by Bruce Baskin
August 17, 2020 - Mexican League (ML)
MEX PAC RELEASES 2020-21 SCHEDULE
The Mexican Pacific League office has released its regular season schedule for the upcoming winterball season. The calendar has all ten teams playing 68 games spread over two halves, beginning in mid-October and running through the end of December, with Mondays used as a travel day (as has been the case for years).
One unusual feature is that the traditional two-game, home-and-away inaugural sets between rival teams are being discarded for 2020-21. While those series typically result in packed ballparks across the circuit, the possibility that no fans will be allowed in the stands due to the panicdemic has compelled the LMP to take no chances.
Instead, the regular season will open with five four-game series commencing Thursday, October 15: Mexicali at Obregon, Hermosillo at Navojoa, Mazatlan at Los Mochis, Guasave at Culiacan and Jalisco at Monterrey.
It appears that the Monterrey Sultanes may have backtracked on their plans to play home games in Mazatlan this season, although the team website wasn't even displaying a Mex Pac schedule or ticket information as this story was being written on Sunday afternoon. Sultanes sports manager Jesus Valdez Jr. was quoted in SeptimaEntrada.com as saying he was confident that the team will get the okay from Nuevo Leon state government officials to play in Monterrey with people in the stands. The Sultanes will train in Mazatlan prior to the season opener.
The first half will consist of 35 games and run through Sunday, November 22. The second half will open Tuesday, November 24, with 33-game schedules being played through Wednesday, December 30. A full eight-team, three-stage postseason will be staged in January to determine a champion that will represent the LMP and Mexico at the Caribbean Series in Mazatlan, scheduled to run from late January into early February.
Who else will participate in the Serie del Caribe is another matter due to health, economic and political concerns in other nations. Cuba was already uninvited earlier this year due their pullout from the 2020 tournament just prior to it being held in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Colombia joined 2019 champion Panama to make it a six-team field with champions from traditional CS countries Mexico (represented by LMP title-winner Culiacan), Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
ISMAEL VALDEZ SELECTED TO LATIN BASEBALL HALL OF FAME
Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Ismael "Rocket" Valdez was named last month as a 2020 inductee to the Latin American Baseball Hall of Fame in La Romana, Dominican Republic. Valdez will join Panamanian Mariano Rivera as the newest members of the pantheon, which was opened in 2010. Induction ceremonies have been delayed due to the panicdemic.
A native of Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, Ismael Valdes (who changed his surname to Valdez later in his career) was signed at age 17 in 1991 by the Dodgers out of the Pasteje Academy in Mexico City, a forerunner to the current Mexican Baseball Academy near Monterrey. Valdes was assigned to the Dodgers' Gulf Coast League Rookie Team in Florida that summer and went 2-2 with a 2.33 ERA in ten starts.
Three years later, after stops in AA San Antonio and AAA Albuquerque, Valdes made his big league debut at 20 in Los Angeles on June 15, 1994, tossing two innings of scoreless relief in a 4-2 loss to Cincinnati in front of over 51,000 onlookers at Dodger Stadium. His first win came July 5 in relief as the Dodgers pulled out a 2-1 victory in ten innings at home as the 6'3" right-hander pitched mostly out of the bullpen in 21 outings, finishing 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA. It was a nice debut for Valdes but gave no indication of what was to come.
Los Angeles manager Tommy Lasorda moved Valdes into the starting rotation early in 1995 and was rewarded when Valdes turned in a 13-11 record and 3.05 ERA (fourth-best in the National League) that included six complete games, two of them shutouts. He started a League Divisional Series against Atlanta and got a no-decision after pitching seven innings of in a 5-4 loss to the Reds, allowing a two-run homer by Reggie Sanders in the fourth.
Still, it was a good year for Valdes, who finished seventh in Rookie of the Year balloting, and began a string of five seasons in LA in which he won 58 games and turned in a sub-4.00 ERA each year before he was sent the the Chicago Cubs as part of a five-player trade in December 1999. After an ineffective stint with the Cubs (2-4, 5.37 in 12 starts), Valdes was sent BACK to the Dodgers for two minor leaguers and cash in July 2000, struggled his way to three more losses in eight starts and was declared a free agent after the season.
Valdes signed a contract with the Anaheim Angels for the 2001 season but became a bit of a baseball vagabond for the rest of his career, changing teams five times before tossing his final MLB pitch for the Florida Marlins in 2005. He had limited success along the way, going 14-9 in 2004 (after changing his surname to Valdez before the season), but ending that year with a 5.19 ERA and being traded by San Diego to the Marlins in midseason. Valdez' final big league appearance was on October 1, 2005 when he threw five relief innings against Atlanta, allowing three runs on five hits in a 6-4 win over the Braves in Miami. He then retired from baseball just weeks after his 32nd birthday. In 12 Major League seasons, Valdez had a 204-205 record and a 4.09 ERA, striking out 1,173 batters over 1,827 innings.
