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Baseball Mexico

by Bruce Baskin
July 6, 2020 - Eastern Basketball Development League ()

MEXICAN LEAGUE CANCELS 2020 SEASON

As reported on BBM last week, the Mexican League has decided to cancel the 2020 season over concerns due to the Wuhan virus. The death toll attributed to the pandemic in Mexico passed the 30,000 mark over the weekend out of a total of more than 255,000 confirmed infections. The China-bred virus has been particularly problematic in Mexico City, where both the LMB office and the Liga's flagship Diablos Rojos franchise are located.

In March, the LMB ordered training camps for all 16 teams to close while postponing the scheduled regular season, which had been scheduled to open April 6 in Monclova with the defending champion Acereros were to host rival Monterrey. After much subsequent discussion among team owners and federal health officials (during which Liga president Horacio de la Vega stated more than once that the loop could not afford to play games in empty ballparks), an August 7 date was given for an abbreviated 48-game regular season followed by a 12-team playoff that would last into November.

However, speculation in the Mexican media last week that the season was on the verge of being canceled became reality on Wednesday, July 1, when the LMB office issued a statement calling things off. Unsurprisingly, reactions were swiftly delivered. The translated statement is available in its entirety in the BBM archives.

Two LMB players expressed opinions on Twitter. A 22-year veteran, Aguascalientes designated hitter Saul Soto, who finished the 2019 season with 288 career Mexican League homers, was philosophical but wishes something more could have been done to help the people affected: "If the decision made by the LMB was 'no' to play in 2020, I know it would be for the health and good of everyone, but I also think that in team meetings, a general plan would have to come out to help all of us who depend on this beautiful sport." Soto, who turns 42 in August, hit .268 and belted 22 homers for the Rieleros last year.

Campeche second baseman Jasson Atondo, who was entering his sixth Liga season, called out observers he felt were happy the circuit decided not to play this year: "There are many who gloriously celebrate that there will be no LMB. Have you thought about how many people will stop receiving a salary for that? Players, coaching staff, batboys, writers, umpires, security guards, lockers, vendors, seat ushers, janitors and more." The 24-year-old Atondo was the Mexican Pacific League's Rookie of the Year playing with Hermosillo in 2018-19.

People like Soto and Atondo were not the only ones expressing their thoughts. Dos Laredos Tecolotes owner Jose Antonio Mansur was quoted on the El Fildeo website as saying players need to do a better job of saving money: "With all my love and respect for the players, I would say 'gentlemen, learn to save!' They do very well. According to the payrolls of the teams, on average they earn between 150,000 and 200,000 pesos (US$6,700-9,000) a month. It is a good salary." Mansur added that players "should not attack the owners so much on social media, as if they did not have interesting salaries." Last week's official statement reads, in part, that "The LMB and its 16 teams agree to provide financial support to the players, as well as to the umpires," but does not specify any numbers.

The decision has left players scrambling for teams to earn a living with, with one in particular choosing to play in Cuba, which seems an odd choice at first glance. Yucatan outfielder Yadir Drake has agreed to suit up for Matanzaz Cocodrilos of the Cuban National Series, beginning in August. The 2017 Mexican League batting champion is a Matanzas native who will spend two months with his hometown team before reporting to the Guasave Algodoneros in October for the LMP season. Drake was a catcher from 2009-11 for the Cocodrilos, who won their first CNS title in 28 years last winter, and is returning home next month to fulfill a promise to his grandmother, according to Andy Yan of SwingCompleto.com.

El Fildeo adds that the Puebla Pericos are looking into starting their own winterball league for players without a place to play in the Mex Pac. According to Pericos vice president Alfonso Lopez, the proposed loop would contain three teams with games to begin October 10 at Estadio Hermanos Serdan in Puebla, which would host all contests. The Veracruz Winter League, long an alternative for players not in the LMP, did not operate last winter and does not appear ready to fire back up for 2020-21.

MEX PAC HOPING TO OPEN WINTERBALL CAMPAIGN OCTOBER 12

Although the Mexican League will not play a game in 2020 for the first time in its 95-year history, their winterball counterparts in northwest Mexico are planning to start their upcoming season on time. Mexican Pacific League president Omar Canizales will hold a videoconference this week with his ten team owners to confirm October 12 as the LMP's inaugural date for the 2020-21 season, contingent on health authorities giving the green light for games.

Puro Beisbol editor Fernando Ballesteros reports that people from three LMP clubs have told him the league plans to start up in three months, although all ten teams must sign off on the proposal. The Mex Pac's starting date has been a fluid one because the Junior Circuit had been waiting to see what the Mexican League was going to do before committing to setting their own schedule. With the LMB deciding last week to go dark, the calendar opened up for the LMP and allowed them to plan the schedule within their traditional timeframe of three months (October through December) for the regular season and January for a three-tiered playoff.

