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Baseball Analysis   Bruce Baskin 

B a s e b a l l   M e x i c o
Monday, June 28, 2021

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            The reeling Aguascalientes may have a 10-19 record after losing seven of their last ten games, but the Rieleros seem to be making up in feistiness what they lack in wins. The Mexican League team made headlines across the country after manager Luis Carlos Rivera bloodied shortstop Richy Pedroza during a June 12 clubhouse confrontation that also involved third baseman Michael Wing. All three were fined by the LMB, Pedroza was placed on the team's reserve list shortly after the incident and Wing didn't return to the lineup until last week.


            The Railroaders found themselves in another dust-up last Wednesday, this time on the playing field. During the eighth inning of a 5-3 loss in Tijuana, Aguascalientes reliever Brandon Quintero drilled Toros batter Gabriel Gutierrez with a pitch, precipitating a heated discussion and an ensuing bench-clearing brawl between the two teams. While replays show the usual milling around seen in such confrontations in baseball, the LMB office in Mexico City saw fit to fine and/or suspend 11 combatants from both teams, with the two principle figures receiving stiff sentences.


            For the Rieleros, Quintero was suspended six games and fined 28,340 pesos for plunking Gutierrez but starting pitcher Ernesto Zaragosa was sent to the cooler for eight games on top of his 28,340 peso fine for coming back on the field to punch and kick Toros players during the fight. Catcher Francisco Cordoba was fined 14,470 pesos and suspended two games for hitting Tijuana's Jose Guadalupe Chavez after the latter was hit by a pitch in the sixth inning, while manager Rivera was fined 14,470 pesos and suspended one game for ordering his pitchers to throw at Toros batters.


            Interestingly, Tijuana came out on the short end even though they were the targets. Gutierrez was suspended ten games and fined 45,510 pesos after trying to hit Rieleros players with his bat and batting helmet while Chavez was ordered to sit out two games and pay 14,470 in fines for punching Cordoba in the sixth frame. Three other Toros players (Ricky Alvarez, Junior Lake and Peter O'Brien) were each fined 14,470 pesos and suspended for one game while pitcher Brennan Bernardino was fined 7,085 pesos but not suspended for throwing punches after things had seemingly calmed down.


            Two days before the Rieleros and Toros engaged in their tag-team bout, the Yucatan Leones decided to make a change by jettisoning manager Geronimo Gil. The decision to let the former Major League catcher go was somewhat curious, as the Leones were 14-11 and in third place in the LMB South standings, two games behind leaders Mexico City, when Gil was fired (with the usual thanks and best wishes from the team's front office).


            Gil took over the Leones during the 2019 season and led them to a 24-11 record over their last 25 games, then took them to the Serie del Rey before losing to Monclova. Yucatan began this season by winning their first six games, but losing 11 of their next 19 contests and managing in Mexican baseball is a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?” business. Salon de la Fama member Chico Rodriguez was hired as a bench coach the day Gil was let go, yet another curious move because nobody was announced as the new helmsman in Merida. Rodriguez has previously managed six different LMB teams and may be running the team but as of Sunday, the team website has made no mention of a new manager. Whoever the boss is, Yucatan has gone 3-3 since Gil was removed.


            While the emphasis in the Mexican League thus far has been on the several MLB veterans dotting team rosters, a couple of homegrown teenagers found themselves in the spotlight last week. The San Diego Padres have announced the signing of 19-year-old pitcher Miguel Castro, a Guasave native whose fastball has hit 92-93 MPH. Padres scout Emmanuel Rangel says the young right-hander projects as a starter in the majors. Castro's LMB rights are held by the Puebla Pericos while he's on the reserve list of Mexican Pacific League's Los Mochis Caneros.


            Another teen hurler, Alejandro Armenta, made his debut for Quintana Roo last Tuesday just days before his 17th birthday. A product of Los Mochis, Armenta started the Tigres' series opener in Cancun against Puebla and tossed a scoreless first inning, striking out the Pericos' David Olmedo-Barrera for the second out. The 5'9” 188-pound righty threw strikes on 13 of his 19 pitches before being pulled for veteran Javier Solano at the beginning of the second frame.


            In the Mexican League standings, Tijuana has won eight of their past ten games to go to 23-8 on the season, pulling into a tie for first in the LMB with Guadalajara. Defending champion Monclova is third at 20-13 while Saltillo holds fourth with a 19-14 mark. Mexico City has a two-game lead over Puebla in the LMB South with a 21-10 record. The Pericos are 19-12, Yucatan is third at 17-14 while Veracruz is a half-game behind the Leones at 17-15.


