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Baseball Mexico

by Bruce Baskin
February 24, 2020 - Mexican League (ML)

CARIBBEAN SERIES TO MOVE TO JANUARY?

The president of the Caribbean Professional Baseball Confederation is floating the idea of moving the Caribbean Series one week ahead to the end of January and the leader of the Mexican Pacific League, whose Mazatlan franchise will host the Serie del Caribe in 2021, is receptive to the idea.

According to the Septima Entrada website, CBPC head Juan Francisco Puello says that one reason for an earlier start is so more national winterball champions can take part in the event "as long as they meet the requirements and that we have the time for that...time is very important." Puello also told Septima Entrada that "we have a term according to the agreement with Major League Baseball, a limited period, so I have always insisted that this series should start at the end of January and conclude at the latest, in my opinion, on February 1."

Six nations sent their winter league champions to San Juan, Puerto Rico earlier this month for the Caribbean Series, including the Dominican Republic (home of the CS winner Este Toros), Venezuela, Mexico, Panama, first-timers Colombia and host Puerto Rico. Cuba was scheduled to send their CNS champion for the seventh consecutive year but backed out a month before the tournament, stating visa problems. Puello has disqualified Cuba from sending their pennant-winner to Mazatlan next January but is said to be interested in bringing new entries, perhaps from Nicaragua, Curacao or Argentina.

Such a move would almost guarantee the demise of the Latin American Series, a second-tier competition that was scheduled for January but cancelled after Panama and Colombia both took part in the CS instead while the Veracruz Winter League in Mexico went dark, leaving Nicaragua and Argentina as the sole LAS nations free to participate. Curacao was set to send champions Santa Maria to the 2019 LAS in Veracruz last winter but pulled out of the tournament, leading to the host LIV to be represented by two teams, Acayucan and Xalapa.

Puello added that another consideration in proposing an earlier Caribbean Series is so it won't have to compete with the NFL's Super Bowl championship game, which also happens in early February. The CPBC will take up the matter at their next plenary session, ahead of which, Puello says, "We are working to see what the leagues think and hopefully, God willing, that can be confirmed to give a 180-degree turn to the Caribbean Series."

For his part, Mexican Pacific League president Omar Canizales is open to the idea of his league concluding its season earlier to accommodate the Caribbean Series in late January. "We have to analyze the schedule we assembled this last season with ten teams," said Canizales. "This forces us to put together a mirror calendar so teams can have road trips, home games, weekends...it can be a bit complicated. However, we are always in the best position to find formulas that help the Caribbean Series.

"At the same time, we have to take care of our local championship, without a doubt. Our local championship is very important."

16 CANDIDATES NAMED ON 2020 SALON DE LA FAMA BALLOT

Former Mexican League slugger and Florida Marlins Matias Carrillo topped a list of ten new Salon de la Fama candidates that will join six existing nominees on the ballot to be sent out voters later this winter. Carrillo received 53 nominations from the 54 journalists and broadcasters who filled out their preliminary votes earlier this year. Ballots were counted by Mexican League president Horacio De La Vega, his Mexican Pacific League counterpart, Omar Canizales, Salon de la Fama director Francisco Padilla and Salon historian Horacio Ibarra.

Here's a list of the top ten vote-getters: Matias Carrillo (53 votes), Isidro Marquez (48), Vinny Castilla (43), Jose Luis Sandoval (43), Eduardo Jimenez (37), Luis Arredondo (29), Erubiel Durazo (22), Juan Manuel Palafox (21), Roberto Vizcarra (21) and Cecilio Ruiz (18).

A native of Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Carrillo batted .251 over 107 Major League games for Milwaukee and Florida spread over three seasons between 1991 and 1994 but by far had his greatest success in the LMB. In 22 Liga seasons, El Coyote hit .336 with 2,531 hits, including 330 homers, 420 doubles, 1,631 RBIs and 276 stolen bases. He is the only player in Mexican League history to top the 250 mark in both homers and steals and has gone on to become a successful, if well-traveled, manager.

Marquez was a top reliever with a similarly long career, coming out of retirement at age 54 to make six scoreless appearances with his hometown Navojoa Mayos of the Mexican Pacific League this winter. He is the Mexican League's all-time saves leader with 301, nearly 100 more than his nearest competitor, Sixto Baez (who had 210), and earned saves in all three games of a series three times for Campeche in 2003.

