Mexico essentially put the game in their hop pocket with four seventh-inning runs.  A combined three runs came in on two Dutch errors and another scored on a wild pitch in an ugly defensive frame for the European side.  Ageless Yurendell de Caster, who played for Reynosa of the Mexican League in 2010 and 2011, accounted for The Netherlands' only scoring when the 40-year-old Curacao native rapped a two-run single up the middle off Jesus Rios in the top of the eighth but Mexico scored twice more in the bottom of the entrada for the final 10-2 margin of victory.

Mexico outfielder Noah Perio
Arturo Reyes started on the mound for the Verdes Grande and tossed three scoreless innings of one-hit ball, but it was reliever Manny Barreda who got the win by pitching 1.2 frames of no-run ball into the fifth frame.  Stuifbergen took the loss for The Netherlands.  Jones went 3-for-5 with two runs for the winners, who collected ten hits and three walks on the night.  Holland had seven hits and drew seven walks but 12 Dutch runners were left stranded on base as they finished 0-3 in the Premier12 under manager Hensley Meulens and coaches Bert Blyleven and Andruw Jones.  One night earlier, the United States beat the Dominican Republic, 10-8, to clinch Group A's second Super Round berth.

The Mexican National Team is now in Japan, where they'll open Super Round play against Taiwan Monday at Noon local time at Chiba Marine Stadium.  Taiwan finished second to unbeaten Japan with a 2-1 record while hosting Group B action in Taichung.  Mexico will open the second stage with a 1-0 record because they defeated the United States, 8-2, in the opening round while Taiwan starts the Super Round 0-1 after losing to Japan in Group B.  South Korea (3-0) and surprising Australia (2-1) emerged from Group C in Seoul, with the Aussies topping both Canada and Cuba to advance.  Each of the six remaining teams will play four games this week, followed by two games at the Tokyo Dome on Friday: A Bronze Medal game between the third and fourth place finishers at Noon and a Gold Medal Game between the top two seeds at 7:00PM.  Two teams will advance to next year's Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

It was a good week all around for Mexico manager Juan Gabriel Castro, who was also hired as an infield coach for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2020.  Castro gave up a coaching job with the Los Angeles Dodgers for an ill-defined with the Tijuana Toros in 2018, only to be fired two months after his hiring.  Castro spent last summer in the Phillies organization as coordinator of minor league infielders and will join new manager Joe Girardi in Philadelphia to replace Bobby Dickerson, who left for a bench coaching job with the San Diego Padres.

Monday, Nov. 11 (12pm) vs. Taiwan, Chiba Marine Stadium
Tuesday, Nov. 12 (12pm) vs. Australia, Tokyo Dome
Wednesday, Nov. 13 (7pm) at Japan, Tokyo Dome
Thursday, Nov. 14 (7pm) at South Korea, Tokyo Dome


New Mexicali manager Pedro Mere
Less than one month into the 2019-20 season, three Mexican Pacific League managers were fired with the usual thanks from teams not thankful enough to spare their jobs.  While it's a little unusual to see three skippers axed after fewer than four weeks, this is an LMP expansion year and there are now ten helmsmen to show the door.

The first firing came November 2 in Guasave, one of the MexPac's two new clubs, who parted ways with manager Rigo Beltran.  A former MLB and NPB pitcher who was a winterball mainstay in Culiacan, Beltran has spent the past six summers as pitching coach for the Indians' AAA Columbus affiliate. The Algodoneros decided they'd seen enough after a 6-12 start, jettisoning both Beltran and pitching coach Jose Silva.  The Cottoneers' new dugout boss will be Oscar Robles.  Robles was LMP Rookie of the Year in 1995-96 for Guasave and has managed both Culiacan and Obregon, and was recently fired from Tijuana in the LMB after leading the Toros to the best regular-season record in the Liga.

Four days later, the axe fell on Adan Munoz in Navojoa.  The longtime catcher who did a decent job in Cancun after being named Quintana Roo manager on May 9 and leading the Tigres to the postseason.  Munoz was in his first season with the Mayos when he was let go with the team in last place after going 6-14 over the first 20 games.  Pitching coach Hector Heredia was named interim Navojoa manager while the front office looks for a permanent (relatively speaking) replacement for Munoz, who may be reassigned elsewhere within the Mayos organization.