            Saltillo's Henry Urrutia has taken the lead in the batting race with a .441 average, seven points ahead of Durango's Tito Polo (.434). Three players are tied for the home run lead with 10 longballs each: Peter O'Brien (Tijuana), Xavier Batista (Leon) and Puebla's Olmedo-Barrera. O'Brien's Toros teammate, Leandro Castro, is well in front of the RBI derby with 44, ten more than Urrutia. Isaac Rodriguez of Tijuana leads with 15 stolen bases.


            Guadalajara's Masaru Nakamura (5-0) tossed six innings of one-run ball in a 6-3 win over Union Laguna last Wednesday to become the LMB's first five-game winner. Monterrey's Matt Tenuta's 1.50 ERA is tops among Liga starters and three closers are tied for first with nine saves apiece: Guadalajara's Fernando Cruz, Jenrry Mejia of Laguna and Tijuana's Fernando Rodney. Rodney (1.13) is the only one of the trio with an ERA under 5.00.





            The Dominican Republic has emerged from the Final Olympic Qualifier as the sixth and final member of the field that will compete for a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The Dominicans defeated Venezuela, 8-5, Saturday at Estadio Hermanos Serdan in Puebla, where the Qualifier was moved after the World Baseball Softball Confederation determined that conditions at the original venue in Taiwan were unsafe for hosting the event. Taiwan's national team later pulled out of the Qualifier in Puebla for similar reasons. With the win, the DR will face Mexico in the Olympic opener on July 30.


   editor Bob Broughton, a Canadian now residing in Guanajuato, attended the final three days of the Qualifier in Puebla and wrote this report on Saturday's final game:


            The Dominican Republic (4-0 in the tournament) defeated Venezuela (2-2) 8-5 at the Estadio de Béisbol Hermanos Serdan in Puebla, Mexico. The Dominican Republic took the sixth and final spot in the Tokyo Olympics with a six-run fourth inning.


            Venezuela opened the scoring in the top of the second inning with a three-run “no doubt” home run in the top of the second inning by RF Diego Rincones (Giants organization).

Venezuela loaded the bases with two out in the top of the third inning. DR relieved starter RHP Radhamés Liz (Leones de Yucatán) with RHP Jhan Mariñez, and he got a fly out to leave the bases loaded.


            The bottom of the third started with a double play. Venezuela starter LHP Yapson Gomez (Tigres de Quintana Roo) walked CF Emilio Bonifacio, and was replaced by RHP Eduardo Paredes. Paredes was greeted with a two-run home run by DH Melky Cabrera, and Venezuela led 3-2 after three innings.


            DR took the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth. The inning started with singles by 1B Juan Francisco and LF Johan Mieses (Red Sox organization). Francisco scored on a double by 3B Diego Goris (Aguilas de Cibaenas). SS Ramón Torres then hit a popup that was mishandled by SS Engelb Vielma (Navigantes de Magallanes) and Mieses scored, giving DR a 4-3 lead. The play was reviewed for possible baserunner interference, but Torres was given the hit. C Charlie Valerio (Sioux Falls Canaries) hit an RBI double. The play at second was close, but it was reviewed, and Valerio was ruled safe. 5-3 DR.


            The winning run came on a two-RBI single by 2B Gustavo Nuñez (Tigers organization). Bonifacio hit a sacrifice fly for the sixth run of the inning, and DR led 8-3 after four innings.


            In the top of seventh, DH Danry Vásquez (Rieleros de Aguascalientes) hit what appeared to be an inside-the-park home run but after a review, it was ruled a ground rule double. Vasquez scored anyway on a single by LF Alexander Palma (Brewers organization). SS Vielma made a great play on a ground ball by Mieses to end the bottom of the seventh, with DR up 8-4.


            In the top of the eighth, Julio Rodríguez (Mariners organization) made a great catch in right field on fly ball by RF Diego Rincones (Giants organization). It saved a run, and the inning ended with a double play.


            In the top of the ninth, Venezuela got one more run on an RBI double by Vasquez with two out. The game ended on a ground out, with a final score of 8-5.


            LHP Darío Álvarez (Algonderos de Unión Laguna), who came in in the top of the fourth and retired all three batters that he faced, got the win. RHP Harold Chirinos (Brewers organization), who came in in the fourth inning and didn’t record an out, got the loss. Cabrera finished 1-for-4 with a home run and two RBI. Goris finished 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Palma went 3-for-5 with an RBI for Venezuela. Attendance was approximately 2,691.



*Torres played two seasons for the Royals, had a career average of .225.

*Cabrera played 15 seasons in the Major Leagues with nine teams; he was an All-Star in 2012.

*Liz played four seasons in the Major Leagues, mostly for the Orioles. His career record was 7-12, 6.94 ERA.