The ten aforementioned players will be on the ballot with holdovers Nick Castaneda, Alex Trevino, Antonio Pulido, Francisco Garcia, Homar Rojas and Pablo Gutierrez, who've all been up for election in years past. From the ballot of 16 nominees, voters will determine the next five new members of the Salon de la Fama. Results will be announced in April and induction ceremonies held n November.

The Salon de la Fama spent seven years in limbo after the Cuauhtemoc brewery in Monterrey shut down the building where the museum had been housed in 2012. A new hall of fame in Monterrey was paid for by Mexico City Diablos Rojos owner Alfredo Harp Helu and formally opened February 20, 2019. In its first year, the Salon welcomed nearly 65,000 visitors from 27 countries.

"PANCHO PONCHES" NAMED NEW CAMPECHE MANAGER

One of the Mexican League's most venerable and beloved pitchers will remain in Campeche as Francisco "Pancho Ponches" Campos has been named manager of the Piratas for 2020. A 15-time All-Star who spent nearly all of his 27-year LMB career pitching in the Walled City, Campos retired as an active player following the 2019 season. The Guaymas native has served as a bullpen and pitching coach over the past three winters for the Culiacan Tomateros of the Mexican Pacific League, but this will be his first manager's job.

Campos made his professional baseball debut in 1991 with Houston's Gulf Coast League affiliate as a catcher after wowing scouts at a tryout in Hermosillo. However, the 18-year-old hit just .147 for an Astros' rookie league squad that included future MLB star Bobby Abreu, then a 17-year-old outfielder. Campos also struggled defensively committing four errors and waving at nine passed balls, although the strong-armed backstop nailed 15 baserunners over his 21 outings. Campos' switch to the pitcher's mound following his release proved to be a prescient move.

Originally a Monclova property, Campos was sent to Campeche in 1993 and, except for stints in the Brewers and White Sox organizations and a late-season loan in 2006 to Monterrey (where he went 5-0 for the LMB North champ Sultanes), the man eventually known throughout Mexico as "Pancho Ponches" remained a Piratas mound mainstay for 27 seasons. After coming into the 2016 with 192 career wins, Campos struggled for four years to record his 200th victory, finally doing do last July 2 at home against Union Laguna and immediately going on the reserve list following what proved to be his last game. His 2,181 strikeouts place him fourth on the LMB's all-time list and he holds the record with five ponches titles. Campos also won the Pitching Triple Crown in 2004 with a 12-2 record, 99 K's and a 1.47 ERA, becoming the only hurler since Reynosa's Jim Horsford in 1968 to turn the hat trick. He tossed a no-hitter against Puebla in 2008, the year before he won his third ERA title.

Francisco Campos is arguably Mexican baseball's best pitcher of the 21st century and a sure bet for the Salon de la Fama, but now he'll take over from Jesus Sommers (a Salon member himself) to manage a team that finished 47-68 in 2019 and missed the playoffs for the third straight year. He becomes the LMB's latest managerial hire after Aguascalientes replaced Felix Fermin (gone to Durango) with Luis Carlos Rivera, who was canned in Yucatan last season after a previous stint in Leon.

Campos and Rivera bring the total number of Mexican-born managers in the LMB to ten (seven in the South Division) as teams open training camps. Campos is one of three homegrown skippers making their managerial debuts in 2020, joining Erick Rodriguez in Oaxaca and Dos Laredo's Pablo Ortega. Rodriguez, who played in his seventh All-Star Game of the decade last season, will become the LMB's first player/manager since Saul Soto performed double-duty on an interim basis with Aguascalientes in 2016. Tim Johnson, who'll make his Leon debut this spring, is the only extranero helmsman in the LMB South.

The following is a list of current Mexican League managers (as of February 23) and their countries of origin:

NORTH DIVISION

Aguascalientes - Luis Carlos Rivera (Mexico)

Dos Laredos - Pablo Ortega (Mexico)

Durango - Felix Fermin (Dominican Republic)

Monclova - Pat Listach (United States)

Monterrey - Roberto Kelly (Panama)

Saltillo - Roberto Vizcarra (Mexico)

Tijuana - Omar Vizquel (Venezuela)

Union Laguna - Omar Malave (Venezuela)

SOUTH DIVISION

Campeche - Francisco Campos (Mexico)

Leon - Tim Johnson (United States)

Mexico City - Sergio Gastelum (Mexico)

Oaxaca - Erick Rodriguez (Mexico)

Puebla - Carlos Gastelum (Mexico)

Quintana Roo - Adan Munoz Mexico)

Tabasco - Pedro Mere (Mexico)

Yucatan - Geronimo Gil (Mexico)


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Mexican League Stories from February 24, 2020


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