The Mexicali Aguilas capped the opening week of canning season by pink-slipping yet another first-year manager, Bobby Dickerson.  A former Yankees draft pick and farmhand, Dickerson was an infield coach for Baltimore for seven seasons and spent last summer with Philadelphia before taking a similar job in San Diego next season.  This was his second stint with Mexicali (he managed the Eagles to the playoffs in 2009-10), but ownership became disaffected with the Aguilas' 7-16 record, although they did "thank Bobby Dickerson for his dedication and professionalism, recognizing him as a hard working and committed manager, wishing him much success in his future projects."  Pedro Mere becomes the latest to enter the revolving managerial door in Mexicali.

Osuna signed with Charros in 2017, but didn't pitch
Meanwhile, a couple of MLB players have been talked about as possible MexPac performers this winter, although one of them has ruled out the possibility.  Telediario of Guadalajara reports that Houston closer Roberto Osuna has told Jalisco team president Salvador Quirarte that he wants to pitch for the Charros this winter.  "When it was the Houston game in Monterrey," Quirarte said, "I was talking to Roberto and he said, 'Hey, I want you to take me with the Charros this year."  Quirarte admits it's up to the Astros to allow Osuna to pitch anywhere this winter, saying "We have to wait, although being very clear and seeing the Houston team so strongly, I don't see much hope."  Another big league pitcher, Sergio Romo, is already in Guadalajara with the Charros, but the 12-year MLB veteran is a free agent and not under the same restrictions Osuna is.

Another MLBer, Luis Urias, was rumored to be a possible addition to the Obregon roster this winter, perhaps as soon as this month.  However, El Fildeo reports that Urias himself is discounting the talk on social media.  A middle infielder, the 22-year-old Urias played 71 games for San Diego this year, batting .223 with 4 homers, and is considered one of the Padres' top prospects.  He hit .280 over 36 games for the Yaquis as an 18-year-old in 2015-16.  Like Osuna, Urias' availability would be subject to his parent club's approval and it's not known whether the San Diego organization would sign off on it.

The battle for first place remains tight with only nine games remaining in the first half.  Culiacan (16-9) holds the narrowest of leads over Hermosillo (15-9) and Jalisco (15-10) at the top of the table, while Lobregon and Los Mochis (both 14-11) sit two games out of first.  At the bottom of the standings, Mexicali (8-17) is eight games out of first and as mentioned above, former manager Bobby Dickerson bore the brunt of the Aguilas' slow start.

Jose Aguilar of Obregon leads the batting race with a .373 average while Culiacan's Sebastian Elizalde is second at .361.  Jalisco's Stephen Cardullo may be hitting a pedestrian .255. but he's making the most of what he can with an LMP-best seven homers among his 24 base hits.  Teammate Dariel Alvarez and Obregon's Art Charles are among three players trailing Cardullo by one homer while being tied at the top with 21 RBIs apiece.  Culiacan outfielder Rico Noel has stolen 14 bases in 16 attempts to take a healthy lead in that category.

Yoanys Quiala of Los Mochis leads the LMP in wins with a perfect 5-0 mark after six starts.  Quiala's 1.95 ERA is third behind Hermosillo's Mike Kickham (1.55) and Teddy Stankiewicz of Guasave (1.91).  Quiala also leads in strikeouts with 31 (Obregon's Arturo Lopz has 30) and his 0.81 WHIP is also tops, just ahead of Kickham's 0.86.  Monterrey's Ralph Garza and Trey McNutt of Hermosillo are tied for saves supremacy with eight apiece.  Even though Garza's Sultanes teammate Nick Struck's ERA of 4.09 may not be overly impressive, his eight holds are.

The MexPac says the one-million mark in attendance had been surpassed by the 21-game mark of the first half on November 8.  The LMP states that a total of 1,108,336 attendees witnessed games across the loop's ten cities through seven series, a number that projects to an overall average of 10,556 per opening, which is higher than any MiLB league north of the border.  According to a story on the league website, Culiacan leads with 15,853 attendees per game, followed by Hermosillo's 15,155 average.


