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Baseball Analysis   Bruce Baskin 

B a s e b a l l   M e x i c o
Monday, June 21, 2021

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            Three Mexican League teams have fired managers just four weeks into the truncated 2021 season after both the Dos Laredos Tecolotes and Quintana Roo Tigres changed horses in midstream last week. The Monterrey Sultanes let Homar Rojas go as their LMB skipper earlier this month.


            The Tecos sent first-year manager Pablo Ortega packing last Thursday on the heels of a 4-3 loss to Durango the night before. The defeat dropped Dos Laredos' record to 8-14 after 22 games, enough of a sample size for the front office to fire the former All-Star pitcher. Third base coach Rafael Rijo replaced Ortega on an interim basis, although it might be argued that all managing jobs south of the border are on an interim basis. The Tecos are now on their fifth helmsman since 2019, including a 2020 season that was canceled.


            Ortega is already becoming well-versed in the vagaries of managing a Mexican baseball team. Last November, he was elevated from pitching coach in Mazatlan to replace Juan Jose Pacho as skipper of the Mexican Pacific League's Mazatlan Venados. The Deer ironically had an 8-14 record when Pacho was cut loose, but Ortega was able to steer the team to a 20-16 mark over the remainder of the regular season before losing a first-round playoff series to Hermosillo in six games.


            The Dos Laredos front office issued the usual laudatory statement that accompany a managerial firing: “Mr. Pablo Ortega is thanked for the work and professionalism carried out during his time as manager of the Tecolotes, wishing him success in his future personal and sports-related projects.”


            Two days later at the other end of the country, the Quintana Roo Tigres parted ways with Adan Munoz as their skipper and named former Tijuana manager Oscar Robles as their new dugout boss. Munoz was fired for committing the cardinal sin of posting an 11-13 record over the Tigres' first 24 games, although seven losses in their previous ten games was likely a larger factor. Batting coach Javier Robles (no relation) filled in after Munoz' departure until Oscar Robles' arrival on Saturday for the second game of a series against rival Mexico City.


            Even though he led the Tigres to a 62-57 record and a playoff berth in 2019 in his only season at the helm, Munoz may have been on borrowed time even before the season opened. An erroneous report out of Cancun in February said that the ex-catcher had been fired by owner Fernando Valenzuela and replaced by another former receiver, Tigres bench coach Hector Paez. That never happened but the axe did swing four months later.


            Robles was named the LMP's Manager of the Year last season after leading the Guasave Algodoneros to a 31-26 record and a postseason slot after the Algodoneros went 26-37 and missed the playoffs in 2019-20, their expansion season. Earlier, Robles had managed Mex Pac teams in Obregon and Culiacan. The former MLB infielder had previously managed in the Liga with the Tijuana Toros, posting an 18-9 record in Fall 2018 and followed up with a 75-45 ledger in 2019 and reached the LMB North Championship Series, falling to eventual champion Monclova in seven games.


            Both Rijo and Robles have a short time to turn things around for their respective teams during the Liga's 66-game schedule. The Tecos won three of their first four games under Rijo and currently hold the sixth and final playoff position in the LMB North at 11-15, two games behind surprising Union Laguna (12-12). Guadalajara (19-7) and Tijuana (18-8) are in the top two slots, with Monclova (17-10) and Saltillo (16-11) within striking distance. The Mariachis have won eight of their last ten contests and have the best record in the league, but they'll be losing manager Benji Gil and Adrian Gonzalez to the Mexican Olympic Team in Tokyo next month. Shortly after being confirmed as Mexico's new Olympic manager, Gil confirmed that El Titan WILL make the trip to Japan.


            In the LMB South, the Tigres were in seventh place with a 12-15 after dropping two of their first three games after Munoz was fired. Mexico City is atop the standings at 16-9, one game up on 15-10 Puebla and two games ahead of 14-11 Yucatan. The hottest team in the division has been expansion Veracruz, whose seven wins over their last ten games has vaulted them into fourth place at 14-12. While ex-MLBer Yasiel Puig (.314/5/16) has done well thus far in his first season in Mexico, socking a pair of homers in last Thursday's 14-9 win over Quintana Roo, three other Aguilas (Alexei Amarista, Alejandro Ortiz and Jesus Valdez) are in the LMB's top ten batters as Veracruz has a .309 team batting average.


            Guadalajara's Niko Vasquez tops the batting race with a .475 average as one of five Mexican League players hitting .400 or above. Leandro Castro of Tijuana's nine homers are one ahead of three other batsmen with eight apiece while his 34 RBIs in 26 games is six more than Saltillo's Kennys Vargas in that category. Reigning MVP Alonzo Harris of Oaxaca leads with 13 stolen bases while Tijuana's Isaac Rodriguez is right behind at 12 swipes.


            Five pitchers have reached four wins, including Monclova's Bartolo Colon, Veracruz no-hit hurler Dylan Unsworth and former NPB starter Masaru Nakamura of Guadalajara. Matt Tenuta of Monterrey is only 1-0 after five starts but the former Royals prospect's 0.55 ERA is tops in the circuit. Mexico City's Hector Hernandez is winless in six starts and his 5.51 ERA doesn't impress many, but he's also struck out a league-high 36 batters in 32.2 innings. Jenrry Mejia of Laguna has converted eight saves in ten opportunities to top that table while Monclova's Carlos Bustamante is 7-for-7 in save situations and has a 1.08 ERA.





