by Bruce Baskin
March 20, 2018 - Mexican League (ML)
Jalisco's Manny Rodriguez named MexPac MVP for 2017-18
Jalisco Charros second baseman Manny Rodriguez has been voted Most Valuable Player in the Mexican Pacific League for their 2017-18 season. And the balloting really wasn't all that close, as Rodriguez garnered 90 of 167 votes, or 53.9 percent, as cast by Mexican sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the LMP. MexPac batting champion Sebastian Elizalde of Culiacan finished second with 25 votes, or 25.2 percent. Rodriguez receives the Hector Espino Trophy after finishing second to Elizalde's .380 average by hitting .371, tying Elizalde for the lead in hits with 95, topping the circuit with 50 runs scored and 58 RBIs, tying Navojoa's Randy Arozarena atop the table with 25 doubles and tying Charros teammate Agustin Murillo for fourth in homers at 10 apiece. The 35-year-old Guasave native struck out just 26 times in 256 at-bats for the Guadalajara team. He'll be back in Monclova this summer after batting .313 with 13 homers and 89 RBIs over 102 games for the Acereros in 2017.
Mazatlan's Mitch Lively won the Vicente "Huevo" Romo Trophy as the MexPac's top pitcher after receiving 67 percent of the media votes. Lively led the loop with nine wins, two more than Anthony Vazquez of Culiacan and Jalisco's Octavio Acosta, finished second in strikeouts to Navojoa's Tyler Alexander (66 to 63) and came in second to Mexicali's Rolando Valdez (1.74) with a 2.50 ERA. The 6'5" Sacramento State alum tossed the LMP's only complete game shutout on November 30 in Culiacan against the potent Tomateros, missing a perfect game by one Elizalde single in a 1-0 win.
Navojoa closer Daniel Moskos was voted the Isidro Marquez Trophy winner as best reliever after outpolling Obregon's Manny Acosta, 42 to 29 percent. Although Acosta led the LMP with 17 saves in 34 appearances for the Yaquis, Moskos finished second with 16 saves while turning in a no-see-um 0.92 ERA, allowing just three earned runs and striking out 29 batsmen in 29.1 frames over 29 trips from the bullpen.
Other winners included Navojoa pitcher Jaime Lugo (5-3, 2.53) with the Melo Almada Trophy as Rookie of the Year, Mayos manager Willie Romero with the Benjamin "Cananea" Reyes Trophy for Manager of the Year and Culiacan team president Hector Ley with the Horacio "Macacho" Lopez Trophy for Executive of the Year. Tomateros manager Benji Gil also accepted without incident the Francisco "Paquin" Estrada Trophy for leading Culiacan to the league title.
LMB and LMP in Houston confab with MiLB, COPABE
Representatives from both the Mexican League and Mexican Pacific Leagues, including respective presidents Javier Salinas and Omar Canizales, were recently in Houston, Texas for meetings with Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Connor and Pan American Baseball Confederation chief Juan Francisco Puello. The conference was convened to address issues concerning the tight timeframe between the end of the LMB's second 2018 season playoffs and the opening of the LMP's regular season.
As the March opening of the Mexican League's revolutionary two-season experiment approaches, the four groups (which included Dos Laredos owner Jose Antonio Mansur, Culiacan president Hector Ley, Los Mochis president Joaquin Vegas and Eustaquio Alvarez of parts unknown) met to discuss the ramifications of a year in which playoffs following the Mexican League's second season could potentially end as late as October 8, or three calendar days before the Mexican Pacific League opened their 2017-18 regular season schedule. The quick turnover would be hard on players on the heels of two 57-game tournaments with playoffs and many may be inactivated due to "extreme fatigue" (as happens with players under MLB contracts) by their Mexican League teams, who own player rights south of the border.
Such a situation would create a talent shortage in the MexPac, with perhaps as many as 80 players delayed in reporting for winterball. The LMP increased the number of foreign players allowed on each team from six to eight last winter with talk of increasing that limit to ten foreigners per squad in 2018-19. Curiously, O'Connor apparently never broached the topic of Mexican-American players being considered "domestic" by LMP teams, thus not counting against their self-imposed extranero quota. The issue split the Mexican League down the middle last winter before O'Connor ruled that the LMB should have no limit on Mexican-American players because the policy violates Mexico's labor laws. As president of MiLB, O'Connor had the authority to make that ruling for the Mexican League but not the MexPac, which is an Associate member of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (as are Nippon Professional Baseball, the Korea Baseball Organization and Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League, among others).