After expanding its regular season schedule to 120 games per team for the first time since 2001, the Mexican League is making a drastic cut in games for 2020 and at least one prominent baseball writer south of the border things the LMB could be looking at even fewer openings in 2021.

The Liga once played as many as 140 games per season but gradually adopted shorter schedules until adopting a 110-game calendar in 2002, a format the circuit kept until creating two separate 56-game seasons last year.  When that proved unworkable, the LMB returned to a single-season format in 2019 with 120 games and although the loop drew 5 million fans for the first time in the 21st Century, the decision was made among owners last month to cut back to 102 games, the fewest since the reorganized Mexican League joined the National Association (Minor League Baseball's predecessor) in 1955 with a Class AA designation.

The 2020 schedule will open Monday, April 6 when the newly-crowned champion Monclova Acereros host the rival Monterrey Sultanes at Estadio Monclova, the "Biggest Oven in Mexico" (as per the LMB's own website).  Even though the schedule has been shortened, the format has each team hosting and visiting every Liga opponents so home fans will be able to watch all 15 other LMB teams in their own ballparks next season.

The two-half system will be back for a second year in a row, with the First Half closing on June 4, followed by All-Star Weekend between June 5-7 in Monclova.  The Second Half opens on June 9 and ends August 6.  As in past seasons, if three games or fewer separate the fourth and fifth place teams in either division, a wildcard game will be held August 7 at the fourth-place team's ballpark.  The full playoffs (all best-4-of-7 series) will begin Tuesday, August 11 with the Division Semifinals.  Division Championship Series will open Saturday, August 22 while the Serie del Rey for the LMB title opens Tuesday, September 1, with a Game Seven (if needed) slated for Wednesday, September 9.

Tabasco Olmecas game in Villahermosa
The point system for playoff seeding will now reflect the one used in the Mexican Pacific League per half:  First place in each division gets 8 points, second place gets 7 points while third place gets 6 points.  Fourth place gets 5.5 points, fifth place gets 5.0 points, sixth place gets 4.5 points, seventh place gets 4.0 and eighth place gets 4.5 points.

Puro Beisbol editor Fernando Ballesteros notes that the elimination of almost one month from the Mexican League season is in response to "great economic losses" after what he said was "another of the bad decisions taken in the Javier Salinas era by the council of owners."  The new 2020 calendar will be approved at December's Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego.  Ballesteros, who says the LMB wants to cut its schedule back further to 80 games in 2021 (which would make it difficult for the Liga to remain at Class AAA in the MiLB structure), all 16 franchises will vote for a new president to replace Salinas.  According to Ballesteros, Salinas was installed by just three clubs, "and today they are sorry as a league in general."

Monday, November 4, 2019


Ali Solis in his Monterrey uniform
A two-run single by Efren Navarro and a three-run homer by Ali Solis in the eighth inning broke open a one-run game as Mexico went on to defeat the United States, 8-2, Sunday night in WBSC Premier12 play at Guadalajara's Estadio Charros.  The win gives Mexico a 2-0 record in Group A play with one game left to play against The Netherlands (0-2) Tuesday night at 7PM Central time.  Regardless of Tuesday's outcome, Mexico (who has outscored their opponents 14-3 over their first two games) will advance to the second round of the Premier12 in Chiba, Japan because they've defeated both the USA and the Dominican Republic, who'll take 1-1 records into their game Monday night.

The Verdes Grande, who were Sunday's visiting team, opened the scoring early when Christian Villanueva singled off American starter Tanner Houck to plate in Jonathan Jones and Juan Perez in the top of the first inning to go up 2-0.  The United States chipped away at their deficit via the longball, as Eric Kratz belted a solo homer off Mexican starter Horacio Ramirez in the top of the third and Bobby Dalback followed suit with a bases-empty blast off Ramirez one inning later to knot the score at 2-2.

Mexico went back ahead for good in the top of the fifth when Noah Perio hit a leadoff single, moved to third on a Javier Salazar safety and then scored the go-ahead run with two out when reliever Daniel Tillo's pitch to Esteban Quiroz got away from catcher Kratz.  From that point on, Felipe Gonzalez, Jesus Cruz, Brennan Bernardino and Carlos Bustamante held the Americans scoreless the rest of the way as Navarro and Solis put on their eighth frame fireworks show to cinch the win for the Mexicans.

