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Baseball Analysis   Bruce Baskin 

B a s e b a l l   M e x i c o
Monday, May 18, 2020

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            Even though the organization that oversees the Caribbean Series has threatened to move the event elsewhere in 2021 if an ongoing dispute involving the ballpark where it would be played isn't resolved soon, the host Mazatlan Venados have begun selling prime tickets for the weeklong Crown Jewel of Latin Baseball.


            Last week, the Venados announced prices for seven-day tickets in prime seating at Estadio Teodoro Mariscal, with five days of doubleheaders between Sunday, January 31 through Thursday, February 4 for first round games preceding a semifinal twinbill on Friday, February 5 and the title game on Saturday, February 6.


            The highest prices for the 13-game event are 28,600 pesos (US$1,187) for Deluxe Supreme seats in the ballpark's lower level behind home plate. The next tier involves Diamond seats, where patrons will pay 22,580 pesos (US$936) per lower-level seat from above both dugouts into shallow left and right fields, respectively. Finally, there are the Platinum seats at 19,570 pesos (US$811), which span all the second level of seats above the interior walkway from shallow left past home plate and into shallow right right. No tickets for upper deck, foul territory or outfield seats have been put up for sale. Online ticket broker Boletomovil says seats can be reserved for a deposit of 1,000 pesos (US$41), with the remainder to be paid by October 15.


            In comparison, when Mexico hosted the 2018 Serie del Caribe in Guadalajara, the top price for a weeklong ticket was 19,500 (US$809) for lower level seats between third and first bases.


            While putting premium CS tickets on sale in May would be standard operating procedure for both the Mexican Pacific League and the Venados, the Caribbean Professional Baseball Confederation (COPABE) recently issued a press release stating that if the ongoing dispute between the Venados and City of Mazatlan is not resolved in short order, the Caribbean Series could potentially moved from the Sinaloa city to another venue. Citing various violations of the ballpark lease, officials from the City last month physically evicted the Venados from Estadio Teodoro Mariscal, placing padlocks on the facility, and terminated a concessions contact team owner Jose Antonio Toledo and his family have held since 1980.


            Although the imbroglio is being called "political" on several Mexican baseball websites, where writers expect things to be resolved in time, a May 12 story on El Fildeo was headlined, "Don't Buy the Tickets Yet!" and detailed how COPABE will convene a meeting next month where if a signed letter from the Mazatlan City Council granting the Venados (and, by proxy, the LMP and COPABE) full control over the stadium for the Caribbean Series is not presented, the tournament may be moved to another city.





            Major League Baseball has cancelled next year's World Baseball Classic and a New York Post writer says it may not be played until 2023. The cancellation was first reported by Enrique Rojas on ESPN Deportes.


            Joel Sherman of the Post says the WBC may be moved to 2023 amid the current Wuhan virus panic. The 2021 edition had been scheduled for March 9-23 with games in Taiwan, Tokyo, Phoenix and Miami. The postponement comes as no surprise, according to Rojas, because WBC qualifier events in March were called off indefinitely as MLB and other baseball organizations throughout the world placed their seasons on hiatus in reaction to the spread of the Wuhan virus. "It's not a priority right now," a source reportedly told Rojas.


            Despite their close proximity to source country China, however, Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League opened their season on April 11 as scheduled while the Korea Baseball Organization began their schedule a few weeks later. Both circuits played early games in front of empty stands before the CPBL allowed up to 1,000 spectators per opening recently and are poised to increase that number to 2,000 live fans soon.


            The delay of the World Baseball Classic puts the future of the event in doubt, Rojas says. He notes that the event was negotiated in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB (which oversees the WBC) and the MLBPA players union. However, the CBA will expire in December 2021 and the WBC would have to be renegotiated.


            The two sides are at odds over an MLB proposal to slice player salaries in half because a proposed shortened season that would begin in July would include about half of the 162 games usually played in a full schedule. American League 2018 Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell of Tampa Bay articulated, "Y'all gotta understand, man, for me to go, for me to take a pay cut, is not happening...No, I gotta get my money. I'm not playing unless I get mine, OK? And that's just the way it is for me." Snell signed a guaranteed five-year, $50 million contract extension last year that is scheduled to pay him $7.6 million in 2020.


            Mexico has played in all four previous World Baseball Classics (2006, 2009, 2013 and 2017), winning seven of 18 games, reaching the second round twice and defeating the United States in both 2006 and 2013. Cancellation of next year's WBC means National Team manager Juan Gabriel Castro will devote his full attention for the Verdes Grande on the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, which were rescheduled for next year after being postponed for 2020 due to the Wuhan virus.





            "Psssst...hey, buddy...wanna buy a used ballpark?"


            While it's certain that such a sales pitch never took place, Mexico's federal government has indeed purchased a pair of former longtime Mexican Pacific League facilities for a combined 1.075 billion pesos (US$44.2 million) with an eye to using them as baseball academies in the future. Lots of numbers and currency conversions coming in this story, so be prepared:


            According to Septima Entrada, Sonora's State Treasury Secretary Raul Navarro announced that Estadio Hector Espino in Hermosillo has been bought by federal agency Probeis for 511.7 million pesos (US$21.4 million). The ballpark served as home to the LMP Naranjeros between 1972 and 2012 before the team moved into the new, state-of-the-art Estadio Sonora in 2013. The older facility, renamed in 1976 after Mexican baseball legend Hector Espino (who played 24 winters in Hermosillo), seats 15,000 spectators and was the first ballpark in Latin America with a big screen and LED scoreboard, although the site has fallen into some disrepair. It was the site of six Caribbean Series tournaments and hosted a number of Arizona Diamondbacks exhibition games. The Naranjeros won 11 of their 16 Mex Pac titles playing there.


            Probeis previously agreed to purchase Obregon's Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan for 548.7 million pesos (US$22.9 million) in May of last year. Funded by the Sonora state government (as was Estadio Hector Espino) and opened in 1971, the 13,000-seat Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan was home of the Obregon Yaquis for 45 years until Estadio Yaquis was christened in 2016. The older ballpark was named after a longtime baseball figure who served as Sonora's state treasurer from 1967 until his death in a car accident in 1973. The Yaquis, who won six of their seven LMP pennants playing at their former stadium, have not been able to recreate the magic at their new ballpark, where high ticket prices, a less accessible location and a less-competitive team on the heels of Obregon's three-time pennant winners between 2011 and 2013 have resulted in lower attendance figures.


            Probeis' stated purpose in acquiring the older facilities is to create regional baseball schools, in keeping with their mission of developing domestic interest and players for the sport, but they are not necessarily getting a bargain in either case. According to an April 20 story in El Heraldo de Mexico, Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan was given an overall value of about 221 million pesos (US$9.2 million) a year ago, which suggests the government paid 347 million pesos (US$14.3 million) more than the ballpark was worth. In an April 17 story, on the other hand, El Sol writer Enrique Hernandez says the federal government saved nearly 118 million pesos (US$4.9 million) in the purchase of Estadio Hector Espino, which was valued last year at 626.5 million pesos (US$26.2 million).


            When the numbers are added up, that's a net loss of 229 million pesos (US$9.6 million) for the feds, who are paying for the ballparks out of a National Infrastructure Trust Fund created by former president Felipe Calderon in 2008 as an investment vehicle in several areas, including the "operation and transfer of projects with social impact or economic profitability." Current president (and Mexico's Number 1 baseball fan) Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is seeking to make the fund "disappear," Hernandez says, and this would appear to be at least one step towards reaching that goal.



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