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PREMIER12: MEXICO SWEEPS GROUP A, ON TO JAPAN
The Mexican National Team clobbered The Netherlands, 10-2, last Tuesday in Guadalajara to complete a three-game Group A sweep in the World Baseball Softball Confederation's Premier12 tournament. The Verdes Grande had earlier defeated the Dominican Republic and the United States to clinch a berth in the second stage of Premier12 competition, the Super Round, this week in Japan. No players on a 40-man roster in Major League Baseball are being allowed by their respective teams to play.
Mexico took an early lead over the Dutchmen in the bottom of the first when leadoff batter Jonathan Jones singled to left, advanced to third base on Noah Perio's single up the middle and then came home to score when Holland centerfielder Roger Bernadina made an errant throw to the plate that catcher Chadwick Tromp couldn't make a play with. Perio advanced to second on Bernadina's throw, took took when Netherlands starting pitcher Tom Stuibergen uncorked a wild pitch to Efren Navarro and then plated a tally on Navarro's groundout to Sharlon Schoop at second base.
The Mexicans added two more runs in the third when Navarro doubled in Perio and Jesus Araiza later punched a two-out single to plate Navarro, bringing the score to 4-0. After three scoreless innings, Mexico essentially put the game in their hop pocket with four seventh-inning runs. A combined three runs came in on two Dutch errors and another scored on a wild pitch in an ugly defensive frame for the European side. Ageless Yurendell de Caster, who played for Reynosa of the Mexican League in 2010 and 2011, accounted for The Netherlands' only scoring when the 40-year-old Curacao native rapped a two-run single up the middle off Jesus Rios in the top of the eighth but Mexico scored twice more in the bottom of the entrada for the final 10-2 margin of victory.
Arturo Reyes started on the mound for the Verdes Grande and tossed three scoreless innings of one-hit ball, but it was reliever Manny Barreda who got the win by pitching 1.2 frames of no-run ball into the fifth frame. Stuifbergen took the loss for The Netherlands. Jones went 3-for-5 with two runs for the winners, who collected ten hits and three walks on the night. Holland had seven hits and drew seven walks but 12 Dutch runners were left stranded on base as they finished 0-3 in the Premier12 under manager Hensley Meulens and coaches Bert Blyleven and Andruw Jones. One night earlier, the United States beat the Dominican Republic, 10-8, to clinch Group A's second Super Round berth.
The Mexican Nationals are now in Chiba, Japan, where they'll open Super Round play against Taiwan Monday afternoon at Noon (local time) at Marine Stadium. Taiwan finished second to unbeaten Japan with a 2-1 record in Group B action in Taichung. Mexico will open the second stage with a 1-0 record because they defeated the United States, 8-2, in the opening round while Taiwan starts the Super Round 0-1 after losing to Japan in Group B. South Korea (3-0) and surprising Australia (2-1) emerged from Group C, with the Aussies topping both Canada and Cuba to advance. Each of the six remaining teams will play four games this week, followed by two games at the Tokyo Dome on Friday: A Bronze Medal game between the third and fourth place finishers at Noon and a Gold Medal Game between the top two seeds at 7:00PM. Two teams will advance to next year's Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
It was a good week all around for Mexico's manager, Juan Gabriel Castro, who was also hired as an infield coach for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2020. Castro, who gave up a coaching job with the Los Angeles Dodgers for an ill-defined (and even more ill-fated job) with the Tijuana Toros in 2018, only to be fired two months after his hiring. Castro spent last season in the Phillies organization as coordinator of minor league infielders and will join new manager Joe Girardi in Philadelphia to replace Bobby Dickerson, who left for a bench coaching job with the San Diego Padres.
MEXICO PREMIER12 SUPER ROUND SCHEDULE
Monday, Nov. 11 (12pm) vs. Taiwan, Chiba Marine Stadium
Tuesday, Nov. 12 (12pm) vs. Australia, Tokyo Dome
Wednesday, Nov. 13 (7pm) at Japan, Tokyo Dome
Thursday, Nov. 14 (7pm) at South Korea, Tokyo Dome
THREE LMP MANAGERS FIRED; WILL OSUNA PITCH FOR CHARROS?
