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Baseball Mexico

by Bruce Baskin
March 27, 2018 - Mexican League (ML)

Lowey, Acereros top TJ, 6-1, in Mexican League 2018 opener

The Mexican League's Pitcher of the Year for 2016, Josh Lowey, tossed five innings of two-hit shutout ball and former American League Championship Series MVP Delmon Young slugged a solo homer to lead the Monclova Acereros to a 6-1 win over defending champions Tijuana last Thursday night in the LMB's Spring 2018 season opener at a sold-out Estadio B'Air in the border city.

Lowey looked like the Lowey of two years ago as the Liga strikeout king for the past two summers whiffed four Toros batters and walked two. It wasn't entirely a sleigh ride for the Floridian righty, though, as he loaded the bases in the bottom of the first by walking Isaac Rodriguez and Dustin Martin after Tijuana leadoff hitter Justin Greene reached first on a throwing error by Monclova third baseman Rudy Amador, but Lowey settled down to retire dangerous batters Cyle Hankerd, Corey Brown and Jorge Cantu on ten pitches to escape the inning unscathed en route to setting down ten straight Toros batsmen.

Young, who swatted 18 homers for Detroit in 2012 and paced the Tigers' four-game sweep of the Yankees with two homers, a double and six RBIs, took Tijuana's ageless reliever Rafael Diaz deep in the third with a line-drive bomb over the wall in left-center to bring give the Acereros a 4-0 lead after Monclova had scored three times in the second, starting with an Alberto Carreon double that plated Matt Clark with the game's first run. The Steelers' lead had risen to 6-0 before Greene scored TJ's lone run from third on a Martin ground-out against reliever Zach Phillips.

A total of 17,698 fans packed the stands for the contest in Tijuana, held one night before the rest of the LMB teams opened their seasons on Friday. In all there were three sellout crowds among the eight Liga openers. Besides the full house in Tijuana, a total of 21,746 aficionados were on hand at Estadio Monterrey for the Sultanes' 5-1 win over rival Saltillo as Agustin Murillo reached base four times (two singles, two walks), scored once and drove in a run while 5,600 onlookers filled tiny Estadio Fray Nano in Mexico City for the Diablos Rojos' 8-5 loss to Puebla in which the Pericos broke open a scoreless tie with a seven-run fifth inning keyed by Michael Crouse's two-run double. Surprisingly, the usually-moribund Tabasco Olmecas lured 8,132 fans to Parque Centenario 27 de Febrero for a 4-2 defeat to Yucatan, thanks to Jose Aguilar's tiebreaking two-run single in the top of the ninth. At the other end of the spectrum, just 4,138 were on hand in Leon to see the Bravos hold off Oaxaca, 7-6, as veteran third sacker Miguel Torrero singled, tripled, scored two runs and drove in three for the home team.

MexPac to move league office from Hermosillo to Guadalajara

After nearly five decades with headquarters in Hermosillo, the Mexican Pacific League has announced it will be moving its offices east to Guadalajara during the offseason. The LMP has been based in the Sonora city since 1970-71, when the circuit changed its name from Sonora-Sinaloa League to its current title and became part of the revived Caribbean Series lineup (along with Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic) after the CS had been discontinued in 1961 following Cuba's exit in the wake of a communist takeover of the island nation, where purported baseball fan Fidel Castro abolished the professional game and replaced it with the nominally-amateur Cuban National Series.

In announcing the shift from Hermosillo, MexPac president Omar Canizales said "the Assembly of Presidents, where the eight teams were represented, agreed to a very important decision in making a move from the current headquarters of the Liga del Pacifico de Beisbol to the city of Guadalajara." Canizales explained that the objective in the move is "having greater closeness to different actors in the media and different business partners, as well as a greater presence in the center of the country." Home of the Jalisco Charros, Guadalajara is Mexico's second-largest metropolitan area with more than five million residents (Hermosillo's metro population is about 900,000) and is easily the easternmost franchise site in the LMP.

Much speculation has arisen among Mexican baseball columnists about the move, much of it on whether Canizales & Company are gearing up for expansion away from the Pacific coast and into the country's larger population centers. The shift of the Guasave Algodoneros to Guadalajara in 2014 marked the first venture outside states bordering the Gulf of California and Canizales has previously said he'd be interested in placing MexPac franchises in Mexico City and Monterrey. Some talk is that the shift may be tied to a proposed Mexican National League in which stronger franchises from both the LMP and Mexican League would combine into one larger circuit playing year-round using Liga MX soccer's two-season approach as a template in much the same way the Liga is going this year with their Spring and Fall seasons and playoffs. At this juncture, however, speculation is just that.

