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South playoffs uncertain as final LMB Spring week arrives
The final week of the Mexican League's abbreviated Spring 2018 season is upon us and while most participants for next month's eight-team playoffs have been determined, the fourth and final positions in the South Division remain up in the air with six games left on the schedule.
In the LMB North, the Monterrey Sultanes have a 33-18 record to continue their season-long leadership in that division, although Aguascalientes (30-21) has won three straight to pass Tijuana (29-21) for second place. Monclova (26-24) is in fourth, three games behind Tijuana and four-and-a-half games in front of Durango (22-29), setting up a first-round series with Monterrey while the Rieleros and defending champ Toros are jockeying for home field advantage in their likely division semi set.
Things are much more unsettled in the South, where three teams have a chance for first place while another three are vying for the final playoff berth. Yucatan holds the best record in the league at 35-16 and have a three-game lead over Mexico City (31-18) while Quintana Roo (30-18) is on the Diablos' heels. The Tigres visit Cancun next week in what may be the most important series of the 57-game season for both teams.
Likewise, things are tight in a three-way duel for fourth place. Leon (24-26) had a solid grip on fourth before dropping eight of their last ten games, allowing Puebla (23-26) to sneak to within a half-game. Lurking behind the Bravos and Pericos is Tabasco (23-28), a team given no chance to make the postseason when the season opened but winners of seven of their last ten contests to creep to within a game-and-a-half of Leon. It seems almost certain that the standings will be close enough at season's end to force a single play-in game between the fourth- and fifth-place teams.
Isaac Rodriguez of Tijuana is bouncing back from a mediocre 2017 season in a big way, topping the Liga with a .405 batting average, 83 hits and 46 runs scored while tying Mexico City's Carlos Figueroa for the stolen bases lead at 19 apiece. The LMB's Rookie of the Year in 2016, the 27-year-old second baseman has to be in the mix for Most Valuable Player honors. There's now a three-way tie for the lead in homers as Monterrey's Ricky Alvarez is knotted up with Monclova's Jesse Castillo and Luis Juarez of Yucatan with 13 longballs each. Castillo, who joined the Acereros after a big 2017 season with Aguascalientes, is tops with 54 RBIs.
Tijuana starter Carlos Hernandez is making it harder to consider anyone else for Pitcher of the Season. The Californian leads circuit hurlers with eight wins and a 2.21 earned-run average, with his lone loss coming to Tabasco on April 11. The two-time Texas League All-Star has allowed just four walks in 53 innings over ten starts for the Toros. Josh Lowey of Monclova has the strikeout trophy ready for engraving with 74 whiffs over 65.1 frames, 21 K's ahead of Raul Valdes of Saltillo. Aguascalientes closer Anthony Carter's first year in Mexico has gone well, with 13 saves in 14 opportunities to lead the Liga while registering a 2.12 ERA in 27 trips from the Rieleros bullpen.
Yaquis pick ex-MLB infielder Oscar Robles as new manager
One year after his retirement as a player, former Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Oscar Robles has been picked to manage the Obregon Yaquis next winter in the Mexican Pacific League. Robles went out a winner after playing for the 2017 Mexican League champion Tijuana Toros, for whom he is serving this year as a coach under manager Pedro Mere. The Obregon job will be Robles' first full-time managerial gig, although he won all three games he served as a fill-in for the Navojoa Mayos in 2007-08.
The 42-year-old Robles is a Tijuana native who played high school ball in San Diego before beginning his playing career at 18 as a third round draft pick of the Houston organization in 1994, spending five seasons in the Astros system before returning south of the border to play for Oaxaca and Mexico City between 1999 and 2004. Robles used some of his signing bonus money from the Astros to buy a new scoreboard for his high school's baseball field. The Diablos sold Robles to Los Angeles for the 2005 season and he rewarded the Dodgers by hitting .272 with 44 runs in 110 games primarily at shortstop and third base.
However, he only hit .152 in 29 games for the Dodgers in 2006 and ended up spending time in the Padres and Phillies systems before returning a final time to the Mexican League in 2009 for stints in Mexico City and Tijuana over the last nine seasons of his career. While his major league batting average was a less-than-awe-inspiring .260 for 163 games in three seasons with the Dodgers and Padres, Robles was a very effective .339 hitter in 15 seasons in the LMB (topping the .350 mark five times. He also spent 21 winters playing for four teams in the MexPac.
Robles will replace Miguel Ojeda in Obregon after the Yaquis failed to qualify for the LMP playoffs for the second winter in a row. His coaching staff will include bench coach Rafael Castaneda, first base coach Leo Valenzuela, third base coach Gerardo Sanchez, batting coach Sergio Gastelum and pitching coach Tavo Alvarez.