Valdez came out of retirement in 2013 when, at 39 years of age, he pitched eight games (including two starts) for the Mexican League's Quintana Roo Tigres. It was not the swan song he may have hoped for, going 1-1 with a 10.91 ERA before retiring for good in June, but his signing did draw the Cancun team some extra nationwide attention and he did contribute a win for manager Matias Carrillo's pennant-winning club.
He now becomes the twelfth Mexican named to the Latin American Baseball Hall of Fame. Hector Espino and Beto Avila were among the first inductees in 2010 and have been followed by Mel Almada, Chile Gomez, Angel Castro, Felipe Montemayor, Vinny Castilla, Nomar Garciaparra, Aurelio Lopez, Ted Higuera and Fernando Valenzuela. Garciaparra is actually California-born but his father Ramon is a Mexico native; Nomar is "Ramon" spelled backwards.
LIQUIDITY: THE GENERAL PROBLEM OF THE LMP
Writer Tito Escobar of ElJonronero.com recently wrote a column outlining the problems the Mexican Pacific League will face as they move forward in anticipation of playing a 2020-21 season. According to Escobar, the main problem will be the ability of Mex Pac teams to pay the bills in the face of the current panicdemic. Here is a Google translation (slightly edited) of his column:
We already know all the effects that the devastating pandemic has brought worldwide. Mexico is one of the countries hardest hit by infections and deaths, but the drive and the desire to move ahead with order while following the instructions of the federal health authorities have encouraged the reactivation of the economy in different business areas. The decision was made to carry out the 2020-21 campaign of the Mexican Pacific League but, like all entrepreneurs, today they are experiencing a complicated situation on the issue of liquidity.
This reporter has talked with owners, brands, sponsors, advertising agencies and with all those involved in the mechanics of advertising and getting sponsorships, brand managers and advertising sellers. They have found as a barrier in their work: the obvious problem of lack of liquidity.
Even so, the Mexican Pacific League remains firm, but at the moment things are complicated collectively and with almost all clubs. We know who the clubs are that have the most economic power due to their locations, but they are all important and the efforts are aimed at them: Having advertisers, the best players and, therefore, having liquidity to face the campaign.
As an example and unofficially, the negotiations with the players have flowed, but if there are cases where we will soon find out about players who (given the decision not to accept the reduction that exists as a league agreement to lower the payroll to 50%) have rejected the offers and will not play. There is everything, those who demand discreetly and those who publish private conversations such as the Cuban Félix Pérez of the Monterrey Sultans.
Each one handles their situation differently and faces the pandemic in a different way. Most understand that the easy thing was for the owners to say NO to play and voila'...they leave the player to his own devices. But that's not the case. The player is going to play with everyone sacrificing something in the face of the difficult situation because having a job in these times is a blessing.
And as many owners have mentioned to El Jonronero, with a player who does not want to play there is no problem: he stays at home, next year things are better in every way and contract negotiations begin on a regular basis. But, of course, there are no loans to other clubs for this year in the case of players who wish not to sign with their club for not wanting to accept the mandatory reduction in salary.
On the topic of brands, El Jonronero received unofficial information that two of the main advertisers at the LMP level have said no for this campaign: One prestigious brand of fried foods and a major sportsbook that has been enthusiastically supporting winter baseball year after year. But obviously, the economic damage caused by the effects of the pandemic leads them to step aside this year. Sponsoring brands are obviously also experiencing economic problems in this chain of problems unleashed by the global pandemic.
The beer brands have individual contracts with the LMP clubs and are normally one of the strongest sponsorships, but today they are in serious economic difficulty to be able to participate according to contracts. There are cases in which they want to be absent this season, as there are those who can only contribute 25% of what was agreed to and thus help in some way. Each city and each beer brand is different. The soft drink brands that distribute bottled soft drinks, tea, and natural water are waiting mainly for what is the number of people who will be authorized by the federal health authorities to enter each ballpark of LMP. They go through that as a sales projection exercise and it is logical in their business.
And so hundreds of examples, like the dealers who are seeing if they bet on selling their products like other years, are waiting. The sale of seats is a very complicated topic among fans. Buying tickets or not is what fans have in mind in all the cities and to a certain extent, it is understood. The work of each club in this sense is titanic when it comes to the bet they have made that the Mexican Pacific League season is going to be played.
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