Less than one month into the 2019-20 season, three Mexican Pacific League managers were fired with the usual thanks from teams not thankful enough to spare their jobs. While it's a little unusual to see three skippers axed after fewer than four weeks, this is an LMP expansion year and there are now ten helmsmen to show the door.
The first firing came November 2 in Guasave, one of the MexPac's two new clubs, who parted ways with manager Rigo Beltran. A former MLB and NPB pitcher who was a winterball mainstay in Culiacan, Beltran has spent the past six summers as pitching coach for the Indians' AAA Columbus affiliate. The Algodoneros decided they'd seen enough after a 6-12 start, jettisoning both Beltran and pitching coach Jose Silva. The Cottoneers' new dugout boss will be Oscar Robles. Robles was LMP Rookie of the Year in 1995-96 for Guasave and has managed both Culiacan and Obregon, and was recently fired from Tijuana in the LMB after leading the Toros to the best regular-season record in the Liga.
Four days later, the axe fell on Adan Munoz in Navojoa. The longtime catcher who did a decent job in Cancun after being named Quintana Roo manager on May 9 and leading the Tigres to the postseason. Munoz was in his first season with the Mayos when he was let go with the team in last place after going 6-14 over the first 20 games. Pitching coach Hector Heredia was named interim Navojoa manager while the front office looks for a permanent (relatively speaking) replacement for Munoz, who may be reassigned elsewhere within the Mayos organization.
The Mexicali Aguilas capped the opening week of canning season by pink-slipping yet another first-year manager, Bobby Dickerson. A former Yankees draft pick and farmhand, Dickerson was an infield coach for Baltimore for seven seasons and spent last summer with Philadelphia before taking a similar job in San Diego next season. This was his second stinr with Mexicali (he managed the Eagles to the playoffs in 2009-10), but ownership became disaffected with the Aguilas' 7-16 record, although they did "thank Bobby Dickerson for his dedication and professionalism, recognizing him as a hard working and committed manager, wishing him much success in his future projects." Third base coach Jorge Luis Loredo is interim manager.
Meanwhile, a couple of MLB players have been talked about as possible MexPac performers this winter, although one of them has ruled out the possibility. Telediario of Guadalajara reports that Houston closer Roberto Osuna has told Jalisco team president Salvador Quirarte that he wants to pitch for the Charros this winter. "When it was the Houston game in Monterrey," Quirarte said, "I was talking to Roberto and he said, 'Hey, I want you to take me with the Charros this year." Quirarte admits it's up to the Astros to allow Osuna to pitch anywhere this winter, saying "We have to wait, although being very clear and seeing the Houston team so strongly, I don't see much hope." Another big league pitcher, Sergio Romo, is already in Guadalajara with the Charros, but the 12-year MLB veteran is a free agent and not under the same restrictions Osuna is.
Another MLBer, Luis Urias, was rumored to be a possible addition to the Obregon roster this winter, perhaps as soon as this month. However, El Fildeo reports that Urias himself is discounting the talk on social media. A middle infielder, the 22-year-old Urias played 71 games for San Diego this year, batting .223 with 4 homers, and is considered one of the Padres' top prospects. He hit .280 over 36 games for the Yaquis as an 18-year-old in 2015-16. Like Osuna, Urias' availability would be subject to his parent club's approval and it's not known whether the San Diego organization would sign off on it.
The battle for first place remains tight with only nine games remaining in the first half. Culiacan (16-9) holds the narrowest of leads over Hermosillo (15-9) and Jalisco (15-10) at the top of the table, while Lobregon and Los Mochis (both 14-11) sit two games out of first. At the bottom of the standings, Mexicali (8-17) is eight games out of first and as mentioned above, former manager Bobby Dickerson bore the brunt of the Aguilas' slow start.