Gonzalez earned the win with 1.2 innings of scoreless pitching for Mexico while Houck took the loss for the USA.  The Grandes Verde collected 10 hits to 6 for the Americans as Perez, Solis and Perio each had a pair of hits.  A crowd of 10,123 witnessed the contest at Estadio Charros, the largest gathering over the first two days of Group A action.  Going into the Premier12, the USA (managed by ex-Yankees infielder Scott Brosius) was ranked second in the world while Mexico was sixth.

Esteban Quiroz hit grand slam vs. Dominicans
Quiroz belted a fourth-inning grand slam homer to break open Mexico's Premier12 opening game against the Dominican Republic Saturday in Guadalajara as the hosts went on to top the Dominicans by a 6-1 score.  The contest was halted by rain after six innings, sending the reported 8,000 fans at Estadio Charros home or to their hotel rooms early.

The Dominicans took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first when leadoff batter Geraldo Perdomo singled off Mexico starter Eduardo Vera, advanced to second base on an Otto Lopez groundout and later scored on a two-out single up the middle by former Mariners outfielder Carlos Peguero.  Peguero played three seasons with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan before batting .286 with 9 homers and 44 RBIs in 52 games this summer for the Korea Baseball Organization's LG Twins (after spending a month with Tijuana in the Mexican League, hitting .259 with 5 homers in 22 contests).

The score held until the bottom of the third frame, when Salazar and Jones led off with singles and Christian Villanueva drew a one-out walk before Quiroz launched his bases-loaded blast over the center field wall off an Enny Romero delivery to give the Mexicans a 4-1 lead.  Two innings later, Navarro and Matt Clark hit back-to-back homers to right off reliever Luis Perez to make it a 6-1 contest.  Solis then struck out and Salazar grounded out to first before the game was called because of rain.  Reliever Humberto Castellanos got the win for Mexico after tossing two perfect innings while Romero absorbed the loss.

The Dominicans bounced back Sunday to even their Group A record at 1-1 with a 14-4 win over The Netherlands as Peguero, Charlie Valerio and Jeison Guzman each bopped solo homers after Holland had taken a 3-0 lead in the first.  The United States had swamped the Dutchmen, 9-0, in the Group A opener Saturday afternoon behind a two-hit shoutout from winner Cody Ponce (5 IP) and four relievers who were backed up by four homers, including a grand slam from Red Sox prospect Bobby Dalbac.  Venerable Rob Cordemans took the loss for The Netherlands.  Cordemans, who turned 45 on Halloween, has pitched internationally for Holland since 1995, including appearances in the World Baseball Classic, Olympic Games, Baseball World Cup and Intercontinental Cup (winning the 2011 Gold medal) while anchoring eight European Baseball Championship title teams.


Estadio Monterrey, Mexico's largest ballpark
Weeks into their inaugural Mexican Pacific League season, the Monterrey Sultanes are finding life a little tougher on the playing field as well as in the luxury suites and box seats.  The Sultanes are a perennial powerhouse during the spring and summer during the Mexican League season, but they currently have a 7-12 LMP record to tie fellow expansionists Guasave for sixth place, four games behind the 11-8 Obregon Yaquis.

Monterrey's winterball team is operated separately from their Liga brethren, with largely different players and coaches.  Former White Sox outfielder Alejandro de Aza leads the Sultanes with a .394 batting average while outfielders Michael Choice and Felix Perez have combined for four homers and 23 RBIs (although Perez is hitting just .209 thus far after batting .308 with 30 homers for Monterrey over the summer).  Sultanes manager Homar Rojas' pitching staff has struggled at times, although starting pitcher Edgar Gonzalez has pitched better than his 1-2 record indicates, with a 2.01 ERA and 19 strikeouts and just 2 walks over 22.1 innings.

Even though the team is not performing up to the usual Monterrey standards, they ARE a new LMP entry and there are still nearly two months to turn things around in the won-lost column.  The front office may be wishing their team's on-field performance was their biggest concern, but that distinction may belong to the some of the Sultanes' most well-heeled fans.

