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MEXICAN LEAGUE PLANS AUGUST 7 OPENER, 12-TEAM PLAYOFF
The Mexican League announced last week that they will play a shortened season of 48 games per team beginning Friday, August 7, followed by a postseason in October and November that will include a record 12 teams. Unlike other leagues, LMB teams will not play behind closed doors.
The decision, which was unanimous among the LMB's 16 teams, was released by the Liga's Mexico City office last Thursday. After the August 8 openers, teams will play six games per week for eight weeks before concluding the regular season on Thursday, October 1. Games will be limited to teams within their respective eight-team divisions, meaning no LMB North teams will face their LMB South counterparts until the Serie del Rey. Since a 48-game schedule does not balance out among seven competitors, it may be assumed that each team will face one "rival" two extra series for a total of 12 games over four series, as opposed to six games over home-and-away series with the remaining divisional opponents. There will be no All-Star Game, which had originally been schedule for June 14 in Monclova.
The Mexican League playoffs will commence Saturday, October 3, two days after the regular season concludes with six of eight teams in each division being given a berth. The LMB has not announced a format for their postseason. There may be a possibility that the Liga could adopt the Mexican Pacific League's old "Lucky Loser" system, in which the first round loser with the most wins in their series advances to the second round along with the three winners. That system was discarded after several seasons by the LMP last winter after the loop expanded to ten teams with eight advancing to the playoffs. Another possibility is that the top two teams in each division earn a first-round bye with the remaining four teams playing for the two remaining slots in the division semifinals, but it's all speculation at this point.
However the format turns out, the Serie del Rey is scheduled to begin on Monday, November 2, with Game Seven (if needed) slated for Tuesday, November 10 in what will be the latest season in LMB history. The Mexican Pacific League announced Saturday that if the LMB ends up canceling their season, which is still possible, they would go ahead with their planned season opener on Monday, October 13. If the LMB does play into November, however, the Mex Pac will delay their season opener several weeks for THEIR latest start ever. In announcing his league's options, LMP president Omar Canizales did not outline how their regular season and playoff schedules would be altered.
The situation could create an even tighter player crunch than had been anticipated due to the Wuhan virus. Concerns are that players in the United States might take the winter off instead of venture south of the border, where the virus is still very much a concern. A real scheduling logjam may occur in Monterrey, where the MLB Sultanes may still be playing in the postseason at the same time their LMP namesake begins their regular season, with only one ballpark between them.
The two leagues appear to be taking different courses as to whether they will play in empty ballparks. Canizales has said the Mex Pac is considering going that route in response to safety concerns, but the LMB announced they WILL open their stadia to fans. The latter decision is economically based, since many financially-struggling Liga teams are dependent on revenue from ticket sales, concessions, merchandise and ballpark display ads to survive because the LMB has no large media contracts to share among its member franchises. The league has developed a so-called "Diamond Plan," based on WBSC guidelines and administered by federal health authorities, to maximize safety among players, coaches, umpires and fans during games.
HERMOSILLO NATIVE RAMOS TEARING UP LOOP IN KBO DEBUT
After six years of slowly working his way up the ladder in the Colorado Rockies system, including a big season for Albuquerque during his AAA debut in 2019, Roberto Ramos is making the most of his first year playing ball in South Korea, where his bat has attracted more attention than usual due to the paucity of baseball elsewhere in the world.
A 25-year-old native of Hermosillo, Sonora, Ramos has worn Korea Baseball Organization pitchers out to the tune of a .352 batting average with nine homers and 19 RBIs over his first 20 games with the LG Twins of Seoul. He stroked two doubles and drawing a walk over four plate appearances in his May 5 KBO debut against their in-house rivals Doosan Bears (the two teams share the 25,553-seat Jamsil Stadium) to begin an eight-game-hitting streak. Ramos had a two-homer game May 10 against the NC Dinos and a walkoff grand slam May 24 to defeat the KT Wiz, drawing global attention as the KBO and Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League are the only two circuits in the world currently playing regular season games. As of last Friday, Ramos led the KBO in homers by three longballs, was tied for third in RBIs and stood tenth in batting average.
