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Baseball Analysis   Bruce Baskin 

B a s e b a l l   M e x i c o
Monday, November 23, 2020

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            After a self-imposed shutdown of eleven days due to increasing cases of the Wuhan virus among players and coaches, the Mexican Pacific League swung back into action last Tuesday night with four games. A fifth scheduled contest, in which Los Mochis was to play in Guasave, was moved to Monday, November 23 in Los Mochis due to logistical issues, according to an Algodoneros press release.


            The extra day off didn't do anything to throw off Guasave outfielder Leo German's timing. The 5'9” veteran had never hit more than three home runs in a season (summer or winter) until he launched 10 longballs for Dos Laredos in a 2019 Mexican League campaign that saw numbers inflated by a very lively Franklin ball that was discarded after one year. Even so, it was the 27-year-old German who became the 39th player in Mex Pac history to hit three homers in a nine-inning game, two of them “panoramic” blasts, according to Puro Beisbol editor Fernando Ballesteros, in Guasave's 5-3 win over the Caneros.


            A three-run homer by Felix Perez keyed a four-run top of the seventh inning that lifted Obregon into a 9-8 comeback win at Mexicali Saturday night, completing a Yaquis doubleheader sweep of the Aguilas that helped keep the visitors in first place, although Sunday's closing game was forfeited to Mexicali, 9-0, by the LMP office after three Yaquis tested positive for the Wuhan virus. The forfeit drops Obregon's record to 19-7, two games ahead of Hermosillo in second at 15-7.


            Monterrey (12-10) first baseman Dustin Peterson had a night to remember in Thursday's 11-4 win in Navojoa. During a ten-run outburst in the top of the seventh in which 13 Sultanes went to the plate, Peterson socked a solo homer off Marco Carrillo and a two-run roundtripper off Francisco Moreno to become only the third batter in LMP history to hit two homers in the same frame. The first was Hermosillo's Altar Greene against Navojoa in 1979 while Roberto Saucedo of Mazatlan did the double in 2001, also against the Mayos. Older brother D.J. Peterson, playing the initial hassock for Navojoa, had earlier launched a longball in the bottom of the third inning as the Petersons set a league record with three homers while playing for opposite teams.


            It was a tough week for the Mayos, who are 9-16 and a half-game ahead of 8-16 basement-dwelling Los Mochis. Navojoa lost 20-year-old Padres outfield prospect Tirso Ornelas for the season with a serious arm injury. Ornelas, one of four players sent by Obregon in exchange for first baseman Victor Mendoza early this month, was batting .286 with a double and two runs scored in five games for his new team.


            Although the trade looked like a potential bonanza for Navojoa at the time, it's not working out that way. Besides Ornelas' injury, then-league ERA leader Octavio Acosta was unenthusiatic about the move and in his first start against Monterrey, Acosta was shelled for five runs on six hits in 1.2 innings. Likewise, Francisco Moreno (already pitching for his third team this winter) has been hit hard in two outings and, like Acosta, has a 27.00 ERA for the Mayos while second baseman Moises Gutierrez is batting just .214 after for games with Navojoa. If there's any consolation for the Mayos, Mendoza is rehabbing a leg injury and has yet to play for the Yaquis.


            It was also a tough week for veteran manager Juan Jose Pacho, who was fired by Mazatlan Thursday after the Venados ended a three-game series in Culiacan with an 8-14 record. Even a 9-7 victory over the Tomateros in the finale wasn't enough to save Pacho, who led Mazatlan to three LMP pennants and a pair of Caribbean Series wins in two previous terms at the helm of the team, from being the second manager canned this season (Mexicali parted ways with Pedro Mere after an 0-8 start and has since gone 11-6 under Bronswell Patrick).


            Pacho has been replaced by pitching coach Pablo Ortega, a longtime star hurler in both Mexican leagues (including a 76-71 record and 3.27 ERA over 18 LMP seasons, 15 with Mazatlan) who had been named manager of Dos Laredos for 2020 but never managed a game for the Tecolotes after the Mexican League canceled the season. He won his managerial debut at home Friday night as the Deer topped Los Mochis, 7-4, and followed that up with a 6-5 Saturday win as Isaac Paredes scored from second in the bottom of the ninth when a Carlos Munoz grounder that Caneros second baseman Esteban Quiroz had to dive to stop drew an errant Quiroz throw to the plate that brought in Paredes with the winning run.



Obregon 19-6, Hermosillo 15-7, Culiacan 14-12, Monterrey 12-10, Guasave 11-12, Jalisco 11-14, Mexicali 11-14, Mazatlan 10-14, Navojoa 10-16, Los Mochis 8-16.





