|Mexican Nationals celebrate past win|
The Mexican National Team will be in Japan this week to prepare for the upcoming two-game Samurai Series of exhibition games against the Japanese Nationals on March 9 and 10 in Osaka. The set is a warm-up of sorts for November's Premier12 tournament in which twelve national teams vie for berths and seeding in next year's Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
As host team, the Japanese will receive an automatic slot but as the top-ranked team in the world (according to the governing World Baseball Softball Congress), they were likely qualifiers anyway. Japan slipped past the United States for the top spot while Mexico held on to its sixth-place status in the latest world rankings. South Korea remained in third while Taiwan moved ahead of Cuba for fourth place. The WBSC top ten is rounded out by Australia, The Netherlands, Venezuela and Canada.
|Mexico manager Dan Firova holds team roster|
The games will take place in the Kyocera Dome Osaka, a 22-year-old facility that seats 36,500 for baseball and serves as home for the Orix Buffaloes of NPB's Pacific League. Dan Firova will manage the Verdes Grande while Japan is led by Atsunori Inaba, an eight-time All-Star outfielder with both the Yakult Swallows and Nippon Ham Fighters during a 20 year career. Inaba was both the 2006 Japan Series MVP and a 2011 All-Star Game MVP for the Fighters.
Firova will have a 28-man roster of mostly Mexican League veterans, many with experience in either MLB or NPB. One of his players, outfielder-first baseman Joey Meneses, will be playing in Osaka with the Buffaloes this year after winning International League MVP honors last summer while performing for the Phillies' Lehigh Valley affiliate.
MEXICAN NATIONAL TEAM SAMURAI SERIES ROSTER
Pitchers (14): Andres Avila (Yucatan), Manny Barreda (Tijuana), Esteban Haro (Durango), Carlos Hernandez (Tijuana), Luis Mendoza (Mexico City), Aldo Montes (Yucatan), Jose Oyervides (Dos Laredos), Zach Phillips (Monclova), Jorge Reyes (Dos Laredos), Wilmer Rios (Monclova), Francisco Rodriguez (Tabasco), Jake Sanchez (Tijuana), Jose Samayoa (Yucatan), Cesar Vargas (Monterrey).
|Kyocera Dome Osaka|
Catchers (2): Xorge Carrillo (Tijuana, Ali Solis (Monterrey).
Infielders (7): Rodolfo Amador (Monclova), Luis Cruz (Tijuana), Brian Hernandez (Quintana Roo), Luis Juarez (Yucatan), Victor Mendoza (Monterrey), Ramiro Pena (Monterrey), Isaac Rodriguez (Tijuana).
Outfielders (5): Jose Juan Aguilar (Yucatan), Jesus Fabela (Mexico City), Roberto Lopez (Dos Laredos), Joey Meneses (Orix NPB), Fernando Perez (Tijuana).
Manager: Dan Firova.
Coaches (4): Martin Arzate (Monclova), Miguel Lopez (Mexico City), Isidro Marquez (Campeche), Javier Robles (Tijuana).
SARAPEROS HIRE ROBERTO VIZCARRA AS 10TH NEW LMB SKIPPER
|New Saraperos manager Roberto Vizcarra|
Roberto Vizcarra has been named manager of the Saltillo Saraperos, filling the final Mexican League vacancy. He replaces Len Picota, who failed to lead Saltillo to the playoffs in either of last year's abbreviated seasons, finishing with a 48-63 overall record while placing fifth and sixth in the LMB North. A Panama native, Picota pitched seven years in the Cardinals system before embarking on a baseball odyssey that took him to leagues on both sides of the Pacific Ocean prior to his 2007 retirement after a 23-year career. Last year was his first managing in Mexico.
Vizcarra was a top Mexican League infielder between 1986 and 2008, starting as a middle infielder before converting to the corners as he got older. Wherever he played, the San Luis Rio Colorado product could hit, turning in 2,644 career LMB hits (including 482 doubles and 229 homers) for a .304 average over 23 summers for five teams. Vizcarra also played several winters in the Mexican Pacific League, where the Obregon Yaquis retired his number 4. He took over as manager of the Quintana Roo Tigres late in the 2013 season and led them to LMB pennants both that year and in 2015, but was fired in 2017 after the Cancun squad won 37 of 86 games.