According to Puro Beisbol, lifetime holders of seats and luxury boxes at Estadio Monterrey have sent a letter to the Sultanes threatening legal action after the team allegedly failed to honor terms of the agreement between the two sides dating back 30 years.  At that time, several prominent baseball fans in Monterrey made significant monetary contributions toward the construction of Estadio Monterrey, which opened July 12, 1990, when the city hosted the World Youth Baseball Champions for players 16 and under.  The Sultanes' first LMB home game there was played against Nuevo Laredo one week later.  The agreement between the franchise and benefactor fans was that in exchange for their contributions toward building Mexico's largest ballpark at present (capacity 21,906), the fans would receive "lifetime" access to their designated boxes and seats for up to 50 years, or until the year 2040.

Sultanes co-owner Jose "Pepe" Maiz
Now, those fans are claiming that Sultanes co-owners Grupo Multimedios, who bought half the team in 2017, have reneged on the agreement cobbled together by co-owner and team president Jose "Pepe" Maiz three decades ago.  "As many know," the letter states, "a new administration led by Multimedios entered two years ago and arbitrarily decided this year not to invalidate those rights granted to us nearly 30 years ago."

Making things more complicated for the Sultanes is another claim made in the letter: That the team cannot use Estadio Monterrey for Mex Pac games because the contract (presumably the one between the team and lifetime seatholders) needs to first be modified by the Nuevo Leon state government and has been suspended by order of a federal judge.  "We want to see the Pacific League and encourage teams in our state," the letter concludes, "But we will not let a company (Multimedios) make fun of us and our rights."

Back between the LMP foul lines, a first-half dogfight has developed at the top of the standings between Culican and Hermosillo.  The Tomateros have a 14-5 record to clutch a narrow half-game lead over the 13-5 Naranjeros.  Los Mochis and defending champion Jalisco are two games out of first with identical 12-7 records, one game ahead of Obregon.

Noel Cuevas of Los Mochis leads in batting with a .395 average while Culiacan's Sebastian Elizalde is second at 387.  Obregon outfielder Paulo Orlando is tops with 6 homers and tied with teammate Art Charles for third with 17 RBIs, one behind co-leaders Henry Urrutia of Jalisco and another Yaquis player, Jesus "Cacao" Valdez, who have 18 ribbies each.  Culiacan's Rico Noel is first in stolen bases with 9. 

Six pitchers have three wins apiece, one of them being Jalisco reliever Linder Castro.  A 28-year-old righty who represented Aguascalientes in the 2018 Mexican League All-Star Game, Castro is 3-0 with a save and has yet to be scored upon in eight appearances out of the bullpen, striking out 10 batsmen and walking one in 10.2 innings.  Among LMP starters, Los Mochis' Luke Heimlich has the lowest ERA at 0.77 after four starts, Arturo Lopez (Obregon) and Greg Mahle (Mexicali) are tied with 23 strikeouts and Hermosillo's Trey McNutt leads with 8 saves.


Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador touted how much a baseball fan he is during his 2018 campaign, and has proven as good as his word since the 65-year-old Tabasco native took office for his 6-year term last December.  Lopez Obrador has ordered the Mexican League to reinstate four financially-troubled teams scheduled for a one-year hiatus in 2019 as well as demanding the Mexican Pacific League expand from eight to ten teams this winter to fulfill a campaign promise to voters in Guasave to bring the Mex Pac back to the agricultural city. AMLO has also taken an active role in building the sport by appointing ex-MLB infielder Edgar Gonzalez as head of the newly-created President's Office for Promotion and Development of Baseball in Mexico while envisioning a series of federally-funded baseball academies at school campuses across the country.  Whatever one thinks of his ideas, nobody can deny that Lopez Obrador has been very proactive on behalf of his favorite sport.

AMLO's love of baseball has led the summer Northern Mexico League to hold talks with Gonzalez seeking government subsidies to help the LNM operate last season and now, the Veracruz Winter League is apparently following suit.  Diario de Acayucan writer Enrique Reyes Grajales recently reported that several teams are interested in playing in the LIV this winter, but most lack the money to meet player payroll without government subsidies.  Reyes Grajales says sisters Regina and Fabiola Vasquez Saut, co-owners of the Acayucan Tobis who rebooted the LIV last year, are hoping for an audience with Lopez Obrador to ask for federal assistance to keep their league afloat for another season.