Unlike the Mexican League, which has no large television presence to help underwrite costs that might have allowed them to play in front of empty stands, the LMP signed a contract with England-based SKY Sports last winter that will help lessen the financial losses that Canizales has said will occur this winter, although Ballesteros is optimistic that teams will break even. SKY Sports is contracted to stream all Mex Pac games live this winter. The cost of a SKY subscription is currently just over $US42. Puro Beisbol states that each Mex Pac team is expected to receive between 12 and 15 million pesos ($US$54,000-67,000) from the league office, an amount that will greatly benefit teams in smaller markets with smaller bank accounts like the Navojoa Mayos, Los Mochis Caneros and Guasave Algdoneros.

Although the SKY Sports contract should provide a financial shot in the arm to LMP teams, the debate continues over whether only Mexican players should be allowed this season. Although the ten owners have been split down the middle over the issue (the more well-off franchises want to bring in more expensive extraneros while the less-affluent clubs prefer more affordable homegrown talent), Ballesteros indicates a majority of owners may now be in favor of allowing imports. The topic will no doubt be brought up Wednesday.

One more item that will likely be discussed is the situation in Mazatlan, where a June 30 deadline from the Caribbean Professional Baseball Confederation (CBPC) to resolve the ongoing dispute between the Venados and the City regarding control of Estadio Teodoro Mariscal for the coming season, including the Caribbean Series in late January. Ruben Castro of ESPN Deportes writes that the Venados have sent Mazatlan mayor Luis Guillermo Benitz Torres what they call a "very balanced agreement" between the two sides with advantages to neither in which the team seeks the ballpark "on loan" through the end of the Serie del Caribe. The agreement is said to leave all litigation between City and team in place until after a judge can hear the dispute in court.

Sinaloa governor Quirino Ordaz Coppel reportedly assured on radio that the Caribbean Series will be held in Mazatlan, but Castro says the LMP Assembly of Presidents are ready to select another venue for the Crown Jewel of Latin Baseball if an agreement is not in place when they convene their videoconference on Wednesday.

WBSC U-23 WORLD CUP POSTPONED UNTIL 2021

The Mexican League was not the only baseball-related activity south of the border to go by the wayside last week. The World Baseball Softball Confederation postponed its Under-23 Baseball World Cup, which had been scheduled to take place September 30 through October 9 in both Obregon and Los Mochis (with the majority of games going to Obregon's Estadio Yaquis). The tournament has been rescheduled for September 24 through October 3, 2021.

The following is adapted from a WBSC press release of June 20:

The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), together with the Mexican Baseball Federation and respective Local Organizing Committee (LOC), has announced the postponement of the 2020 WBSC U-23 Baseball World Cup to September 24 to October 3, 2021, in consideration of the global health and safety measures and travel limitations pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world-championship event had been set to take place this year from September 30 to October 9 in the Mexican cities of Ciudad Obregon and Los Mochis.

"As we continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic, the WBSC, as well as our hosts and all concerned stakeholders, consider the rescheduling of the U-23 Baseball World Cup to 2021 to be the best and safest course of action," said WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari.

"While today's decision is disappointing, I am confident that our Mexican hosts next year will be able to deliver the best-ever U-23 Baseball World Cup, where fans can fill the stadiums and cheer on their favorite National Teams, building upon the wave of momentum for our sport in the weeks following the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

"The WBSC thanks the local authorities, PROBEIS and CONADE as well as the baseball officials in Mexico -- including our colleagues from the Mexican Baseball League (LMB) and the Mexican Pacific League (LMP) -- for their support and collaboration."

The venue plan of the U-23 Baseball World Cup includes the 16,000-seat Estadio Yaquis, which opened in 2016 and is the home of the Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican Pacific League (LMP), and the recently renovated Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada, home of the LMP's Cañeros de Los Mochis.

The 12 qualified teams competing for baseball's world title in the U-23 category will remain as follows:

Africa (1): No. 24 South Africa

Americas (4): No. 5 Mexico, No. 7 Cuba, No. 8 Venezuela, No. 15 Nicaragua

Asia (3): No. 1 Japan, No. 4 Taiwan and No. 22 China

Europe (2): No. 16 Czech Republic and No. 19 Germany

Oceania (1): No. 39 New Zealand

Wild Card (1): No. 3 South Korea

Mexico won the last U-23 Baseball World Cup, which was held in Barranquilla, Colombia, in October 2018. It was Mexico's first-ever official world title in the sport of baseball.

Previous U-23 Baseball World Cups have included the top young professional players from clubs affiliated to the Australian Baseball League (ABL), Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL), Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), Major League Baseball (MLB), Mexican Baseball League (LMB), Nicaraguan Professional Baseball League, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), in addition to other leagues around the world.

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