The 6'3" 220-pounder was Colorado's 16th Round draft pick in 2014 out of College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California. He struggled that summer while splitting time with the Rockies' Class A Tri-Cities and Rookie Grand Junction farm teams, hitting a combined .213 with three homers in 39 games. However, he started regaining his stroke with Class A Asheville (.341 with 10 homers in 42 games) in 2015 and began climbing the organization's ladder. Ramos socked 32 homers playing for both Class A Lancaster and Class AA Hartford affiliates in 2018, but he really found his groove last summer with Albuquerque in the Pacific Coast League, abusing pitchers to the tune of a .309 average with 30 homers and 105 RBIs in 122 games for the Dukes.
After six years in the minors, Ramos accrued 98 roundtrippers and 349 ribbies to augment a .292 average in 496 outings, playing in All-Star Games in both the California League and PCL. Even so, he was released by the Rockies off the Albuquerque roster in January and sold his contract to the Twins, who gave him $300,000 (including a $50,000 signing bonus) for 2020. Thus far, he's been worth every won LG has paid him.
Interestingly, while he's shown a potent bat in the American minor leagues and the KBO, Ramos has not enjoyed a lot of success at the plate playing winterball with his hometown Hermosillo Naranjeros. The lefty slugger, who plays both first base and the outfield, has batted just .220 in five Mexican Pacific League campaigns with the Orangemen, including a .230 average last winter under then-manager Vinny Castilla (himself a longtime Rockies star who still works in Colorado's front office). In fairness, Ramos has seen limited action in the Mex Pac (his 48 games in 2019-20 the most he's played in the circuit's 68-game regular season) and he has knocked out 14 homers over 145 contests in the pitching-dominated league.
Now Ramos is drawing notice for his bat work in South Korea, including among Rockies fans he left behind. One of them is Noah Yingling, who wrote on the Roxpile.com website, "While he was never a top prospect in the Colorado Rockies organization, they should have held on to Roberto Ramos." Yingling posted those now-prophetic words on May 6, the morning after Ramos' KBO debut.
MONCLOVA SIGNEE COLON WANTS BACK IN MLB, EVEN AS BATBOY
Although he is under contract to pitch for the Mexican League Monclova Acereros should their season start on August 7 as planned, Bartolo Colon told an ESPN reporter that he wants to return to Major League Baseball, even as a batboy. "If any major league team wants an old man," Colon told Marly Rivera in May, "I'm available." Colon turned 47 on May 24.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Colon posted a career 247-188 record over 21 MLB seasons, pitching in four All-Star Games and one World Series while winning the American League's Cy Young Award in 2005 after going 21-8 for the Los Angeles Angels, who copped the AL West title and reached the second round of the playoffs that year. Colon finished among the top six in CYA balloting three other seasons. His last year in MLB was in 2018, when he went 7-12 with a 5.78 ERA in 28 games (24 starts) for the Texas Rangers, who finished last in the AL West and granted Colon free agency after the season. He did not pitch in 2019.
Amid great fanfare, Colon signed a one-year deal in February with Monclova and was expected to be in the starting rotation for manager Pat Listach's defending LMB champions, who also signed former Cleveland outfielder Rajai Davis the same week. The man nicknamed "Big Sexy" by former New York Mets teammate Noah Syndergaard reported for training camp in early March, telling gathered media, "I feel very happy and thank the organization for calling me." At the same press conference, Listach (a former American League Rookie of the Year) remarked, "Bartolo brings a lot of experience and a lot of victories. He knows how to win and he'll bring more wins to the Acereros."
Instead, training camps were halted weeks later by the Mexican League, who postponed their regular season after the Wuhan virus landed in the country after it looked for a while that the LMB might be able to play as scheduled. Colon, like all ballplayers, has been in a state of limbo ever since. "This situation with the pandemic is very difficult for everyone," he told Rivera. "I left all my stuff in Monclova and I told them I wanted to come back to play this season. But we'll all see what happens with the virus because it doesn't seem like this is going to end anytime soon."
Colon did allow as how he would love to return to MLB one more time, with one team in particular. "If it was up to me, I would retire with the Mets," he said. "I would like my career to end in New York. I've played with eleven teams but with the Mets, the way all those players treated me, how that entire franchise treated me, from the front office to the kitchen staff, was amazing. I felt like all the players were a family and the support that the team and the fans gave me was great."
Although it's fairly likely the Acereros would prefer that Colon fulfill his contract with him, the corpulent right-hander says he's hoping to be back in the majors, even if it means a role outside pitching.
"I just want to go back to the big leagues," he maintains, "even if I'm just picking up bats."