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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 president of the Mexican League, Horacio de la Vega, is one of several people named in a criminal complaint alleging both fraud and patrimonial damage filed by a Mexico City-area mayor last week. According to the website, Iztacalco mayor Armando Quintero filed the complaint on July 30 with both the Mexico City attorney general and comptroller. Iztacalco is one of 16 boroughs within the Distrito Federal, with a population approaching 400,000 residents, and serves as the location for the Magdalena Mixihuca Sports City, which is where the complaint is focused.


            The 227-acre complex opened in 1958 and was used when Mexico City hosted the Summer Olympics ten years later. The multi-sport facility underwent extensive renovations while de la Vega served as director of the Mexico City Sports Institute, which overees the Sports City, prior to his resignation from the post last year. The Magdalena Mixihuca Ciudad Deportes is the site of several sporting events throughout the year, and contains the Foro Sol and Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu, past and present home stadiums for the LMB Mexico City Diablos Rojos. Both structures sit within the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, a 2.76-mile long motorsports race track.


            Quintero's complaint alleges that more than 26 million pesos (US$1.2 million) worth of fraud was committed by de la Vega and others in relation to the renovations, that were done while he headed the facility under former Mexico City mayor Miguel Angel Mancera, a former city attorney general and longtime figure in the Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, a political rival of Quintero's Morena party (from which Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador formed a coalition with two other parties to win Mexico's 2018 presidential election).


            Quintero's complaint claims that substandard workmanship and materials specifically affected an unfinished and unused BMX bicycle racing track, which is currently the subject of ongoing litigation between two private companies involved in its construction, and a new artificial lake was judged "unsustainable" because of the 3 million peso cost of maintenance, after a children's baseball field and several trees were removed to make room for it. Quintero also states that there were instances in which contracted work was never performed. The complaint says that the resulting "patrimonial damages," in which taxpayers would be required to fund repairs or complete unfinished work from the renovations, exceeds 80 million pesos (US$3.6 million).


            The 45-year-old de la Vega, who represented Mexico in the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics as a pentathlete, became director of the Sports Institute in 2013 and led the organization for six years. He is credited with bringing events connected with the NFL, NBA, MLB and Formula 1 racing to Mexico City during his time in the position before stepping down last October, two months after the Sports City held reopening ceremonies. De la Vega was named to succeed Javier Salinas as president of the Mexican League last November.





            Faced with the recalcitrance of one of their top hitters from last season, the Monterrey Sultanes signed another highly-rated batsman for the upcoming season when outfielder Danny Ortiz agreed to terms for the upcoming Mexican Pacific League season. Ortiz will presumably replace fellow outfielder Felix Perez in Monterrey's as one of three foreigners allowed on the roster.


            A former Reds farmhand, the Cuban-born Perez led Sultanes regulars last season with a .270 average and 48 RBIs while whacking 10 homers for the LMP expansion team, but is refusing to return to Monterrey at a reduced salary. Since the Sultanes also own his Mexican League rights, things could be sticky for the 35-year-old Perez next spring.


            Bringing in Ortiz will hardly be a downgrade for the Nuevo Leon-based team, who will play their home games in Mazatlan for the Wuhan virus-altered season to save on travel expenses. The 30-year-old Puerto Rican was a fourth-round draft pick for the Minnesota Twins in 2008, but made his Major League debut with Pittsburgh on April 29, 2017 after signing with the Pirates as a free agent one year earlier. Ortiz went 1-for-12 for the Buccos in nine games before returning to the minors. He spent 2018 with the Phillies' AAA affiliate in Lehigh Valley before signing with Puebla after the season. In ten MiLB campaigns with three organizations, Ortiz hit a collective .257 with 121 homers and 572 RBIs over 1,102 games.


