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Baseball Analysis   Bruce Baskin 

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            Former MLB All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is reportedly interested in playing for the expansion Guadalajara Mariachis this summer after not appearing in a game since 2018. Puro Beisbol editor Fernando Ballesteros cites sources as saying that “El Titan” has reached a verbal agreement to suit up for the Mexican League team and is training for the upcoming season with hopes of appearing for Mexico in the Tokyo Olympics.


            Gonzales, who was born in San Diego to Mexican parents and grew up on both sides of the border, was the first overall pick of the 2001 MLB draft by the Marlins out of Eastlake High School in suburban Chula Vista and went on to play 15 seasons in the big leagues. He played in five All-Star Games (representing three teams in both leagues), won four Gold Gloves at the initial hassock and reached the playoffs five times after his 2004 debut with the Rangers.


            However, after four strong seasons with the Dodgers between 2013 and 2016, Gonzalez' 2017 campaign was cut short by back problems and he landed with the Mets as a free agent in 2018, when he hit .237 with six homers in 54 games before being released on June 11 of that year. He hasn't played in a game since. Gonzalez' career MLB totals include a .287 batting average with 2,050 hits, 317 homers and 1,202 RBIs.


            Although he is not a Mexican by birth certificate, Gonzalez (who turns 39 on May 8) has represented the county in every World Baseball Classic since its 2006 inception while playing in a number of Caribbean Series with the Mexican Pacific League champions. Although Gonzalez has never played in the Mexican League, he played winterball for Mazatlan alongside brother Edgar in the LMP for several seasons.


            His past flirtation with returning to the Mex Pac as a member of the Jalisco Charros and his preference for the Mariachis as an LMB landing spot are both logical, given that wife Betsy is a Guadalajara native. Earlier news stories stating that Gonzalez was a partner in the LMB's other expansion team, the Veracruz Aguilas, have been denied, since playing for the Mariachis would create an obvious conflict of interest.


            Guadalajara team president Rafael Tejeda has said he'd be happy to have the ex-MLB star on his roster. The club has not yet named a manager for the upcoming season, although Charros skipper Benji Gil's name has been floated in several media outlets, and Gonzalez has been mentioned as a possible player-manager. The LMB office frowns on such arrangements, however, and forced respected veteran Saul Soto to step down as manager in Aguascalientes to concentrate on his playing duties in recent years.


            Even if/when Gonzalez suits up for the Mariachis this year, his pathway to a berth on Mexico's Olympic roster will be a harder one to follow. Verdes Grande manager Juan Castro, who coached under Dave Roberts in Los Angeles when Gonzalez was a Dodgers player, has publicly stated that he already has several good options for first basemen (arguably Mexico's deepest position), including the likes of Efren Navarro, Matt Clark, Japhet Amador and Jesse Castillo. Castro stressed that Gonzalez' two-plus years away from the diamond and the LMB's late start may make it tougher for him to regain his timing at the plate in time for the Olympics, which begin in late July, two months after the Liga season opens.


            On the other hand, Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a baseball lover who handpicked Edgar Gonzalez to oversee the PROBEIS organization, directly intervened to keep four Mexican League teams from shutting down in 2019, forced the Mexican Pacific League to expand into Guasave and Monterrey that year and was behind the LMB's addition of both Veracruz and Guadalajara this season. As long as AMLO occupies the national palace in Mexico City, baseball and politics south of the border will never be far apart.





            In a virtual press conference from Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú in Mexico City, the Mexican League's Puebla  Pericos, Veracruz Aguilas, Oaxaca Guerreros and Mexico City Diablos Rojos announced a "Battle of Legends" preseason tournament scheduled take place from May 11-16 at Estadio Hermanos Serdán in Puebla. The event will consist of six doubleheaders among the LMB South rivals, although there will be no championship game. All contests will be broadcast live on social media for all four teams.


            The Battle of Legends will be carried out following sanitary measures prescribed by authorities in accordance with Mexico's “traffic light” system of dealing with the ongoing pandemic. The Mexico Daily News website on Saturday showed Puebla as one of eight states with “Orange Light” status, which means that limited activities with small or no public gatherings allowed. Conversely, Sonora joined Campeche and Chiapas as the three states with Green Light designations.


            Representatives of all four teams commented during the press conference. Pericos Sports VP Alfonso López said, “We're very proud of the work we've done. Hosting this tournament means that we've been doing things well in sports and administrative matters and we'll continue with the commitment to offer the fans the show they deserve.”


            Veracruz Sports Director Jesús “Chino” Valdez (who holds a similar role with the LMP's Mazatlan Venados) stated that “Without a doubt it will be a great test and very important for what we are doing in Veracruz...we hope to meet expectations and experience a competitive, joyful tournament and celebrate the return of the Mexican League.”


            Mexico City GM Jorge Del Valle said, “The objective is to see these four great teams of our baseball heading towards the 2021 season. We are immensely grateful to all participants for making this a reality. You can be sure that the Diablos are going to take ourselves very seriously in this tournament.”