Vizcarra led Yucatan to the Mexican League's Spring pennant in 2018 after coming first in the LMB South at 40-17 before a Fall campaign in which the Leones again were the South's top seed with a 32-24 (holding off Mexico City by a half-game) before losing a first-round upset to Oaxaca, who had to beat Leon in a wild card contest after finishing fifth in the standings. That was enough for Leones owners Erick and Jose Juan Arellano to not bring back the former infielder for 2019 and bring in Luis Carlos Rivera (former Leon pilot) to manage in Merida for the coming season.
|Saltillo's Estadio Francisco I. Madero|
Vizcarra then spent the winter leading the Jalisco Charros to their first MexPac title (he also won an LMP flag with Mexicali in 2016-17) and a berth in the Caribbean Series, where they fell one run shy of a title game against the eventual champion Herrera Toros from host Panama. He'll have his work cut out for him in Saltillo, once one of the Liga's franchises before operating under state ownership the past few seasons but the Saraperos have just been sold to a group of local businessmen led by prominent financier Cesar Cantu and they've remained one of the LMB's attendance leaders despite the lean times so there is hope moving forward.
With his hiring in Saltillo, Vizcarra becomes the tenth new manager in the 16-team Mexican League for the coming season, a rather high number even for a league where owners change managers as often as Sparky Anderson used to change pitchers. For the record, here is a list of the LMB's new managers (and the men they replaced):
AGUASCALIENTES RIELEROS - Joe Alvarez (replaces Homar Rojas)
CAMPECHE PIRATAS - Tim Johnson (replaces Romulo Martinez)
DURANGO GENERALES - Lorenzo Bundy (replaces Matias Carrillo)
LEON BRAVOS - Tony Aguilera (replaces Luis Carlos Rivera)
PUEBLA PERICOS - Enrique "Che" Reyes (replaces Lorenzo Bundy)
QUINTANA ROO TIGRES - Jesus Sommers (replaces Raul Sanchez)
SALTILLO SARAPEROS - Roberto Vizcarra (replaces Len Picota)
TABASCO OLMECAS - Ramon Orantes (replaces Alfonso "Houston" Jimenez)
UNION LAGUNA ALGODONEROS - Jonathan Aceves (replaces Ramon Orantes)
YUCATAN LEONES - Luis Carlos Rivera (replaces Roberto Vizcarra)
LIGA TO DIGITALLY TRACK PLAYER TRANSACTIONS IN 2019
In the wake of the Rookiegate dispute, during which up to seven Quintana Roo Tigres prospects were transferred to the Mexico City Diablos Rojos just prior to the February 2017 sale of the Tigres to former Dodgers ace Fernando Valenzuela and wife Linda (who were not informed of the switch), the Mexican League is implementing a so-called Player Transfer and Control Digital System for the upcoming season. The software, which the LMB will operate with links to all 16 teams using per-user passwords and fingerprint recognition, will track all player transactions between teams to keep them transparent to all parties.
According to Beatriz Pereyra of Proceso, the platform will require teams to record information on all players under their control, including birth certificates, passports, contracts and addendums, etc. Sometime during the coming season, a Dispute Commission will be formed to address disagreements between franchises as well as players' claims to breach of salaries by their employers. "Agreements between executives will have to be in the system and endorsed with the respective documents," says Mexican League president Javier Salinas. "What is not in the system will not be valid before the LMB." Salinas went on to add, "Same with the players. Everything they agree to with the teams, such as the rent of an apartment, plane tickets or whatever they promise must be stated in the contract because if it isn't in writing, it won't be valid."
|Mexican League president Javier Salinas|
Pereyra says the new system will also allow each club to review its digitized financial status before the LMB, including all debts. The system will automatically refuse to allow any player movements until the information is updated. Teams will not be able to register more than 38 total players under contractual control, including the new Liga limit of seven foreign players per franchise. A database will be compiled with a 17-point checklist per player to verify that no information therein is false. Any player who doesn't comply with the checklist (along with the required documentations) cannot be registered.
The aforementioned 2017 transfer of prospects from Cancun to Mexico City, which took place while Plinio Escalante was league president, was approved in part by the Tigres' then-deputy president Francisco "Pollo" Minjarez, who shortly left the team to become a Diablos Rojos VP. Minjarez has since been suspended indefinitely by the LMB. Although a ruling ordered the Diablos to return both proceeds of the Rangers sale and the remaining five prospects to the Tigres, the Valenzuelas have said in the past that neither had happened.