            An international tournament that the Mexican Pacific League's Guasave Algodoneros were going to play in as part of their preseason schedule in September has been postponed until 2022 because of the Wuhan virus pandemic.


            The Barcelona Baseball Cup tournament in Spain was announced four months ago and was to include the Algodoneros along with teams from Italy, The Netherlands, Asia and the Spanish Baseball League. Games would be played at two venues: Estadio Carlos Perez de Rosa (home of the host Barcelona Baseball Club) and at another Barcelona ballpark used for the 1992 Summer Olympics and currently home of the Spanish League's CB Viladecans.


            However, after a meeting among tournament organizers that representatives from Guasave took part in, it was determined that the event will be held off for a year in the hopes that the global pandemic will have diminished by September 2022.


            Algodoneros CEO Luis Fernando Garcia and sports manager Alejandro Ahumada conferred with Jordi Valles, head of the BBC's organizing committee, to see the pros and cons of the measures taken by the Spanish government that would essentially make the Barcelona Baseball Cup a tournament with nobody in the stands and chose to postpone it instead


            “We regret the postponement of this event, since we had the objective of showing the Spanish fans our style of baseball, and also to be able to position the Algodoneros brand in Europe, said Garcia. “The pandemic has forced stricter measures to be taken and Spain is no exception...the event is still on for September 2022, if conditions allow it.”


            Ahumada said in a statement, "The security measures in Spain prevented, for the moment, the realization of the BBC, which was an excellent opportunity for our players to have international competition and to show that the Algodoneros brand is synonymous with stability, seriousness and improvement. We did not want this to happen, but health measures require it.”


            Valles said the Barcelona Baseball Cup remains firm for 2022: “It is difficult to do this since the times we are living in do not allow us to carry out the project with tranquility in this month of September.


            “Obviously, we seek the desired success for the public who would see the games out, but we will be prepared and wishing with all our might that the Algodoneros will arrive in Spain next year and can show us their great power in this beautiful sport, which is baseball.”





            The recent incident in which Aguascalientes manager Luis Carlos Rivera punched Rieleros shortstop Richy Pedroza in the clubhouse caused both to be fined and suspended by the Mexican League as tongues across the country wagged about what caused the imbroglio.


            The Beisbol Puro website has investigated the confrontation, in which Railroaders third baseman Michael Wing also reportedly played a part. Wing later posted a tweet criticizing the incident and calling it “a joke” without mentioning details or his alleged role. The following is a lightly-edited Google translation of Beisbol Puro's investigation, detailed in an uncredited Bola Ensalivada column:


            Since the start of the season, or perhaps before, extra baseball problems have arisen within the Rieleros de Aguascalientes.

            The most notorious until recently had been 1) the poor condition of some food supplied by the Rieleros supplier, and 2) the fact that the team was traveling in a single bus, a situation that the Mexican Baseball League in some way approved because the team is fully vaccinated.


            But on Saturday, June 12, a bomb exploded in the Aguascalientes dressing room when the manager, Luis Carlos Rivera, hit dual nationality shortstop Richy Pedroza with a right hand. It is correct that the blood “reached the river” in a reprehensible way but after gathering information with several of the witnesses, we can tell you:

            -Richy Pedroza has been a player who has not followed the internal rules. His bad attitude and strong personality have caused division within the team.


            -The Rieleros coaching staff caught Pedroza (who was not line up that day) smoking marijuana in the clubhouse when this game against the Monclova Acereros took place, which evidently caused great annoyance.


            -At the end of the match, in which the Rieleros fell 6-2 to Monclova for their fourth defeat in a row, Rivera tried to reprimand Michael Wing (another dual-national player) for his attitude when he was sent off in the sixth inning after throwing a ball to the stands as a claim to the counting of the home umpire after the marking of a pitch that he considered a ball in his turn at bat minutes ago.


            -The Rieleros' manager asked Wing to show more discipline and that if he did not like the way things were carried out in the team, he asked for his dismissal. Otherwise he demanded dedication and total discipline. Wing has four ejections in 17 games played.

            -While Rivera reprimanded Wing, Pedroza made fun of the helmsman and added a “fuck you,” which made the Rieleros manager explode and the unfortunate blow came.


            -Pedroza demanded punishment for Rivera, while the LMB responded immediately with a penalty of $14,170 pesos and a one-game suspension for both manager and player.


            -In its press release, the LMB points out that Pedroza's sanction was for “violating the team regulations,” which (although they did not disclose it) refers to the player's consumption of marijuana in the Estadio Monclova clubhouse.


            -After the facts, Pedroza denied such an assertion but the LMB asked him to submit to an anti-doping test to be exonerated, a proposal that the player rejected while assuring that he preferred to leave the Rieleros and Mexican baseball. Said refusal, according to the regulations of the summer circuit, is taken as if he had tested positive in the prohibited substances test. Therefore, to return to play in the LMB, he'll have to pass an anti-doping test.

            For now, both Pedroza and Wing have been separated from the team and while Pedroza already promised to take his things to never return, Wing could be traded to another team in case of not aligning with the Rieleros and LMB rules.


            The season is just in its first third of life and both for Rieleros and all their members, it will be time to tighten the screws to improve the atmosphere in the clubhouse, which is an essential part of a good sporting result.


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