            And  former second baseman Jaime Brena, Sports Manager of Oaxaca, said that, “We are very happy about participating in this tournament. It'll give us the opportunity to know which players we'll have in the regular season so we will take it as seriously as possible. We will bring a roster made up of 50 players.”



Tuesday, May 11: Oaxaca vs. Puebla, Veracruz vs. Mexico City

Wednesday, May 12: Mexico City vs. Veracruz, Puebla vs. Oaxaca

Thursday, May 13: Oaxaca vs. Puebla, Veracruz vs. Mexico City

Friday, May 14: Oaxaca vs. Veracruz, Mexico City vs. Puebla

Saturday, May 15: Puebla vs. Mexico City, Veracruz vs. Oaxaca

Sunday, May 16: Mexico City vs. Puebla, Oaxaca vs. Veracruz

GAME TIMES: First game 10:00AM, Second game 2:00PM





            Ever since Mexico's first known positive case of the Wuhan virus was announced on February 27, 2020, the nation has been deeply affected by the subsequent pandemic, as have most of the world's countries. Baseball has been no exception, as Septima Entrada writer Irving Furlong details in this translated report noting the one-year mark of the virus:


Mexican Baseball League (LMB)


            The number of infections began to grow at the beginning of March, the same days that the teams of the Mexican League were starting the preseason, with some others beginning with their preparation games for the 2020 campaign.


            On March 14, the LMB office communicated its decision to postpone the start of the 2020 season to early May. As time passed and when conditions did not improve, league management decided to suspend the start of the campaign again until further notice. After several weeks of uncertainty, the Mexican League canceled its 2020 season on June 1.


            Now, the sights of the Mexican League are set on holding the 2021 season, with or without fans, and scheduled to start on May 20 with a schedule of 66 games per team.


Mexican Pacific League (LMP)


            Just a week after the summer league announced the cancellation of its season, the Mexican Pacific League confirmed its launch for the 2020-21 season, an edition that would be carried out "under the best possible conditions." Days before starting the regular season, the president of the circuit, Omar Canizales, announced a strategic alliance for five years with the gasoline company ARCO, thus transforming the name of the circuit to Liga ARCO Mexicana del Pacífico.


            Three cities in Sonora and Mexicali received the green light to open stadiums with limited attendance, yet the decision was reversed after the first weekend. Sinaloa was the only state that remained with its four stadiums open, and thus began the LMP's journey to determine a champion for the 2020-21 season.


            After just two weeks, different teams began experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks inside their locker rooms. Before conditions got even more complicated, the LMP decided to suspend the season for 11 days. The recess allowed all the organizations to finish the season with the coronation of the Culiacan Tomateros as the two-time champions of the league.


2021 Caribbean Series in Mazatlan


            The winter leagues made every effort to start their tournaments and crown their respective champions except for Panama, which decided to put together a squad with players from the rosters of the participating teams. After fighting several adversities, the Caribbean Series 2021 could be held in Mazatlán, a tournament in which the Dominican Republic won the championship for the second consecutive season, making the Cibaenas Águilas the first undefeated championship team with a 7-0 record.


Suspension of the 2020 Olympic Games


            After a historic qualification to the Tokyo Olympics in November 2019 by achieving third place after beating the United States for the second time during the Premier12, a tournament that brings together the twelve best baseball teams in the world, the appointment of the Mexican Baseball Team with the Olympic dream had to be postponed with the suspension of the tournament.


            A few months after Tokyo rescheduled the largest multi-sport event of the planet for 2021, the Mexican squad was surrounded by uncertainty as its general manager and manager both decried of lack of resources to put together the roster to send the national team to the  Olympics for the first time.


            Despite that, Adrián González, the best Mexican hitter in MLB history, has said that he will seek a place on some LMB team while looking to get in shape to represent Mexico in the Olympics. Juan Castro, manager of the Mexican team, responded to the message by warning that four months before the trip to Japan, it is difficult to consider a player who has been out of professional activity for two years.


WBSC World Cups in Mexico


            The World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC) was scheduled to hold five baseball world championships in Mexico during 2020, with the Women's Baseball World Cup and the U23 Baseball World Cup being the most important events of the world calendar.


            In the first, Mexico's women's team had qualified for the first time in history while in the men's tournament, Mexico is the defending champion after winning the title in Barranquilla, Colombia in 2018, the country's first world championship in the WBSC.


            Regarding the Baseball5 world championships, the WBSC did not even announce the dates on which they would be played. The U15 World Cup and the Women's World Cup were postponed to March 2021, but the two tournaments to be played in Tijuana were postponed indefinitely and the Confederation is still reviewing a final decision on rescheduling.


            The U23 World Cup, also delayed for a year, is expected to be held in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, and Ciudad Obregón, Sonora as announced in November 2021.



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