by Bruce Baskin
June 23, 2016 - Mexican League (ML)
JOSE AMADOR "LOANED" BY MONCLOVA TO CAMPECHE
The newly-minted Mexican League All-Star Game MVP, designated hitter Jose Amador, has been loaned by Monclova to the Campeche Piratas for the rest of the current season. According to Puro Beisbol, Campeche shipped outfielder Eliseo Aldazaba (pictured) to the Acereros in return after rumors of the deal had been floating for days.
On the surface, this would not appear to be an even trade. Amador's batting average sits at a barely adequate .281, but he has swatted 12 homers for the Acereros (tied for seventh in the Liga) after turning in a top-notch winterball season in the Mexican Pacific League in which he was picked as Baseball Mexico's MVP. The 36-year-old Amador, who plays first or third base when he's in the field, has a career .311 average over all or part of 12 LMB seasons, topping the .300 mark 8 times. His career 159 homers in that span don't particularly stand out, but he socked 97 roundtrippers between 2011 and 2015, an average of 19.7 per year. And there's that All-Star Game MVP award.
In Aldazaba, the Steelers get a 25-year-old with a useful if not extraordinary bat. Aldazaba hit .264 with 4 homers for the Piratas, underperforming numbers for a guy who'd hit 65 longballs over the previous four campaigns with both Carmen and Campeche, including 25 homers last summer. He's usually in the .250-.265 batting range, although he did hit .290 for the Piratas in 2014. Even so, in a league where a .300 average can be as common as the cold, Aldazaba stands out for one reason: He's still in uniform, unlike Amador (who walked out on his Monclova teammates after the All-Star Break, telling the front office he no longer felt "comfortable" with the team), and something almost always trumps nothing.
There was another deal consummated in the Mexican League last weekend, as the Quintana Roo Tigres loaned former big league infielder Jorge Cantu to Tijuana Saturday. Cantu is in his third Liga season, including a 2015 campaign for the defending champs during which he hit .351 with 25 homers and 100 RBI's. He was batting .237 with 7 homers in Cancun this season.
Cantu was born in McAllen, Texas but attended high school across the border in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. He signed a minor league contract with the Tampa Bay Devils Rays as a 17-year-old free agent in 1999 and reached the majors in 2004. Cantu spent eight MLB seasons with the Rays, Reds, Marlins, Rangers and Padres through 2011, with career totals of 104 homers and 476 RBI's to augment a .271 average splitting time between first, second and third bases.
VERACRUZ REELS OFF EIGHT WINS IN A ROW
Just when it looked like a lost season for the Veracruz Rojos Aguilas, the Eagles embarked on an eight-game winning streak that included one home sweep of Monclova, another sweep on the road in Reynosa and a win at LMB North leaders Monterrey.
The skein began June 9, a day after Eddy Castro took the managerial reins on an interim basis from Lino Connell, who had the club mired in last place in the South at 21-34. Diaz led the Aguilas to a 5-2 win over Laguna at Parque Deportivo Universitario Beto Avila in the port city to begin the streak. Veracruz had won just 3 of their last 22 games under Connell.
Castro spent four seasons as a pitcher in the Toronto system, beginning as a 19-year-old in 1982 with the Jays' Gulf Coast League squad and eventually spending time in Florence and Kinston before being released in 1985. Three years later, the Puerto Rican popped up in the Mexican League as an outfielder-first baseman with Leon, batting .321 with 33 homers and 108 RBI's for the Bravos.
Although he never had another year like that one, Castro went on to a decent ten-year playing career in Mexico, hitting .302 and averaging 16 homers and 71 ribbies for eight teams, spending five of his last six six years mainly in Minatitlan before retiring after the 1997 campaign. Castro was the Petroleros' player-manager his last two years and has also managed in Tabasco, Puebla and, yes, Veracruz (in 2014). He was 240-328 over five seasons with one winning record, going 63-57 in 1999 with Tabasco, before returning to Veracruz.
Connell spent 16 years playing every position but pitcher or catcher and bouncing between the Mexican League and independent circuits north of the border as well as another four years in Italy before retiring in 2010. He spent six years in the Mexican League between 2000 and 2005, his best coming in 2002 with Oaxaca, where he hit .356 with 8 homers, 31 steals and 102 runs scored in 108 games. His term as skipper in Veracruz this year lasted 30 days after he was brought in by Rojos Aguilas owner Jose Antonio Mansur on May 9 to replace former Nationals coach Mark Weidemeier, who lasted six months after being hired last December 9 (what is it with Mansur and the 9th, anyway?) to replace, well, whoever had been managing the team before then.
Castro was given a "vote of confidence" after the win streak by Mansur, who said the new helmsman would remain for the rest of the current season. Veracruz then promptly lost two in a row to Monterrey to fall to 23-48 for the season, 20-and-a-half games behind division-leading Puebla in seventh place. Better rent that apartment by the week, Eddy.
MEXICAN LEAGUE FRANCHISE IN MAZATLAN STALLS, DEAD IN WATER?
A Mexican League foray into the Pacific Coast city of Mazatlan no longer appears imminent. The Mazatlan Marineros were the brainchild of brothers Erick and Juan Arellano, who already own the Merida-based Yucatan Leones. ESPN first reported in March of last year that the Arellanos had been awarded a conditional Mazatlan franchise by the LMB, with a planned launch for this season.
The idea was to share Estadio Teodoro Mariscal with the Mexican Pacific League Mazatlan Venados for this year before moving into the city's new ballpark, which is being built near the Zona Dorado tourist enclave in Mazatlan's north end. The Marineros even named Juan Jose Pacho their manager for 2016, which would've be convenient for Pacho, who led the Venados to the Caribbean Series title in February. Mazatlan mayor Carlos Felton Gonzalez and Sonora governor Mario Lopez Valdez both supported the new Liga franchise, which would've marked the first time a Mexican city has hosted LMB and LMP teams simultaneously. It was not announced whether the Marineros would be an expansion team or an existing club, although the latter seems more likely.
Fifteen months after the initial announcement, however, there is no Mazatlan team in the Mexican League with no visible activity that one is on the way. A November story on the Al Bat website says negotiations for renting Teodoro Mariscal hit a snag and that the starting date for the upstart franchise had been moved to the 2017 season. Ballparks would not be the only issue facing the Mexican League in Mazatlan. The LMB season runs from April into September (playoffs included), which would mean scheduling home games during the city's rainiest and hottest months after the tourist season has ended and while Mazatlan is not as dependent on tourism as most Mexican resort cities because of its strong fishing and shrimp businesses, those visitors (and the dollars they bring) are significant. Mazatlan is also a long distance from any other LMB franchise, which would mean a large travel budget for the Marineros themselves plus added expenses for incoming teams.
In short, Mazatlan may not be the best fit for the Mexican League right now.
MEXICAN LEAGUE Standings (as of Tuesday, June 21)
Northern Division: Monterrey 43-22, Monclova 39-26, Tijuana 36-29, Laguna 35-30, Mexico City 34-30, Aguascalientes 33-31, Saltillo 30-33, Reynosa 19-46
Southern Division: Puebla 43-22, Yucatan 42-23, Quintana Roo 39-27, Campeche 31-33, Oaxaca 26-38, Tabasco 24-42, Veracruz 23-43, Carmen 21-43