Taxpayer support used to not be a problem when the state of Veracruz was led by then-governor Javier Duarte, who was generous with both the LIV (formed in 2005) and the Mexican League Veracruz Rojos del Aguila.  However, state subsidies dried up after Duarte left office amid a corruption scandal that eventually led to his extradition from Guatemala and subsequent imprisonment, causing owner Jose Antonio Mansur to move his LMB franchise to Nuevo Laredo a year after the original LIV had shut down altogether in 2016.  Former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Narciso Elvira led a replacement circuit named the Veracruz State Baseball League for two winters, but the four-team loop relied on untested rookies playing a short weekend-only schedule and the LVEB never really caught on before folding after the 2017-18 season.

Acayucan Tobis celebrate 2018-19 LIV title
The second LIV featured six teams playing weekend series in the regular season and playoffs. The Vasquez Saut sisters' Acayucan team won the pennant for their second straight berth in the Latin American Series, where the Tobis reached the title game in Veracruz' Estadio Universitario Beto Avila, losing to Nicaragua's Leon Leones, 4-3, on February 1.

Since then, the LIV website has shut down and no posts have been made on their Facebook page since July 29 with a plug for a local restaurant and an appearance by Salon de la Fama pitcher Angel Moreno. the Mexican League's career wins leader among left-handers with a 263-171 record.  Only time will tell if Reyes Grajales was correct and whether the Vasquez Saut sisters were able to get AMLO to give federal help in keeping the LIV alive but now that November is underway, that time is running out.

Monday, October 28, 2019


The Mexican National Team opened a quick two-game series against Venezuela in Puebla with a 2-0 shutout Saturday afternoon in front of 4,514 onlookers at Estadio Hermanos Serdan.  The short set is serving as a warmup to next month's WBSC Premier12, during which Mexico will be one of four nations represented in Group A competition in Guadalajara for the first stage of the Olympic qualifying tournament.  Mexico is sixth in the WBSC's latest world baseball rankings while Venezuela is ninth.

As one might surmise from a 2-0 contest, pitching dominated Saturday's tilt, in which former Braves starter Horacio Ramirez opened for Mexico against Venezuela's Felix Doubront, who won Game Four of the 2013 World Series for Boston and spent last summer pitching for Saltillo in the Mexican League.  Both ex-MLBers went two scoreless innings before being replaced as Mexico manager Juan Castro and Venezuela skipper Carlos Subero made sure to avoid overworking any of their hurlers.  Ramirez, who went 40-34 over eight big league seasons and has pitched the last four years for Tijuana, only allowed one walk and no hits over his two innings of work.

The scoreless tie carried into the ninth inning, as it took a Jorge Flores double with one out in the top of the sixth (Venezuela was the designated home team) to record the Verdes Grande's first hit of the day.  Flores advanced to third on a Jose Vargas flyout to center, but a Javier Salazar popup and Noah Perio groundout ended the threat without any further damage.

The Venezuelans nearly broke the deadlock one inning later, but the hosts benefitted from a defensive gem via an unlikely source.  Matt Clark, who usually is pencilled in as a designated hitter and known far more for his power hitting, reached above the right field wall to nab a likely home run from Alexander Palma to earn an ovation from the crowd.

It was that kind of game until the top of the ninth, when the Mexicans rapped three doubles to end the orgy of 0's on the scoreboard.  Vargas opened the entrada with a two-bagger up the middle and then scored the first run of the game on Salazar's double down the third base line.  Efren Navarro later stroked a double to right that brought Salazar in to give Mexico a 2-0 lead.  Then it was left to Justin Kelly, who pitched in the Braves and Dodgers systems before joining eventual Mexican League champion Monclova this summer, to toss a scoreless ninth to save the victory for the Verdes Grande. Adam Quintana pitched the seventh and eighth innings for Mexico to earn the win.

