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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 2021-22 Mexican Pacific League playoffs began on Christmas Day. All eight teams battled it out in four first-round series openers, with the visiting team coming away victorious in three of them.


            In a series that may capture the most attention among observers, defending champion Culiacan (who were the eighth and lowest postseason seed this winter) won at top-seed Navojoa, 8-5, on Saturday. The Tomateros knocked out Mayos starter Octavio Acosta with four runs in the top of the second inning and never looked back.  Culiacan was holding a 5-3 lead when they scored three more times in the eighth, including a two-run single by Jose Guadalupe Chavez with the bases loaded.


Asael Sanchez rapped a two-run homer for Navojoa in the bottom of the frame to make it a two-run game, but that would end the scoring for both teams. Manny Barreda got the win for Culiacan despite a less-than-sterling five innings of work (three runs on four hits and five walks) while Acosta was tagged for the loss as over 10,000 were in the stands at Navojoa’s Estadio Manuel “Ciclon” Echeverria, the largest gathering among the four openers.


Elsewhere, Monterrey pulled out a road win at Hermosillo, 5-4, in eleven innings to open their set on Saturday night. With the score knotted at 4-4 after ten frames, Anthony Giansanti opened the top of the eleventh for the Sultanes by getting on base after an error by Naranjeros shortstop and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Andres Martin, setting the stage for a Miguel Torrero single to put the visitors ahead by a run. Nathanael Santiago, who tossed a scoreless tenth for Monterrey, came out and pitched an unblemished eleventh to seal the win.       


            The Obregon Yaquis traveled to Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon for their series opener at Guasave and came away with a 3-1 win on Christmas. The Yaquis drew first blood in the top of the third when Ian Miller scored on Alonzo Harris’ sacrifice fly and Victor Mendoza later singled in reinforcement Isaac Rodriguez with the second run of the entrada. The Algodoneros closed the gap to 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth when Yadir Drake singled in Jhoan Urena but Obregon scored the final run of the night for both teams two frames later when Michael Wing and Juan Carlos Gamboa hit back-to-back doubles off Gusave starter Jordan Kipper, who lasted one more batter before being pulled. Kipper took the loss while Obregon starter Jake Thompson earned the win with five innings of four-hit, one-run pitching.


            Jalisco became the only home team to win their series opener after outlasting visiting Mexicali, 10-9, in 12 innings at Guadalajara. The Charros had built a 7-2 lead (aided by a trio of solo homers from Christian Villanueva, Japhet Amador and Agustin Murrillo in the bottom of the fourth) before the Aguilas plated one run in the top of the eighth and four more in the top of the ninth as Luis Jimenez stroked a two-run double and later scored on a Aneuty Tavarez double to even the score at 7-7. Both teams scored twice in the tenth but the night’s heroics belonged to Charros shortstop Missael Rivera, who led off the 12th with a double and advanced to third before coming in with the game-winner on Villanueva’s sacrifice fly to right to end a game that featured a combined 28 hits and 11 walks.




            Fifteen minutes after the final regular season game concluded, the eight playoff teams held a so-called reinforcement draft of players from Mazatlan and Los Mochis, the two clubs that didn’t advance. With the first pick, Obregon chose Los Mochis second baseman Isaac Rodriguez. Guasave followed by plucking another second sacker, Mazatlan’s Ramon Rios, while Hermosillo took Venados infielder Isaac Paredes with the third pick. In all, 16 Los Mochis and Mazatlan players were selected over two rounds, nine of them pitchers.


A similar draft will be held prior to the semifinals and finals. The eventual champions will be able to load up on more reinforcements before heading the the Caribbean Series in Santo Domingo with a roster that bears little resemblance to their regular season lineup. A similar process is carried out in other winter leagues, making the Serie del Caribe more a tournament of all-star teams than league champions.





After being named Most Valuable Player of the Mexican Winter League this season, Yucatan Lions outfield prospect Oliver Carrillo, has been signed by the San Diego Padres.  


A 5’11” 210-pounder, Carrillo caught the attention of the San Diego organization after leading the LIM in several offensive departments playing for a team of players from the Yucatan, Veracruz and Durango LMB organizations. He came very close to obtaining the Triple Crown by being champion with 8 home runs and 46 RBIs, plus a .586 on-base percentage and an .806 slugging percentage,  finishing second in batting percentage at .441.


