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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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            Saltillo Saraperos pitcher Sergio Mitre, a California native who spent all or part of eight seasons in Major League Baseball, was arrested and jailed earlier this month on suspicion of the rape and murder of the 2-year-old daughter of his teenage live-in girlfriend. Mitre was initially arrested in downtown Saltillo early Monday, July 13 by members of the Criminal Investigation Agency, who booked him into the Strategic Operations Center for possession of two bags of marijuana, according to Saltillo's El Zocalo newspaper. The rape and murder charges were brought forth two days later.


            The 39-year-old Mitre had been romantically involved for three months with with a 19-year-old woman, who had a two-year-old daughter from a prior relationship. Fansided's David Hill reports that the toddler was taken to a doctor due to excessive vomiting. She continued vomiting throughout the day, when it was discovered during an examination that she also had a rupture of her renal artery. The rupture caused the toddler to go into shock before she died on July 12, one day before Mitre was first arrested. A subsequent investigation by authorities resulted in the added charges on July 15.


            Hill adds that this was not the first time Mitre (who was born in Los Angeles and raised in the San Diego area) has run afoul of the law. In August 2019, while pitching for the Saraperos, Mitre was arrested on an attempted femicide charge after allegedly trying to kill a former girlfriend in a hotel. He was suspended by the team, who'd signed Mitre three months earlier following his release from the Dos Laredos Tecolotes. Local law enforcement authorities eventually set him free with orders to wear an electronic tracking bracelet after Mitre paid a fine of 20,000 pesos (about US$1,000).


            The Saraperos issued an official statement at the time of Mitre's release decrying domestic violence, but the team brought him back for 2020 and had the 6'3" righthander making autograph-signing appearances and even a promotional video as one of their "faces" before his July 13 arrest. This time, both the Saraperos and Mexican League suspended Mitre shortly after the rape and murder charges were filed. The Septima Entrada website says "the Mexican League sent a statement explaining that 'based on the current regulations of the Mexican Baseball League, the pitcher Sergio Mitre is suspended indefinitely while he is under investigation for his alleged involvement in a serious crime.' In addition to that, in a brief statement the squad from Saltillo explained that they disapprove of any act of violence and atypical and unacceptable conduct against the values and principles of society."


            Mitre pitched scholastically for Chula Vista's Montgomery High School (which also produced future MLB infielder Oscar Robles, who'll manage Guasave for a second Mexican Pacific League season this winter) and San Diego City College before being a seventh round draft choice by the Chicago Cubs in 2001. He debuted in MLB two years later and went on to post a 13-30 record with a 5.21 ERA in 143 outings (including 64 starts) for the Cubs, Marlins, Yankees and Brewers between 2003 and 2011. He appeared in the 2010 playoffs for New York, pitching in three ALCS games against eventual champions Texas and turned in a 10.13 ERA over 2.2 innings of relief work.


            Mitre made his LMB debut with Leon in 2017 and subsequently bounced to Tijuana and Dos Laredos before landing in Saltillo in May 2019. He had an impressive combined record of 12-5 in 19 starts last year, going 9-3 for manager Roberto Vizcarra's playoff-bound Saraperos, but only had a 6.10 ERA to go along with it.





            After weeks of speculation whether more far-flung Mexican Pacific League teams would choose to play designated "home" games closer to the LMP's traditional base near the Sea of California as a response to expected financial losses due to the Wuhan virus, the Monterrey Sultanes announced that they will indeed play half their 2020-21 games in Mazatlan's Estadio Teodoro Mariscal. And they may not be the last team to share a ballpark this winter. Monterrey is located in the northeastern state of Nuevo Leo, 446 miles by air to Culiacan, the Sultanes' closest Mex Pac rival.


            The El Jonronero website reports that the Sultanes stand to save 4,000,000 pesos (US$179,488) in air travel expenses alone by setting up their winterball shop in the Pearl of the Pacific, where the hometown Venados only recently put their ongoing dispute with the City of Mazatlan on hold in order to use the 16,000-seat ballpark for the upcoming Mex Pac season and 2021 Caribbean Series. Monterrey's front office determined they would be better off cutting down travel costs should they only be allowed to play home games in front of 30% of Estadio Monterrey's 22,000-seat capacity, let alone if no fans will be let into ballparks this winter.


            Estadio Teorodo Mariscal will get quite a workout with the Sultanes and Venados combing to use it six days a week throughout the regular season. A schedule is reportedly being worked out to avoid any conflicts on dates from the October 13 LMP opener through the end of December, but things could get interesting if the two teams qualify to play on the same side of the bracket for the January playoffs (e.g., both teams gain home-field advantage during simultaneous series).