One thing that WAS apparently debated is the idea of a Mexican National League as a confederation of sorts between the two league to create more cooperation in the world's only nation with Class AAA-level professional baseball throughout the year. The proposal appears to be Puello's brainchild and Puro Beisbol editor Fernando Ballesteros says informed sources tell him that while three of the MexPac's teams would be in favor of such a move but only four of the Liga's 16 franchises are sympathetic.
Ultimately, the meeting in Houston produced nothing of substance beyond an apparent willingness among all sides to continue visiting the lack of breathing room between schedules, so players will have to continue waiting (if they have the time).
Guasave, Culiacan, La Paz possible Liga Norte expansion cities
While the Mexican League is clearly the king of summer baseball in Mexico, the North Mexico League has established itself as the LMB's top affiliate circuit and is considered Class AA within the country's baseball hierarchy. Now, after being a six-team loop since its 2008 formation, the Liga Norte is strongly considering adding two more franchises to become an eight-team body and one former Mexican Pacific League site is the clear front-runner for one of the teams.
LNM president Francisco Ochoa tells journalist Carlos Torres Bujanda that he has heard from an unnamed person interested in placing a Liga Norte team in Guasave, which hosted a MexPac franchise for 44 winters until the Algodoneros were sold by local owners and moved to Guadalajara and renamed the Jalisco Charros. It was rumored earlier this year that there was interest in bringing a Mexican League to Guasave, Sonora's fourth-largest city with just under 300,000 residents, but nothing has come about since the LMB office was reportedly contacted (perhaps by the same person).
A LNM franchise would make more sense for Guasave, where a team would be competing with other like-sized markets in much closer geographic proximity while a Liga Norte franchise fee would be a fraction of the 51,000,000 pesos (just under US$2.5 million under the exchange rate at the time) that Fernando Valenzuela agreed to pay for the Quintana Roo Tigres. Guasave would be an attractive place for the Liga Norte, with a good population base and an 8,000-seat ballpark in Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon that would be the league's largest since the Mexicali Centinelas moved to Tecate to become the Indios. No formal bid for a Guasave franchise in the LNM has come in at this point.
One concern about expansion Ochoa shared with Torres was that there should be two teams brought in, primarily for scheduling purposes as well as creating a suitable travel partner for Guasave, which would be otherwise be isolated as the Liga Norte's southernmost team. One feeler Ochoa claims he's received comes from Culiacan, where mayor Francisco Antonio Castaneda is said to have been interested in bringing a summer team to Estadio Tomateros as soon as this year. Ochoa said there was not enough turnaround time for that, but added that businessman Guadalupe Miranda (a friend of Mayor Castaneda's who would've operated an LNM franchise there) has instead been encouraged to invest as a partner in the existing Puerto Penasco Tiburones to gain experience first.
Attention for LNM expansion has also been directed toward La Paz, a city of nearly a quarter-million people on the Gulf of California near the southern end of the Baja Peninsula. La Paz would be virgin territory in a region (including Cabo San Lucas) that has never hosted a professional baseball team and sits a ferry ride across the water from Tompolobampo near Guasave. Although La Paz has never hosted a team, there is a 9,000-seat ballpark, Estadio Arturo C. Nahl, in town that is currently undergoing renovations as part of a 70 million peso (US$3.8 million) makeover of the city's sports complex. Baja California Sur governor Carlos Mendoza, who has contacted Ochoa at the LMN office to inquire about an expansion franchise in conjunction with Guasave's entry. Mendoza invited Ochoa to tour La Paz as part of an effort to bring baseball to the peninsula.
The Liga Norte will open its 2018 season April 3 when San Quintin visits Tecate, Caborca hosts San Luis Rio Colorado and defending champion Ensenada welcomes Puerto Penasco. Teams will play two 42-game halves between early April and mid-July, with the top four seeds (via a points system similar to that used by the Mexican Pacific League) advancing to playoffs that last into early early August.
Each LNM team has two parent clubs from the Mexican League providing players and coaches: Caborca Rojos (Laguna, Yucatan), Ensenada Marineros (Mexico City, Oaxaca), Puerto Penasco Tiburones (Saltillo, Tijuana), San Luis Algodoneros (Monclova, Puebla), San Quintin Freseros (Campeche, Quintana Roo) and Tecate Indios (Aguascalientes, Monterrey). Ballparks in the Liga Norte range in capacity from 2,500 to 5,000 sets. Tecate is replacing the Mexicali Centinelas, who played in 17,000-seat Estadio B'Air before requesting a leave of absence for 2018.
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