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Baseball Analysis   Bruce Baskin 

B a s e b a l l   M e x i c o
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            The Mexican League is delaying the opening of its 2020 season for a second time. LMB president Horacio de la Vega made the announcement last Thursday in an official statement issued from the league's Mexico City offices.

            After postponing the LMB's April 6 season opener in which the defending champion Monclova Acereros were to host Monterrey, de la Vega had set a May 11 target date to start the season with hopes of playing a 102-game schedule as originally intended. Instead, de la Vega said, "Clearly we will not be in a position to open on May 11, but we are prepared and coordinated to start the 2020 season during the subsequent months and with as many games as possible; contemplating different game roles, which are feasible according to logistics, operation, competition and entertainment."  No target date was given in the statement.

            De la Vega touched on a number of other issues, including compensation for players, coaches and umpires during the inactivity. "The team owners have made significant efforts to provide short term support to the members of the respective rosters so they can face the waiting time in a dignified way to start the 2020 season," he said. "At the same time, the LMB has arranged to support the umpires so that together and as a team we all get ahead."  In hs Out 27 column, writer David Braverman said that de la Vega was long on words but lacking in details.

            The LMB's new leader, entering his first season at the helm after replacing Javier Salinas last November, said he's been maintaining contact with his Mexican Pacific League counterpart, Omar Canizales, to minimize overlapping schedules between the two leagues. De la Vega has likewise maintained communication with the federal Probeis organization, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball and the World Baseball Softball Confederation. Baseball leagues around the globe attempt to deal with an uncertain timeframe regarding the Wuhan Virus, which as of Saturday had claimed 273 lives among 4,219 confirmed cases across Mexico.

            A reporter for ESPN Deportes says the Mexican League may scale back their regular season to just one month this year. Jose Maria Garrido claims closes source to the LMB have told him the Liga is considering an option in which the season would begin August 1 and play a 30-game schedule with no off days, followed by a full eight-team, three-tier playoff calendar with best-of-7 series throughout that could see a seventh game of the Serie del Rey played on October 11 or 12. Speaking to the Septima Entrada website, de la Vega said that while the LMB is indeed looking at various scenarios for a shorter season, the 30-day schedule is not one of them.





            The Infobae website reports that Mexican League president Horacio de la Vega is under investigation for actions taken when he was director of the Mexico City Sports Institute (aka Indeporte). The Infobae story says both de la Vega and former Mexico City mayor Miguel Angel Mancera are accused of steering contracts to the Mexico City Diablos Rojos baseball team and Ocesa, an entertainment promotion company, that allowed for the privatization of 70 percent of Mexico City's government-owned Magdalena Mixhuca Sports City with no benefit to the government that owns it. Mancera left office in 2018 but is still active in politics as a member of the Senate. De la Vega was backed by Diablos owner Alfredo Harp Helo when the LMB was searching for Salinas' replacement last fall and some Mexican baseball columnists expressed their misgivings even before he was hired.


            The investigation is being conducted by the mayor's office of Iztacalco, which is one of 16 boroughs in the Federal District where the Sports City complex is located. According to Infobae, current Sports City general administrator Maximiliano Leon is helping lead the investigation into the use of public funds towards, among other things, a cycling track at the complex that was never completed due to legal conflicts between the companies that were constructing it. In addition, Leon says, the creation of an artificial lake to be used for water skiing, open swimming and diving came at the cost of five soccer fields and four basketball courts that made way for the 15 million peso lake, paid for by the local government.


            Representatives from the Sports City are said to be contemplating filing a lawsuit against de la Vega and Mancera. Leon claims that de la Vega used his position as head of Indeporte to enable Harp to construct the ballpark that bears his name without following legal requirements or providing compensation to the government. Likewise, Ocesa was allowed to expand its physical presence within the complex, which authorities claim is now about 60 percent of the total property (and even more when a Formula E electric car race in Mexico City required extra room for heavy machinery tourism buses and other related vehicles.


            In replacing Salinas, who resigned last October 8, De la Vega became the Mexican League's 26th president but its third since 2017, when Salinas was appointed to take the reins from Plinio Escalante, a Yucatan native who'd led the LMB since 2006 after working in the Yucatan Leones front office off and on since 1973. Salinas did not have a baseball background, coming to the LMB from soccer's Liga MX marketing department, while de la Vega's experience in baseball had been mostly limited to arranging exhibition games in Mexico City when he headed Indeporte, from which he stepped down after Mancera left his post as Mexico City mayor to enter the Senate.


The investigation into de la Vega and Mancera officially began last month.





            A District Court judge has granted an injunction from the Mazatlan City Council allowing municipal authorities to seize Estadio Teodoro Mariscal, home of the Mexican Pacific League's Venados. According to the Mazatlan Post, the Venados were evicted from the ballpark early last week for a series of alleged breaches of contract committed by the team, who leases the refurbished facility from the City.


            The Post article says City Council secretary Jose de Jesus Flores Segura led a group from the Mazatlan Legal Department in taking control of Estadio Teodoro Mariscal last Monday morning, ordering Venados employees at the site to clear out their personal belongings within six days before placing padlocks on the ballpark and placing security forces on duty to guard the 16,000-seat stadium. Mayor Luis Guillermo Benitez confirmed the actions one day later at a press conference.


            Estadio Teodoro Mariscal underwent an extensive renovation in 2018 for 416 million pesos (US$18 million), but the 58-year-old stadium has been surrounded by controversy since its official reopening on Friday, October 13, 2018 when the Venados hosted the Jalisco Charros in the LMP season opener for both teams. One month later, the City-owned Jumapam shut off drinking water to the ballpark, asserting the Venados owed a million pesos for water consumption over the past several months while also claiming they'd discovered a clandestine drinking system at the facility. Although that situation was eventually resolved, tensions between the City and team have remained.


            The City has reportedly taken away the stadium's concessions contract from Venados owner Jose Antonio Toledo and his family, who bought the team in 2015 from a brewery after managing concessions at home games since 1980. The City claims Toledo failed to fulfill signed agreements in which the Venados were supposed to sponsor local basketball players and boxers while delivering tickets to senior citizens. The team was also recently asked to let the City use the ballpark to deliver services to seniors in relation to the Wuhan Virus outbreak, but refused the request.


            Now that the City has taken possession of Estadio Teodoro Mariscal, the Toledo family is consulting with lawyers to seek the return of their concessions contract and regain entry to the ballpark. Venados sports manager Jesus "Chino" Valdez has said only that the team continues to operate near the club's Academy near the Sinaloa coastal city. The imbroglio's timing could not have been worse for the Venados or the Mex Pac, since the 2021 Caribbean Series had been awarded to Mazatlan.


            A rumor has been floated that Toledo is considering moving the Venados north to Tijuana, but at this point nobody appears to be taking that threat seriously. The border city has hosted Mex Pac teams in the past, with the old Potros holding the unique distinction of twice dropping out of the LMP after winning pennants and appearing the the Caribbean Series in both 1987-88 and 1990-91. The 1988 champion Potros were expelled after owner Jaime Bonilla allegedly bribed a number of Mexicali players to tank during their first round playoff series with Tijuana while the 1991 edition folded along with Guaymas, both citing financial difficulties. Bonilla was elected governor of Baja California Norte last year and said to be interested in seeing the LMP return to Tijuana despite being under a lifetime ban from the circuit.


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