Game Two of the so-called Giants of Latin America series was set for Sunday afternoon in Puebla, with Hernandez Alvarez scheduled to start for Venezuela.  Castro had not named a starter for Mexico as of Saturday.  Alvarez pitched a no-hitter for the Florida Marlins in 2013 and was picked for the National League team in the All-Star Game one year later.  As of BBM post time, results for Sunday's game were not available.

The Mexican Nationals will open the Premier12 tournament on Saturday, November 2 when they play the Dominican Republic at 7:00PM local time in Guadalajara's Estadio Jarros.  The USA will meet The Netherlands in the other Group A Saturday game at Noon.


Culiacan outfielder Sebastian Elizalde
Culiacan has won nine of their first 13 games in the 2019-20 Mexican Pacific League seasons and it's certainly been a collaborative effort to put the Tomateros in first place, primarily among their potent stable of batters.  The eleven-time Mex Pac champions are the only team in the loop batting above .300 with a .309 average and while manager Benji Gil's squad only has a combined seven homers to rank fifth in the LMP in that category, Culiacan has made up for it with speed on the basepaths (their 31 stolen bases are 19 more than anyone else) while their bullpen-by-committee has seen four relievers combine for a Mex Pac-best five saves, with former Pirates minor leaguer Ryan Kelly turning in two of them.

Six Culiacan regulars are batting above .300 thus far, led by the .396 average of one-time Cincinnati farmhand Sebastian Elizalde leading the way.  The Guaymas-born outfielder spent four years in the Reds system between 2014 and 2017, being named an organization All-Star his first campaign and playing in the Florida State League's 2015 All-Star Game, but never rose above AAA Louisville before being shipped back to Monterrey of the Mexican League early last year.  Shortstop Ramiro Pena (.347 with 8 runs), catcher Ali Solis (.324 and 8 RBIs) and second baseman Jose Guadalupe Chavez (.311 and a team-high 11 ribbies) have also been key to the Tomateros' fast start, but the real catalyst may be one of the guys hitting UNDER .300, outfielder  Rico Noel.

Tomateros speedster Rico Noel
Noel and manager Gil have had their past difference and nearly came to blows in the dugout during one game in Gil's first stint running the team, but the 2010 San Diego draft pick (who played in California and Texas League All-Star Games during his stint in the Padres system) has given the volatile Gil little reason to don the Everlasts.  Noel's .277 average is little to write home about, but he's made the most of  his opportunities when he's reached base, scoring ten runs, driving in eight, cracking a pair of homers and stealing nine bases in ten attempts.  Considering that the former Coastal Carolina speedster's career high in single-season homers is three, his two longballs for Culiacan are an unexpected bonus.

None of the Tomateros pitchers have really stood out, although Aldo Montes is 3-0 as both a middleman and starter.  A 10-year Mexican League veteran from Tijuana who pitched for Mexico in last March's Samurai Series against Japan in Kobe, Montes made three scoreless appearances for Culiacan  (winning two of them) before Gil picked him to start Saturday night at home against Navajoa. He tossed another five shutout innings, allowing just two hits and striking out seven in the Tomateros' 7-0 whitewashing of the Mayos.  Although Montes is not a "staff linchpin" type of pitcher, his early success has greatly helped a Tomateros team still hoping for the likes of slow-starters Romario Gil (2018 Mexican League Rookie of the Year), Manny Barreda (no-hitters in both leagues in 2017 and 2018) to round into shape.  Fortunately, Culiacan hasn't really needed them.  Yet.


Monclova Acereros slugger Chris Carter
The Mexican League is going through the unusual process of allowing its fans to pick the circuit's All-Star Team for the recently-concluded 2019 season.  People cast votes on the LMB's website on a daily position-by-position basis, starting with catchers on Monday, October 14 and concluding with relief pitchers last Thursday.  Each of the 16 Liga teams had one player per position on the ballot and fans around the world were allowed to vote three times a day during the eleven-day process.

According to the Septima Entrada site, here is the Mexican League "Dream Team" for 2019:

CATCHER: Bruce Maxwell, Monclova
A former Oakland catcher who was the first MLBer to take a knee during the National Anthem, Maxwell was signed by the Acereros as a free agent shortly after the season opened and went on to reach career highs by hitting .325 with 24 homers and 112 RBIs while being selected to represent the LMB North in the midseason All-Star Game.