There appears little doubt that the move to Guadalajara is in part a reaction to the very proactive moves that first-year LMB president Javier Salinas has been making to raise the profile of his circuit as the LMP completed a schedule amid concerns of stagnating and declining attendance in many of its cities, with one Puro Beisbol writer stating that he believed the announced attendance at a number of ballparks was fudged after watching games on TV showing the stands far less occupied than the boxscores were stating. Although it is the younger of the two leagues based in smaller cities than the Liga, the MexPac has shown itself to be the better-attended and more stable league of the two over the past several years. The LMB still has plenty of problem franchises (Puro Beisbol editor Francisco Ballesteros says that only five or six of the Liga's 16 teams are on solid financial ground, with a like number subsidized almost entirely by local and/or state governments) with many unresolved internal issues such as Rookiegate, but Salinas' bold offseason moves may be forcing Mexico's Junior Circuit to step up its own game.

The next LMP Assembly of Presidents meeting is slated for April 19 in Mazatlan, where league officials will tour Estadio Teodoro Mariscal to view upgrades being made to that ballpark.

Ex-MLB player, coach Castro claims mistreatment during short Toros stint

Former Major League Baseball infielder Juan Gabriel Castro, who served as a coach for the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers last season, is now looking for work after a short, strange term of employment with the Mexican League's Tijuana Toros came to an end after just two months. And the 45-year-old Los Mochis native is not happy about his first foray in LMB baseball.

Castro spent all or part of 17 seasons in the big leagues between 1995 and 2011, primarily with the Dodgers and Cincinnati. While never an established starter, Castro made himself useful with his versatility as a shortstop who could fill in capably at second or third base. He hit .229 with 36 homers for his career, batting .253 with career highs of nine homers and 33 RBIs over 113 games for the Reds in 2003 for his best offensive season. Following his retirement as a player in 2011, Castro was named as a special assistant to the General Manager with the Dodgers and also coached the Mexican National Team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic under current White Sox skipper Rick Renteria. He's spent the last two summers as the Dodgers' Quality Assurance Coach for helmsman Dave Roberts.

That pedigree was enough to draw the interest of Toros owner Alberto Uribe, who first expressed interest in Castro joining the borderite squad after the latter sent a congratulatory note to Uribe following Tijuana's win over Puebla in the LMB Championship Series last year. According to Castro, the two went on to discuss Castro making a powerpoint presentation using sabermetrics to the Toros' front office staff during the offseason, a conversation that led to Uribe offering Castro the job of Sports Director (with duties similar to a General Manager north of the border), a position that had been left vacant after former MLB pitcher Jorge Campillo was moved into a Vice President position at the end of September. After Castro accepted, he says, that's when things went south.

In a letter posted by Mexico City's Excelsior, Castro says that he took the job in December, letting the Dodgers brass know he was moving on and reported for work in January. After a month on the job, however, Castro says Uribe told him that "I have decided to take up the sports administration of the organization and will support you until you can resume your successful life and career plan." In other words, you're fired. Castro says that Uribe urged him to stay in contact with the Toros secretary to coordinate payments from the team until he found a new job.

Confused by the situation after receiving a text from the team eight days later that they were waiting for him to "report to work," Castro drove to the Toros training camp in Tucson for a meeting with Uribe, who he says never showed up but had arranged for the ex-big leaguer to serve as a coach under Tijuana manager Pedro Mere. While noting in text exchanges with the front office that he had been hired as a GM and not a coach, Castro says he spent last month helping the team prepare for the season but received no pay for his time in camp before leaving for his home in Phoenix.

The experience has left Castro wondering why he was let go, let alone what he's going to do now, thanks to Uribe: "It is very sad that the lack of ethics and professionalism has left me without a job with the Dodgers because of all the promises that Mr. Uribe made to convince me to work for the Tijuana Toros team as sports director," Castro's letter states. "In the end, because a person changed his mind, it's left me without the opportunity to continue as a coach in the best baseball in the world with the Dodgers."

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Mexican League Stories from March 27, 2018


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