Nicknamed “Chanito,” Carrillo was one of the young players to make their debut this year in the Mexican League with the Leones, playing one inning in right field and going 0-for-1 in his lone plate appearance as a pinch-hitter for Luis Juarez during a June 6 game against Quintana Roo.


The veteran Juarez took the youngster under his wing and has said “It’s a pleasure and a pride that young people like him get to have these kinds of opportunities and it is a case of perseverance of someone who did not give up. Many times they told him no and he did not get tired. He gave himself to baseball as he should and received a very large reward.”.


Carrillo’s training began after he was signed by Yucatán at the Academia de Beisbol del Pacífico. "The process has always been strong. I lasted three years at the Pacific Baseball Academy, then they sent me to the Monterrey Academy to continue with my training and thank God the results were good," said the right-handed batter who’ll turn 20 on January 19.


During his stay as a Leones recruit, Carrillo has also shone in different national and international tournaments, being the champion and best hitter in the International Series of Prospects organized by PROBEIS and managed by Yucatan’s incoming sports manager, Santos Hernandez.


The native of Rosario, Sinaloa, signed in the presence of Padres scout Emmanuel Rangel and was accompanied by Leones co-owner Erick Arellano, who commented that he feels proud and excited by the signing of the Sinaloan player, since he had to look at the process within the academy. "Several organizations had been following him,” said Arrellano, “but what really motivated this team (the Padres) was the season he had in the Winter League. He is a healthy boy and while I am happy with all the signatures, this one has a special feeling."


Through their Pacific Baseball Academy in Mazatlan, the Leones have managed to place a total of 38 players with Major League Baseball organizations in six years.



MAESTROS OF MEXICO: Miguel “Pilo” Gaspar, C


A defensive genius, Pilo Gaspar was recognized internationally as one of the best receivers in Mexican baseball and a consistent batter who could get a hit off any pitcher at the most opportune moment.


In 1949, he began playing professionally in the old Pacific Coast League with Guaymas and was the Rookie of the Year that winter.  The 6’1” 178-pound Gaspar went on to play minor league ball for eight seasons in the United States, including three years in the Orioles farm system and one with the Dodgers. The earliest part of his summer career was spent with Laredo, where he hit 44 homers between 1950 and 1951 (including four in one April 1951 game against Texas City.  Ironically, he only whacked 29 more roundtrippers over the final 26 years of his pro career.


Gaspar played 11 games in 1951 for Nuevo Laredo in the Mexican League but did not come home to play for good until 1958, when he played 81 games for both the Tecolotes and Yucatan and hit .282 with five homers.  He eventually settled in behind the plate for Veracruz in 1959, and played 11 seasons for the Aguilas, topping the .300 mark four times (including a career-best .330 in 1961).  Pilo was in his 40’s when he moved on to Union Laguna for two years beginning in 1970, hitting .292 and .269.


After a .250 campaign with Tampico in 1972, Gaspar went on to play two more years with Chihuahua before hanging up his catcher’s mitt following the 1974 season at the (reported) age of 45.  He singled and doubled in two pinch-hit opportunities for Chihuahua in 1976, and went 2-for-9 in five more games in 1977, even attempting to steal a base (he got caught) before stepping down for good.


Over his long professional career, Pilo played in 2,604 games, totaling 2,419 hits, 346 doubles and 1,062 RBIs and hitting .288. In the Mexican Pacific League, Gaspar spent several winters with Guaymas, Navojoa and Hermosillo, connecting for 503 hits and an average of .262. Gaspar, who managed Mexican League teams in Veracruz, Chihuahua and Quatzocoalcos, was elected to the Salon de la Fama in 1994.


Gaspar was mentioned in Bill Heward’s 1974 gem of a book, “Some Are Called Clowns,” a diary of Heward’s 1973 season with the barnstorming Indianapolis Clowns.  The book touched on Mexican baseball in one chapter, including this passage quoting one of Heward’s teammates who spent time south of the border: “Our catcher was a guy named Pelo (sic) Gaspar, out of Sonora, Mexico. Some say he’s 42. Other guys who’re in the know say he’s 50. What a baseball head!  I never saw him blow a popup.  Pelo had a fabulous arm.  I never saw a guy steal on him. Pelo’s right index finger was broken and bent sideways about 45 degrees. The players who didn’t know him would thumb their noses and say, ‘Aw, crooked finger.’ But when he threw out two or three of them they forgot about his finger.”




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