Baseball Mexicoby Bruce Baskin
July 25, 2011 - Mexican League (ML)
Although first-round matchups haven't been finalized, four teams have clinched berths in the 2011 Mexican League Northern Zone playoffs as of Friday morning. Mexico City, which qualified for the postseason in mid-July, remains on top of the LMN North standings at 59-39, four-and-a-half games ahead of Monterrey and Reynosa (who are both 54-43) and eight games in front of 51-47 Puebla. Laguna and Saltillo are tied for fifth at 43-57, eight games behind the Pericos with seven games remaining on the schedule, while Monclova brings up the rear at 41-59. The elimination of the Saraperos means there will be a new Liga champion this summer.
Things aren't quite as well-defined in the LMB South, although three teams have assured themselves of playing into August. Quintana Roo has led the division for weeks, and the Tigres are 58-39, five games ahead of 52-43 Campeche. Oaxaca has won four games in a row while Veracruz has dropped four straight to put both teams in a virtual tie for third place. The Guerreros are 50-45 while the Aguilas are percentage points behind at 51-46. Tabasco is barely clinging onto hope with a 46-53 mark, six games out of fourth, but Minatitlan (42-56) and Yucatan (40-57) are getting ready to break out the golf clubs.
The regular season will end July 28, with the playoffs set to start two days later.
MULHERN SIGNED BY SEIBU LIONS
Ryan Mulhern certainly made the most of his six weeks in Mexico. After arriving in Saltillo on June 3, the outfielder proceeded to tear the cover off the baseball, battering Mexican League pitching to the tune of a .366 average with 13 homers and 46 RBIs in 36 games. That was enough to gain the notice of Japan's Seibu Lions of the Pacific League. Seibu and Mulhern were able to come to terms and the Burbank, California native made his way to the Far East on July 18.
Mulhern was drafted by Tampa Bay out of high school in 2000 and again by St. Louis after two years at the University of Southern Alabama in 2002 before being picked and signed by Cleveland in 2003. The 6'2" Mulhern spent six years in the Indians organization before going to Pittsburgh's farm system in 2008. His best season was in 2005, when he hit .315 and blasted 32 homers splitting the year with Kinston in the Carolina League and Akron of the Eastern League, winning the Lou Boudreau Award as the Tribe's top minor leaguer. He spent two years with Lancaster in the Atlantic League before coming to Saltillo last month. Mulhern has hit 131 homers over nine minor league seasons.
Puro Beisbol quoted Mulhern as saying, "I'm very thankful for the opportunity that Sergio (Saraperos president Sergio Ley) offered me to play in Japan...I'm also thankful to the people of Saltillo for all the support and affection they've given me during this time. I hope to return to the Saraperos because it's a great team with great people."
SALTILLO STRUGGLING ON FIELD, BUT NOT AT GATE
The on-field demise of the Saltillo Saraperos this season has been well-documented. Coming off their second consecutive Mexican League pennant, the Sarape Makers entered 2011 with hopes of becoming only the second team in Liga history to win three straight flags (the Monterrey Industriales turned the ultimate triple play in 1947-49). Barring a miracle of Biblical proportions, that ain't gonna happen.
Even though longtime favorite Christian Presichi has been traded away and manager Orlando Sanchez was fired earlier this month and the Saraperos are 14 games under .500 and fighting Laguna and Monclova to stay out of the LMB North cellar, the fans continue to pour through the turnstiles at Estadio Francisco I. Madero. Through 48 home games, the Saraperos have drawn 410,056 people for an average of 8,542 per opening, both league-leading numbers. The main reason attendance has maintained the top spot may be an extensive off-season ballpark remodel that saw the seating capacity increase to 17,500, new roofing placed over all seats, the playing field was completely reinstalled, a state-of-the-art Scoresound 1500 sound system was brought in and the placement of a 46'x72' Daktronics scoreboard that is said to be the largest in Latin baseball.
Right behind Saltillo in attendance are the Monterrey Sultanes with an average of 8,023 fans while Puebla is third at 7,207 per game. Minatitlan is last with a 1,977 average, but overall attendance in the Liga appears to be up from 2010.
Mexican League Stories from July 25, 2011
- Baseball Mexico - OSC Original by Bruce Baskin
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