by Bruce Baskin
February 28, 2017 - Mexican League (ML)
MEXICAN LEAGUE PRESIDENTS APPROVE NEW OWNERS, FIRST WEEK OF SCHEDULE
The Mexican League's Assembly of Presidents met Friday in Mexico City in a gathering that was apparently without rancor, a welcome relief from the at-times open warfare among two factions of teams over the winter that threatened to split the circuit in two or even shut the 92-year-old LMB down for 2017. This time, however, it was smiles all around the 16 teams represented and reinstated league president, Plinio Escalante, whose resumption of that role was unanimously ratified after Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Connor made it clear at a meeting in Houston weeks ago that MiLB would not accept anyone else behind the Liga's big desk.
Among the order of business was the approval of new owners for the Quintana Roo Tigres, Leon Bravos and Monclova Acereros as well as a thumbs-up for last weekend's fifty-percent purchase of the Monterrey Sultanes by Grupo Multimedios. Former Dodgers All-Star pitcher Fernando Valenzuela was confirmed as the new majority owner of the Tigres after buying the club from Carlos Peralta a week ago. Although other members of his ownership group are still unidentified (leading to speculation in some quarters that the State of Quintana Roo is acting as a "silent partner" in the Cancun team), Valenzuela was announced as the Tigres' chairman of the board. Francisco Villanueva will serve as executive vice president while son Fernando Valenzuela Junior is the executive chairman and general manager of the flagship franchise.
Left out in the cold was longtime Tigres executive president Cuauhtemoc "Chito" Rodriguez, who served as eyes and ears for Peralta (who is not a baseball fan) after the latter's father, Alejo, passed away in 1997 and helped direct the Tigres to eleven Mexican League pennants in three different cities after another 19 seasons and two flags with the Nuevo Laredo Tecolotes. The younger Valenzuela, a former first baseman who attended UNLV and went on to bat .328 in nine LMB seasons, does not appear to have any prior experience running a pro baseball team.
As for the Bravos, the former Reynosa Broncos were officially handed over to new owner Arturo Blanco, a Leon businessman who will also serve as the team's chairman of the board. Former owner Mauricio Martinez will stay on as executive president. The approval of Puebla Pericos owner Gerardo Benavides as the new owner in Monclova was little more than a reaffirmation of a sale first agreed to during the winter, as Benavides has already been putting his stamp on the team.
The situation in Monterrey came as a bit of a surprise, starting with the timing of the announcement of the sale late last Sunday after all the attention that day went to Valenzuela and the Tigres. As its name suggest, Grupo Multimedios is a business dedicated to promoting sports and entertainment in northern Mexico and Latin America in general. They're expected to provide a cash infusion for Sultanes' longtime owner Jose "Pepe" Maiz, who has struggled a bit at the helm of the team in recent years despite strong attendance totals at the 26,000-seat Estadio Monterrey, Mexico's largest ballpark and the scene of Major League games in past seasons. Maiz will remain as team president while Multimedios' Guillermo Gonzalez Elizondo will serve as vice president.
Other items dealt with were the formalization of the no-limit policy on Mexican-American players (another O'Connor edict) and approval of a system of instant replay reviews of umpire calls among teams televising their games while the presidents got a start on putting together a schedule for an upcoming season set to open in five weeks.
The scheduling process has been hampered by ballpark renovations in the Liga's newest cities, Leon and Durango, which both got off to late starts and will not be completed by the beginning of the season. As a result, only the first week of the season has been scheduled, with 14 of the 16 LMB teams opening their home slates while the Bravos and Generales play their first six games on the road. The 2017 Mexican League All-Star Game will be played later than usual, with this year's edition set for the weekend of June 16-18 at Campeche's 6,000-seat Estadio Nelson Barrera. The ballpark was named after the former slugging third baseman who died tragically in 2002 while managing the Piratas when the beloved Barrera, nicknamed El Admiral by fans, was electrocuted at home that July while working on the house's wiring.
The following is the LMB's opening week schedule for 2017:
March 31-April 2 Monclova at Mexico City Saltillo at Tijuana Durango at Aguascalientes Laguna at Monterrey Leon at Puebla Veracruz at Oaxaca Tabasco at Campeche Quintana Roo at Yucatan
April 4-6 Mexico City at Saltillo Aguascalientes at Laguna Monterrey at Monclova Durango at Tijuana Leon at Oaxaca Puebla at Veracruz Yucatan at Tabasco Campeche at Quintana Roo