            His first year with the Pericos was a coming-out party of sorts, as the 30-year-old Ortiz exploded for career highs with 42 homers and 114 RBIs in 117 games for Puebla while batting .312 in 2019. He was selected to play in the Mexican League All-Star Game, his third after performing in the 2011 Midwest League and 2013 Eastern League midseason showcases, and finished second in homers to Monclova's Chris Carter (who hit 49) and came in fourth in ribbies. Ortiz also won the 2019 Home Run Derby during All-Star Weekend in Mexico City. Although his power numbers won't be aided by either Puebla's high altitude or the since-discarded Franklin ball in the pitcher-friendly Mex Pac, Ortiz is expected to be a middle-of-the-order force for new manager Gerardo Alvarez' Sultanes.


            This will be his first season in the LMP, but Ortiz is no stranger to playing baseball in the winter months. The Caguas-born gardener spent all or part of ten seasons in his native Puerto Rico with the Mayaguez Indios between 2010 and 2019. Although his career winterball numbers aren't the most imposing (a .248 average, 15 homers and 132 RBIs in 332 contests), he's a two-time postseason All-Star and 2017 league MVP who's played on four pennant-winnters and in five Caribbean Series.





            Victor Gonzalez became the 130th Mexican-born player to appear in a Major League Baseball game last Saturday when the Los Angeles Dodgers rookie made a relief appearance during their game in Phoenix against the Arizona Diamondbacks.


            A 24-year-old native of Tuxpan, Nayarit, Gonzalez was sent to the mound the open the bottom of the fifth inning by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts with a 2-0 lead after starter Tony Gonsolin had tossed four frames of one-hit shutout ball. Although he showed good control by throwing 17 strikes in his 24-pitch appearance, Gonzalez did not come away unscathed.


            Diamondbacks leadoff batter Christian Walker welcomed the recent call-up from the minors with a first-pitch single to shallow right field on a 96 MPH fastball, then advanced to second on David Peralta groundout to third. After getting Stephen Vogt swinging on a slider for the second out, Gonzalez plunked Jake Lamb on an 0-2 pitch to put runners and first and second before inducing Idelmaro Vargas into a groundout to short to end the threat with a scoreless entrada.


            Things didn't go much better in the sixth for Gonzalez, who gave up a single to right by first batter Ketel Marte followed by a run-scoring double (also to right) by Kole Calhoun that cut the Dodgers lead to 2-1. That was enough for Roberts, who called it a night for Gonzalez by signaling to the bullpen for Tony Floro, who went on to end the inning with no further scoring. Arizona went on to a 5-3 comeback win, thanks to a four-run outburst in the eighth. 


            A 6'0" lefty, Gonzalez signed with Los Angeles in 2012 as a 17-year-old after being scouted by Mike Brito. He struggled his first four summers in the Dodgers organization, going 11-20 before missing the 2017 season after Tommy John surgery. His future remained in doubt upon his return when he went a combined 1-4 for Class A Great Lakes and Rookie Ogden in 2018.


            However, he turned things around last year by starting out 2-1 with a 1.65 ERA in eight appearances (five starters) at Class A Rancho Cucamonga. He then went 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA in eight starts after a May call-up to AA Tulsa before finishing the season with AAA Oklahoma City, where he had no decisions and a 3.86 ERA in 15 relief outings. Gonzalez was on the Dodgers taxi squad prior to being brought to the big club Thursday and making his MLB debut one night later.


            Although Dodgers moundmate Julio Urias is a year younger than Gonzalez, he's served as a mentor of sorts for the rookie lefty. It was Urias' turn to get into the act on Saturday with 11-2 triumph over Arizona for his first win of the year. Urias, 23, had a rocky start by throwing 28 pitches in the first inning and falling behind 1-0 on Eduardo Escobar's RBI single, but settled down enough to allow only one more run in the fourth before leaving the game with an 8-2 lead after allowing five hits on 90 pitches for his six innings of work. It was Urias' first win since June 25 of last year, when he put in another six innings in relief against the D-Backs, also in Phoenix.


            A product of Culiacan, Urias shares three things with Gonzalez: He's a lefty, he was scouted by Mike Brito and he signed with the Dodgers in 2012. He was also the last Mexican to debut for the Dodgers before Gonzalez, making his first appearance in 2016.



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