*Mariñez played five seasons in the Major Leagues with seven teams, had a record of 1-5, 3.56 ERA.

*Bonifacio played 12 seasons in the Major Leagues with eight teams, had a career average of .256.

*Francisco played six seasons in the Major Leagues with four teams, had a career average of .236, with 48 home runs.

*Álvarez played four seasons in the Major Leagues with three teams, had a record of 6-1, 5.06 ERA.

*Paredes played two seasons with the Angels, had a record of 0-1, 5.53 ERA, 32 strikeouts.

*Vielma had a cup of coffee with the Orioles, batted .143.





            Myriad issues surrounding the Mexican baseball team's pending trip to Japan for the Tokyo Summer Olympics have focused a spotlight on the lack of cohesion between the team and federal organizations charged with making sure their historic first appearance in Olympic competition is properly funded.


            Beatriz Pereyra's deep dive in the June 13 issue of Proceso includes an interview with fired Verdes Grande manager Juan Castro. The following is an edited Google translation of the Pereyra piece, a long and at times convoluted) take on the situation, but a necessary one because it delves into something more layered than a Walla Walla onion:


            The lack of public resources to cover the expenses of preparing the Olympic baseball team has already caused a crisis that led to the firing of manager Juan Castro, but does not solve the execrable way the president of the Federation Mexicana de Beisbol (FEMEBE), Enrique Mayorga, and the director of the National Commission for Physical Culture and Sports (CONADE), Ana Guevara, have behaved with the Mexican team.


            Even though President Andrés Manuel López Obrador personally commissioned her to monitor the baseball team on time, Guevara did not dispersed government money or attend to the needs of a team that aspires to win a historic medal for the country.


            Less than 15 days before the Mexican nine travels to Japan, none of the players on the long list (where there are around 105 names) has undergone an anti-doping control applied by the National Anti-Doping Committee (CNA) or by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) so those who are clean will attend.


            Given the failure of Mayorga and Guevara, the Mexican Baseball League (LMB) has already taken control of the national team, but no one knows if the money required to cover expenses will be provided by the club owners or if, finally, CONADE will put government resources on the table.


            For now, the LMB is operating with the expenses that are being generated, the clubs will loan their players and pay them as if they were playing normally in the season and sponsors New Era will provide the uniforms and equipment.


            On Friday, June 11, the LMB announced that the FEMEBE appointed as manager of the Olympic team Benj Gil, skipper of the iGuadalajara Mariachis. Gil is a former Major League Baseball player who has won four titles in five seasons of winter baseball with the Culiacan Tomateros, two of them consecutive.


            Gil, 48, will lead the first representative of Mexico in Olympic baseball and fight for a medal against Japan, South Korea, Israel, the United States and the Dominican Republic, who won the recent final qualifer in Puebla.


            The schism in the baseball team began long before June 5, when, through a telephone link, both Mayorga and the president of the LMB, Horacio de la Vega informed manager Juan Gabriel Castro and Olympic team GM Kundy Gutiérrez that they would be relieved of their positions.


            On that Saturday night, the team that both Castro and Gutierrez had been building for months broke. Unhappy about a host of unfulfilled promises, including the payment of their fees and the coaching staff they have been working with, Castro and Gutiérrez demanded (not without reason) the money as well as help with a series of procedures such as FEMEBE paying a bond owed to the Major League Baseball office to be able to negotiate the loan of Mexican players who belong to MLB organizations.


            More than once the duo threatened to not deliver information that, scratching with their own nails, they generated during long hours of work. They also showed the possibility of not attending the Olympic joust.


            Despite being the head of national teams in the country, Enrique Mayorga acted as a “zero to the left.” He was not able to arrange for CONADE to give him the money budgeted for the Olympics nine but he also did not want to accept in the FEMEBE account the 2.5 million pesos that owners of five LMB clubs offered as a loan until the government resources were released.


            Thus, in the face of Mayorga's ineffectiveness, the LMB wanted to solve the problem of lack of money but it couldn't. Seeing this, Castro and Gutiérrez cut off all communication with de la Vega and decided to solve it by taking up a collection with companies in the United States and Mexico, which upset all parties (especially Mayorga) as it seemed in bad taste.


            “He didn't want us to do it,” Castro said in an interview with Proceso. “This was better because if we could collect that money, we would no longer need the CONADE budget. We saw it as helpful that they did not have to worry about giving us a budget, but he told us not to do it."


            The solitary confinement began on April 30 when Castro sent a letter telling de la Vega that they would no longer discuss anything with him, since the LMB did not have the capacity to resolve the economic issue.


            The silence that lasted throughout May resulted in Mayorga finally convincing Castro and Gutiérrez to take a phone call, during which Mayorga had De La Vega to thank both the manager and the GM of the selection.