            According to Puro Beisbol editor Fernando Ballesteros, the Mexicali Aguilas may try to move home games from the border city to Hermosillo and share Estadio Sonora with the Naranjeros while the Guadalajara-based Jalisco Charros may attempt the same and shift home dates to Culiacan, splitting dates at that ballpark with the defending champion Tomateros. Ballesteros adds that Charros ownership is less likely to seek such a move, given their commitments to Guadalajara and support the team has already received from the state in order to stay put.


            Like all LMP franchises, the Sultanes are looking to save money where they can, and that includes on player payroll. One of Monterrey's best hitters from last winter's inaugural Mex Pac season, outfielder Felix Perez, is already balking at a pay cut for 2020-21 and has asked the team to release his rights so he might be able to seek a better deal somewhere else. Perez, who hit .270 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs in 69 games last winter, may have a hard time doing that in Mexico since most teams are hoping to slash salaries from 40 to 60 percent this season to help make up for the expected revenue shortfall. "Unfortunately, we are not on the same page," Perez told the Monterrey Board of Directors. "My family comes before money. If you don't respect that, I'm sorry to tell you that I decline the offer you made to me and await my release. You can find another player. Blessings."


            A former Cincinnati Reds farmhand who played for the NPB Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2016, Perez may not have many options after originally accepting the Sultanes offer. The 35-year-old veteran is a native of Cuba, where salaries are guaranteed to not be on a par with even a slashed LMP paycheck, and other winter leagues in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and especially Venezuela were dealing with their own financial struggles and declining attendance even before the panicdemic began earlier this year.





            As Mexican Pacific League teams gear up for an anticipated 2020-21 season set to open October 13, the reigning Mexican League Most Valuable Player was one of four recognizable names involved in trades last week. Outfielder Alonzo Harris, who had a 2019 season for the ages with Oaxaca, was shipped by the Navojoa Mayos to Obregon for first baseman Xavier Scruggs, who can also play outfielder.


            The 31-year-old Harris was named MVP for the LMB after batting .343 for the Guerreros with 39 homers, 45 stolen bases, scoring 135 times and driving in 117 runs over 119 games, narrowly failing to become the first player in Liga history with 40 homers and 40 steals in the same season. Harris did not do nearly as well for the Mayos last winter, posting a .237 average with four homers and 14 RBIs in 67 contests, although he did score 37 runs and swipe 19 bases. He's currently playing for St. Paul in the American Association, which just got its season underway last week.


            Scruggs, 32, spent parts of three MLB seasons with St. Louis and Miami between 2014-16, batting .227 with one homer in 50 games. He had much more success in the Cardinals and Marlins minor league systems, belting a career 169 homers over nine seasons, topping 20 homers six times in seven years. Scruggs also played two seasons in South Korea with the NC Dinos, averaging 30 homers and 104 ribbies between 2017 and 2018 before joining the Mexican League's Yucatan Leones last year, posting .262/11/31 numbers over 57 games. Last winter, playing for both Mexicali and Obregon, Scruggs hit .208 with 8 homers and 18 RBIs in 45 outings.


            In the other high-profile Mex Pac swap last week, the Monterrey Sultanes dealt infielder Michael Wing to Culiacan for left-handed pitcher Romario Gil. A 31-year-old Californian, Wing played with the Angels and Padres systems between 2007 and 2012 before spending another three summers playing independent ball in Frontier League and American Association. He was out of organized basaeball in 2016 before heading south of the border and hitting stride with the Mexican League's Aguascalientes Rieleros. In three years as the Railroaders' third baseman, Wing has hit .368 with 51 homers and 211 RBIs in 217 games while playing in last year's LMB All-Star Game. He struggled with the Sultanes last winter, batting .223 with four homers, and will go to Culiacan on loan while his rights are retained by Monterrey. Wing can also play second base and shortstop.


            The only "youngster" involved in the two swaps, the 25-year-old Gil was traded by his hometown Tomateros after a disappointing 2019-20 season during which he only won one of six starts with an ERA of 5.92. He did not pitch for the LMP champions during the Caribbean Series in Puerto Rico, completing a remarkable drop in effectiveness after having been the Mexican League's 2018 Rookie of the Year for the Puebla Pericos. Gil was a combined 4-2 for the Parakeets over two short seasons that year. As happened with so many Pericos players when Gerardo Benavides owned both the Puebla and Monclova teams, Gil found himself with the Acereros last year. He had a winning record at 5-1 for Monclova and was named to the All-Star Game, but his ERA ballooned to 5.86 after being under 3.00 in 2018, he was placed on the Steelers' reserve list four times during the season and was dealt to Campeche during the offseason.


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