The Trouble with Toros: American fan accuses Tijuana team of neglect, racism
The image of the Tijuana Toros as the Mexican League's model franchise has taken a bit of a hit in 2018. The first crack in the facade came during training camp, when former Los Angeles Dodgers coach Juan Castro left the franchise after first being hired in the winter as the Toros' director of baseball operations, let go without warning by team owner Alberto Uribe and then brought back as a coach, a job Castro left behind in MLB for when ended up as a disastrous two-month stint in Tijuana before he left in frustration and returned to his home in Phoenix.
Now there's an American fan expressing his own frustration with the Toros organization. The fan, who wishes to remain anonymous for now, grew up in New York and saw Mickey Mantle play for the Yankees as a youth but now works as a photographer in San Diego, where he's become a Toros fan over the past two years...until now. The following is the text from an email sent to Baseball Mexico after attempts to address a financial discrepancy that left the fan with no funds in his bank account left him as frustrated as Castro was:
I have been a big fan of this team for 2 years. I have Toros stickers on my car. I have a Toros jersey and a Toros hat. And whenever I get a chance, no matter where I am (US or MX), I gloat about how great it is to be at a Toros game. I have been to both Serie del Reys.
So I want to go to last Saturday's game (April 21). The website would not allow me to buy a ticket so I went to MacroPlaza, which is where I bought tickets last year. After dealing with Friday afternoon traffic, I walk into the Toros shop and they tell me they no longer sell tickets and I must go to the stadium. So I drive to Gasmart Stadium. I go to the ticket booth and request 2 tickets, $469 pesos. I like to sit right about 3rd base and close. By the way, I am a big baseball fan...my Dad took me to games at Yankee Stadium when I was a kid. I am old enough to have seen Mickey Mantle play his last 2 seasons. I have no cash on me (my first mistake), so I use my debit card. The kid doing the transaction seemed new but I did not interfere with his job. His manager was nearby but was not very interested in what this kid was doing. Again it is not my business, so I leave and I go to Soriana's to go food shopping because my fridge is empty.
I go to the cashier to check out and my card is denied. But I know that I have money in that account so after contacting Soriana's management to see if it was a problem with their system, I decided to contact my bank. And guess what? The kid had charged me $469 DOLLARS instead of pesos, so now I am overdrawn, and the overdraft fees roll in. I start a claim with my bank to work on getting my money back. Mind you, I do not have a dime to my name now and the bank said the investigation can take up to 10 days.
So I take a deep breath and brave the Friday evening traffic in Tijuana. I get home and start trying to contact the Toros organization. First I send a message through the Toros website. I have not seen a reply to that yet after 7 days. Then I try the Facebook page and the response is dismal at best. It was basically (paraphrase from memory), “We are sorry that you had this experience, and I hope it works out with your bank.” I send a message that I will be at the game that night if they wanted to contact me.
At the game I walked into an "office" of sorts. I meet a kid that works for the organization. He seems very confused and said to meet him after the game. The game begins and I start to feel sick, like the flu. I leave after the 4th inning and go home. I send the kid a message telling him that I am sorry but I felt sick. That was Saturday and I have not had a response yet. In the meantime I have rice and beans in my cabinet so until today, when my bank released some of the funds, it had been that for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
By Sunday my illness is not getting better so I drive to my hospital and they prescribe antibiotics. Only problem is that I have no money to buy them. I finally bought them today. In the meantime my automatic payment for my cell phone bill is denied with a $35 charge, my YMCA payment denied with a $10 charge, etc. etc.
Now I must say this. The fact that they have "stonewalled" me up to now is not a surprise (relating to their complete and utter lack of empathy). I have had 2 other very specific incidents with them in the past relating to their lack of empathy so this surprised me, and yet it did not surprise me.
By the way, I have had several other "encounters" with the Toros organization. One was re: a promo they made 2 yrs ago. It was a video with actors portraying Nazis, including Hitler ( it appeared that the Nazis were the Toros). The were standing over a large map and making a strategy to "wipe out" their opponents. Being a Jew that has lost family to the Holocaust, I was offended and I let them know this. They responded with sort of a "what's the big deal?" attitude. I tried to explain why it’s a big deal but they did not see my point. I then sent an image, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, of a male forearm with "6,000,000" written on it. They answered, "What is the point of this?” and I told them what the point was, and is.
Another issue was the use of the word "puto" in the stadium, especially against the opposing team. I asked if they knew anything about good sportsmanship. They did not answer that. And I mentioned the fine by FIFA against the Mexican National Team for the use of this word. No response on this. And children, in the stadium, are chanting it with the adults. This is a family gathering at the games..so why???
The last issue was with their #1 mascot named Chango. Chango does a lot of interacting with the crowd but the one thing that he constantly does (that I think is inappropriate) is his very sexual "pelvic thrust.” He does it a lot and the young kids try to copy him. They never answered me on this issue.
It sounds like there are a few answers for the Toros to come up with. Regarding the ticket charge issue, to quote Judge Marilyn Milian from TV's People's Court program, "PAY the man!" Concerning the Nazi references, where to begin? The fan says he's considering contacting the Anti-Defamation League about it.
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