FIRST BASE: Chris Carter, Monclova
Carter led the LMB in homers (49), RBIs (119), slugging percentage (.709) and OPS (1.158).  The hulking former National League's 2016 homer co-champ went stone cold in the postseason, batting .130 without a ribbie in the Serie del Rey against Yucatan, but the 2009 Texas League Player of the Year was a huge factor in Monclova's 75-45 regular season.

SECOND BASE: Michael Wing, Aguascalientes
A Californian who knocked around the Angels system and indy leagues for nine seasons and out of baseball for a year before signing with the Rieleros in 2017, Wing put together a great season in Aguascalientes, hitting .355 with 28 homers and 110 RBIs. Previously a utilityman, the 31-year-old All-Star played second base exclusively this year.

THIRD BASE: Emmanuel Avila, Mexico City
The only Dream Teamer to finish in the top ten in batting, Avila finished eighth with a .367 average while socking 16 homers and driving in 76 runs for the Diablos Rojos.  The 30-year-old Los Mochis product spent four summers in the White Sox system before coming to Mexico City in 2010.  He's hit .322 and been selected to four All-Star Games since.

SHORTSTOP: Amadeo Zazueta, Monterrey
Barred from playing in the LMB until 2016 because he'd signed directly with Houston twelve years earlier at age 18, Zazueta hit .326 and provided steady defense for the Sultanes (his fourth Liga team in the last three years) to earn his second All-Star Game appearance.  He then hit .308 with two homers against eventual champ Monclova in seven playoff games.

Oaxaca's MVP candidate Alonzo Harris
LEFT FIELD: Alonzo Harris, Oaxaca
An MVP favorite along with Monclova's Carter, the ex-Mets farmhand rebounded from an awful Fall 2018 season (.165 average for Quintana Roo) for a halcyon year in Oaxaca, hitting .343 with 39 homers, scoring an LMB-high 131 runs, driving in 117 and stealing 45 to narrowly miss becoming the Liga's first 40/40 man. Someone not a midseason All-Star.

CENTER FIELD: Juan Perez, Saltillo
A major reason for the Saraperos' second-half title and playoff berth, Perez quietly put together a .322 season at the plate with 23 homers and 30 steals, scoring 99 runs along the way.  A former Reds minor leaguer (where he was a 2014 organizational All-Star while playing for Class A Bakersfield), Perez also threw out 12 runners from center field.

RIGHT FIELD: Danny Ortiz, Puebla
Ortiz finished second to Monclova's Carter in homers (42), was fourth in RBIs (114) and just missed the top ten in runs scored (96), posting a solid .312 average.  The 2017 Puerto Rican League MVP, Ortiz was a midseason All-Star in both the Midwest (2011) and Eastern (2013) leagues before his LMB ASG appearance in Mexico City this July.

DESIGNATED HITTER: Japhet Amador, Mexico City
Back in the LMB after a three-year stint in Japan that ended controversially, Amador matched his 2015 batting average (.346), falling from 41 to 28 homers while his RBI totals dropped slightly from 117 to 115. Still, the 6'4" Mulege Giant, listed conservatively at 310 pounds, quickly regained his reputation as one of Mexico's most feared batsmen.

STARTING PITCHER: Cesar Valdez, Yucatan
As easy a choice as there was on this list. Valdez pitched in the Liga's 2015 All-Star Game amid four cups of MLB coffee between 2010 and 2017, but nobody predicted a 2019 campaign in which the Leones righty dominated LMB batters and went 15-2 with a 2.26 ERA in a hitter's year. Valdez struck out 122 batters and walked just 17 over 147.2 innings.

RELIEF PITCHER: Casey Coleman, Tijuana
Son of one former MLB All-Star pitcher and grandson of another, Coleman had success as the Toros closer with a 2.03 ERA.  Still, the ex-Cub's choice was puzzling at best after only 14 appearances out of the bullpen with six save for Tijuana over 13 innings.  Monterrey's Wirfin Obispo (6 wins, 30 saves, 2.62 ERA) might've been a more sensible pick for fans.