            Castro says, “Mayorga turned things over to Horacio because he did not have enough - I cannot say the word here- as manager of FEMEBE to give us that news because we were working with him, not with the League. Mayorga had to ask other people to tell us the news.


            “We answered everything they asked about why we no longer wanted to continue with the national team, then they hung up on us. They never told us clearly the reason they were going to remove us from the national team.”


            PEREYRA: “Do you recognize that when you refused to hand over the short list of players and other information that they felt it was blackmail; that they conditioned your participation and that when they felt cornered, they decided that?”


            CASTRO: “Maybe, but it was not the first time that we told them that if they did not pay us, we would not deliver information and the list). After they said that they were going to pay us, because the LMB was already going to give the money, we put the members of the coaching staff back to work and they made us deliver certain information. In three days we collected passports, as there were players who didn't have them, and Kundy moved in with his contacts at the consulates to get the papers ready. Then, after a few days, they tell us that they can't pay us.


            “We felt that they were using us to get the information from us. That is why we said 'from now on, we are not going to give you anything' because, to begin with, the WADA anti-doping tests were not carried out to know who is clean of prohibited substances to be able to reduce the list. Then we couldn't even talk to the managers of the major league teams to ask the players. They (Mayorga and de la Vega) demanded a list of 50 players and how we were going to do it without those two conditions. That's why we said: 'If they don't pay us, we won't give them the list,' but we couldn't do it because giving names without the missing information would have been incorrect.”


            Currently the infield coach for the Philadelphia Phillies, Castro says they were surprised to learn that "the team" would play two exhibition games in Mexico City: “We told them that those games had nothing to do with the National Team because we don't have the players ready and the coaching staff wasn't going to be able to be there. I found out that it was going to be a selection of LMB players called the 'Olympic team' and we said no. I don't know if they liked that answer."


            Castro says that no one informed them that those games will be held at the request of President López Obrador. “If it is something that the president wants to do it is respected, but if I wouldn't be the manager nor have selected players, then it is not the Olympic team.”


            In fact, to carry out those exhibition games  (the opponents were Venezuela and the Dominican Republic), LMB clubs will have to loan at least one star player just as the first month of a season cut to 66 games is being played.


            The reason why the LMB could not lend FEMEBE the 2.5 million pesos is because Mayorga refused to sign a loan agreement with the league to receive the money, due to the uncertainty that CONADE would reimburse him that money.


            “After months of battling,” Castro claimed, “Horacio told us 'I have the money and if they'd like, I'll deposit it tomorrow.' We instantly sent him the necessary documentation but then he told us no, it couldn't be done like that. The only way was to deposit to FEMEBE. Mayorga was not going to accept that and with good reason, because he did not know if he was going to receive the funds from CONADE or if he was going to be left with a debt."


            Neither Mayorga nor Gutiérrez did not respond to an interview request made by this reporter while de la Vega did not want to address the issue.


            In statements with El Jonronero, a digital medium in Culiacán, Gutiérrez spoke about what happened. Visibly annoyed, he said that this was the end of his work with the Mexican national team because he was tired of always having to struggle with money and organization problems.


            The most recent thing he suffered was that Mayorga accepted that Gutierrez and two members of the team's coaching staff would travel to Florida to attend the Olympic qualifier, where the United States won their ticket to Tokyo. However, Mayorga only bought their air tickets and did not provide the threesome a per diem for the trip. Under these conditions, they all refused to get on the plane, since there would be a precedent that they'd have to pay out of their own pockets for hotels, meals, ground transportation and other expenses while FEMEBE would not reimburse that money.


            Gutiérrez also questioned that how it is possible that since November 2019, when the national team qualified for the Olympic Games during the Premier12 tournament after having beaten the United States twice, neither CONADE nor FEMEBE had paid a single peso but now there is money for exhibition games in Mexico City.


            “Mayorga is responsible for the exhibition games, how they work and about the resources used,” Gutierrez told El Jonronero. “You have to be transparent. The one who bears all the responsibility is Mayorga and if it was not with government money he should have sought the resources, but he remains stuck. In his meetings he talks about what he does with his annual budget, but where are his bank accounts? Let his associates know. Since Mayorga joined FEMEBE, it is the same: What has he done to do this in a better way? He has the obligation to promote baseball throughout the country.”


            Finally, Juan Castro explains that his intention and that of Gutiérrez was to try to do things in the correct way and in order so that there is a solid structure and that the players, from the minor teams to the major, attend with pleasure. to the calls and see that there is a strong system that works well.


            “We never did anything with a negative intention, but to make things change for the better. The decision has already been made and can no longer be reversed. I do not agree, it was unfair, but they decided and it is respected,” concludes Castro.


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