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Baseball Analysis   Bruce Baskin 

B a s e b a l l   M e x i c o
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            The Navojoa Mayos entered last week's final Mexican Pacific League series of the first half with a slim lead over Guasave. The schedule favored the Algodoneros, who hosted last-place Los Mochis while Navojoa was visiting a tough Obregon squad.


            However, the Mayos clinched first place last Tuesday with a 3-2 win over the Yaquis behind homers by Kyle Martin and Alan Espinoza while Guasave dropped their opener with the Caneros by an identical 3-2 score as Los Mochis overcame a 2-1 deficit in the top of the ninth when Juan Camacho lofted a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to plate the tying run and Francisco Cordoba's single pushed the go-ahead run.


            The Mayos lost their last two games in Obregon, 5-4 (Michael Wing hit a bases-clearing triple in the 7th) and 10-4 (Wing had a two-run double and Juan Carlos Gamboa contributed a two-run single for the Yaquis), while Guasave won their last two contests, 14-5 (Jhoan Urena and Yadir Drake combined for seven singles and six RBIs) and 11-4 (Angel Erro went 4-for-4 for the Algonoderos with four RBIs), but Navojoa was able to cling to the top of the standings with a 20-12 record, one game ahead of the 19-13 Cottoneers.


            As a result, manager Matias Carrillo's Mayos pocketed 10.0 points going into the second half last Friday while Guasave was awarded 9.0 points for their runner-up finish. Jalisco and Obregon tied for third place with 18-14 records, but the Charros were awarded 8.0 points due to their winning record for the half against the Yaquis, who earned 7.0 points. Defending champion Culiacan was right behind at 17-15, good for 6.0 points, while Hermosillo finished at an even 16-16 for sixth place and 5.5 points. Rounding out the standings were 15-17 Monterrey (5.0 points), 14-18 Mazatlan (4.5), 14-18 Mexicali (4.0), and 9-23 Los Mochis (3.5). The Venados got the nod in points over Mexicali due to their superior record against the Aguilas in the half.


            Somewhat surprisingly, no managers were fired during the first half of the schedule (skippers have been canned less than two weeks into the season in past years), but a couple teams have made amends for their tardiness. Robinson Cancel was sacked as manager in Los Mochis on the heels of the aforementioned pair of drubbings in Guasave to close out the first half schedule. Cancel went 9-23 with the Caneros after replacing Victor Bojorquez, who led the team to two last-place finishes in 2020-21. Luis Carlos Rivera has been named as Los Mochis' new pilot. Rivera has managed Mexican League teams in Leon, Yucatan and Aguascalientes (who he led to a playoff berth last summer), but this will be his first time as a dugout boss in the Mex Pac.


            Meanwhile in Mexicali, where patience has never been a virtue, Bronswell Patrick was fired after the Aguilas' 14-18 first-half showing. Patrick took the reins of the Eagles last winter on an interim basis after serving the team as pitching coach and posted a 30-20 record the rest of the way, earning a playoff berth and coming in second in voting for Manager of the Year honors. He was hired permanently in late January, "permanent" in this case being less than ten months and 32 games. Gil Velazquez, who fired as manager of the Aguilas during the 2016-17 LMP season, is being brought back to run the team, at least for now. Pedro Mere is returning for his third tour of duty in Mexicali, this time as Velazquez' bench coach. Mere managed the Aguilas on two previous occasions. Mexicali has now fired their manager in the middle of the season six years in a row.


            Tirso Ornelas of Navojoa leads the batting race with a .388 average, a comfortable 19 points ahead of Jalisco's Christian Villanueva (.369), while Miguel Guzman of Guasave is third at .358. Kyle Martin's homer for Navojoa against Obregon last Tuesday gave him nine for the season in 21 games, three more than six different batsmen. One of those, Jesse Castillo of Guasave, leads Jalisco's Felix Perez (who also has six roundtrippers) in the RBI derby, 30 to 29, while Maikel Serrano of Navojoa and Hermosillo's Luis Alfonso Cruz are tied for third at 27 ribbies apiece. Dairon Blanco of Culiacan is running away in the stolen bases category with 18 swipes in 22 attempts, well ahead of Obregon's Alfonso Harris (13) and Sebastian Elizalde of Culiacan (12).


            Navojoa's Carlos De Leon lost his first game of the season last week, but his five wins still are most in the Mex Pac, with four pitchers on his heels at four victories each. Orlando Lara (4-0) of Jalisco is tops with a 1.13 ERA, ahead of Hermosillo's Elian Leyva (4-0) at 1.29 and Tiago da Silva (3-1) of Obregon's 1.39 mark. Obregon's Luis Escobar leads with 38 strikeouts, followed by Javier Solano of Jalisco (33) and Escobar's Yaquis teammate, former Red Sox hurler Hector Velazquez (32). Jake Sanchez of Mexicali heads the saves table with 11 while Navojoa's Carlos Bustamante has eight and Roberto Osuna of Jalisco is at six.