Jose Aguilar of Obregon leads the batting race with a .373 average while Culiacan's Sebastian Elizalde is second at .361. Jalisco's Stephen Cardullo may be hitting a pedestrian .255. but he's making the most of what he can with an LMP-best seven homers among his 24 base hits. Teammate Dariel Alvarez and Obregon's Art Charles are among three players trailing Cardullo by one homer while being tied at the top with 21 RBIs apiece. Culiacan outfielder Rico Noel has stolen 14 bases in 16 attempts to take a healthy lead in that category.
Yoannis Quiala of Los Mochis leads the LMP in wins with a perfect 5-0 mark after six starts. Quiala's 1.95 ERA is third behind Hermosillo's Mike Kickham (1.55) and Teddy Stankiewicz of Guasave (1.91). Quiala also leads in strikeouts with 31 (Obregon's Arturo Lopz has 30) and his 0.81 WHIP is also tops, just ahead of Kickham's 0.86. Monterrey's Ralph Garza and Trey McNutt of Hermosillo are tied for saves supremacy with eight apiece. Even though Garza's Sultanes teammate Nick Struck's ERA of 4.09 may not be overly impressive, his eight holds are.
The MexPac says the one-million mark in attendance had been surpassed by the 21-game mark of the first half on November 8. The LMP states that a total of 1,108,336 attendees witnessed games across the loop's ten cities through seven series, a number that projects to an overall average of 10,556 per opening, which is higher than any MiLB league north of the border. According to a story on the league website, Culiacan leads with 15,853 attendees per game, followed by Hermosillo's 15,155 average.
MEXICAN LEAGUE CUTS BACK TO 102 GAMES IN 2020; 80 GAMES IN 2021?
After expanding its regular season schedule to 120 games per team for the first time since 2001, the Mexican League is making a drastic cut in games for 2020 and at least one prominent baseball writer south of the border things the LMB could be looking at even fewer openings in 2021.
The Liga once played as many as 140 games per season but gradually adopted shorter schedules until adopting a 110-game calendar in 2002, a format the circuit kept until creating two separate 56-game seasons last year. When that proved unworkable, the LMB returned to a single-season format in 2019 with 120 games and although the loop drew 5 million fans for the first time in the 21st Century, the decision was made among owners last month to cut back to 102 games, the fewest since the reorganized Mexican League joined the National Association (Minor League Baseball's predecessor) in 1955 with a Class AA designation.
The 2020 schedule will open Monday, April 6 when the newly-crowned champion Monclova Acereros host the rival Monterrey Sultanes at Estadio Monclova, the "Biggest Oven in Mexico" (as per the LMB's own website). Even though the schedule has been shortened, the format has each team hosting and visiting every Liga opponents so home fans will be able to watch all 15 other LMB teams in their own ballparks next season.
The two-half system will be back for a second year in a row, with the First Half closing on June 4, followed by All-Star Weekend between June 5-7 in Monclova. The Second Half opens on June 9 and ends August 6. As in past seasons, if three games or fewer separate the fourth and fifth place teams in either division, a wildcard game will be held August 7 at the fourth-place team's ballpark. The full playoffs (all best-4-of-7 series) will begin Tuesday, August 11 with the Division Semifinals. Division Championship Series will open Saturday, August 22 while the Serie del Rey for the LMB title opens Tuesday, September 1, with a Game Seven (if needed) slated for Wednesday, September 9.
The point system for playoff seeding will now reflect the one used in the Mexican Pacific League per half: First place in each division gets 8 points, second place gets 7 points while third place gets 6 points. Fourth place gets 5.5 points, fifth place gets 5.0 points, sixth place gets 4.5 points, seventh place gets 4.0 and eighth place gets 4.5 points.
Puro Beisbol editor Fernando Ballesteros notes that the elimination of almost one month from the Mexican League season is in response to "great economic losses" after what he said was "another of the bad decisions taken in the Javier Salinas era by the council of owners." The new 2020 calendar will be approved at December's Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego. Ballesteros, who says the LMB wants to cut its schedule back further to 80 games in 2021 (which would make it difficult for the Liga to remain at Class AAA in the MiLB structure), all 16 franchises will vote for a new president to replace Salinas. According to Ballesteros, Salinas was installed by just three clubs, "and today they are sorry as a league in general."