MEX PAX ROAD TRIP (Stop #7): Guasave, Sinaloa


            The seventh visit on our 24-city Mexican Pacific League Road Trip is Guasave, Sinaloa (also known as “The Agricultural Heart of Mexico”), which can easily be reached by traveling on Highway 15 for 45 minutes to cover the 36 miles from our last stop, Los Mochis.


            A municipality of about 320,000 residents, Guasave has an agriculture-based economy, like the majority of Mex Pac venues. The major crops in the area are corn, wheat, sorghum, soy, beans and cotton. The land around Guasave is generally rocky and the climate is usually very dry and warm, with an average of about 15 inches of rain a year and an annual temperature of 80 degrees.


            While Guasave is only 22 miles east from the Gulf of California, the major source of the city’s water is the Sinaloa River, which starts in the southwest corner of the state of Chihuahua and flows into the gulf. The river includes Navachiste Bay, which is known for aquatic sports and fishing; and San Ignacio Bay, noted for its clean landscape, calm waters and abundance of flora and fauna. Further towards the gulf from Guasave are The Glorias, a very popular stretch of the river known for its beaches and terrific seafood like shrimp meatballs. Along the river, there are many poplars and willows lining the shores.


            Among the more interesting spots for travelers to visit are the 17th century ruins of Guasave’s Old Town, the Nio ruins (which date back to 1767), and Tamazula, a colonial site featuring a museum and church first built in 1820.  Guasave is well known for the raising of thoroughbred horses. Guasave is (again like most LMP cities) not a tourist destination, but it is a slice of authentic northern Mexico with its own enjoyments, and the lifestyle there is considered very traditional.


    Guasave is represented in the Mexican Pacific League by the Algodoneros (or “Cotton Growers”). The team originally entered the MexPac baseball in 1970 and won the LMP pennant in only their second season under manager Vinicio Garcia (going 1-5 in the Caribbean Series that winter) but won no further titles, although they reached three subsequent championship series. The Cottoneers were bought and moved in 2014 to Guadalajara, where they were renamed the Jalisco Charros. A second edition of the Algodoners debuted in 2019-20. No uniform numbers have been retired in Guasave.

            The Algodoneros play their home games at Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon, which is owned by the Sinaloa state government and now seats 10,000 spectators after extensive remodeling was performed prior to their 2019 return, mostly paid for by Mexico City Diablos Rojos owner Alfredo Harp Helu as well as the federal CONADE sports agency.





            Most North American baseball fans only remember him as a sporadic power hitter who shuttled between Baltimore and Rochester for three years in the late Seventies, but Andres Mora is revered south of the border as one of the all-time great sluggers in Mexican League history on par with Hector Espino and Nelson Barrera. When he retired after the 1997 season, only Espino’s 453 homers topped Mora’s 419 dingers among LMB batters before Barrera passed them both in the early part of this century.


            Andres Mora Ibarra was born May 25, 1955 in Rio Bravo, Coahuila.  He broke into pro ball at the tender age of 16 in 1971, splitting his season in Class A ball with Zacatecas and Puerto Penasco. He only played a total of 10 games the next two seasons before settling in with Saltillo in 1974, hitting .311 with 14 homers. Mora hit stride the following year when the 20-year-old led the Liga with 35 homers and 109 RBIs while batting .307 for the Saraperos before being signed by the Orioles, beginning a frustrating three-year period.  He spent most of his time playing for Earl Weaver’s O’s, hitting 27 homers and driving in 83 runs in 226 games but only batting in the mid-.220’s and never getting a shot to play consistently.


            Mora found himself back in Saltillo in 1979, and hit .344 with 23 homers and 102 RBIs. With the exception of a nine-game stay with Cleveland in 1980, he played the rest of his career in Mexico, mostly with the Dos Laredos Tecolotes. From 1981 to 1993, Mora topped 20 homers ten times, including a career high 41 in 1985. He drove in 443 runs and belted 142 dingers while hitting nearly .370 in a four-year period between 1984 and 1987 as the linchpin for a Dos Laredos offense that was one of the most-feared of the era.


            Ironically, the year the Tecolotes broke through for a pennant in 1989, Mora was playing in Monterrey for the Industriales. He returned to the binational team in 1990 and spent the rest of his career splitting home games between Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas and Laredo, Texas. Mora retired from baseball in 1997, ending his 27-year pro career at the age of 42.


            Besides his 419 career Mexican League homers (he hit a total of 471 as a pro), Mora drove in 1,498 runs on 2,259 hits while batting .314.  He had 12 Liga seasons at .300 or better, led the loop four times in homers and was RBI champ three times. He is a member of the Salon de la Fama and remembered as a man who could change a game with one swing of the bat.


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