            The Mexican League's announcement that an acceptable proposal from Veracruz for an expansion team has been received (and that the port city will likely be given a franchise in the near future) created speculation as to who would be the second new club. It now appears that the Jalisco Charros may become the 18th LMB team, joining the Monterrey Sultanes in operating ballclubs in both the LMB and Mexican Pacific League.


            Guadalajara is Mexico's second-largest city and while previous attempts by operators of Mexican League teams have ended in failure, baseball's profile in a metropolis where soccer is king has risen considerably over the past several years, beginning with the purchase and shifting of the Mexican Pacific League's team in Guasave in 2014 couple with the renamed Jalisco Charros buying Guadalajara's existing Estadio Panamericano ballpark (built for the 2011 Pan-American Games) and renovating it. Since then, the Charros have become one of the best-drawing clubs in the Mex Pac during their six years of existence and won their first LMP championship and Caribbean Series berth last winter.


            On a broader scale, Charros co-owners Armando Navarro and Salvador Quirarte have been very proactive in bringing outside baseball events into renamed Estadio Charros, which can now seat up to 16,000 spectators, including the World Baseball Classic, Premier12 and Caribbean Series. Now it looks as though Guadalajara is poised to host professional baseball on a year-round basis. 


            However, it appears that they may be be doing it without Quirarte in the fold. Jose Carlos Campos, a former LMP media relations director who now oversee the El Rincon Beisbolero website, says that Quirarte is coming up short in an internal struggle within the front office and “was forced by the members to leave the office (and club) for reasons of lack of clarity regarding the basketball club that he also managed.”


            Campos speculates that the two new LMB teams would not be the product of expansion to 18 teams, but rather a “recomposition” involving two current Liga members, adding that “growing in numbers in times of severe crisis is not exactly a good idea.” There had been rumors that the Aguascalientes Rieleros would be sold and moved to Veracruz in 2021, but the LMB office quashed them.


            A familiar name is apparently heading the effort to bring a Mexican League team back to Veracruz. According to Jose Antonio Otero of El Fildeo, local businessman Bernardo Pasquel is son of former Veracruz Azules co-owner Bernardo Senior and nephew of former LMB president Jorge Pasquel, whose strong will and deep pockets turned the circuit into a threat to Major League Baseball's hegemony over the game in the 1940's. After bringing a number of top Negro League players to Mexico, the elder Pasquel turned his attention and resources to MLB players. Stan Musial and Ted Williams both turned down his offers, but he was able to get Vern Stephens, Max Lanier, Sal Maglie and Danny Gardella to agree to play south of the border, resulting in baseball commissioner Happy Chandler slapping a lifetime ban on players who stayed in Mexico (it was later reduced to a five-year ban after Gardella's antitrust lawsuit was allowed by a federal appeals court to move forward). The Pasquels eventually left the game in 1952 and Jorge died in a plane crash three years later.





            Longtime Culiacan catcher Adan Amezcua and Hermosillo Naranjeros team president Enrique Mazon have been selected as new members of the Caribbean Series Hall of Fame. The two are scheduled to be be inducted during a ceremony held at the 2021 Serie del Caribe in Mazatlan.


            Amezcua, who played 21 consecutive seasons with the Tomateros in the Mexican Pacific League, was named the Most Valuable Player in the 2002 CS in Caracas after batting .455 with three homers as Culiacan became the first team in Mexico to win two championships in that event. The man nicknamed “El General” had already been a champion with the Tomateros in Santo Domingo in 1996 and later obtained a third in Mazatlan 2005 as a reinforcement for the Venados in their first Caribbean Series crown, earning kudos for his work with a pitching staff that included Francisco Campos, Pablo Ortega and Jorge Campillo.


            Now 46, the 6'3” 200-pounder had an LMP career batting average of .267 with 68 homers and 299 RBIs in 794 games when he retired in 2014. After spending time playing in the Astros, Orioles and Padres systems between 1993 and 2002, Amezcua played the final 13 summers of his pro career in the Mexican League and played on pennant winners with Monterrey in 2007 and Quintana Roo in 2013 and 2015. He had unofficial LMB career totals of 60 homers and 409 RBIs to augment a .293 average in 872 contests.

            Amezcua, who is an analyst on a podcast for Puro Beisbol, will have a special motivation because the tribute will be in his hometown of Mazatlan. He'll be adding another achievement to his brilliant career after the Tomateros retired his number 31 in December 2017.


            Mazon has been with the Hermosillo organization since 1987 and a fundamental piece in the Naranjeros' past success as part of eight of the sixteen titles that the Hermosillo team has won in the Mex Pac: 1989-1990, 1991-1992, 1993-1994, 1994-1995, 2000-2001, 2006-2007, 2009-2010 and 2013-2014. Under Mazon, the Orangemen also were champions in the 2014 Caribbean Series in Margarita, Venezuela while organizing the Caribbean classic's 1987, 1992, 1997 and 2013 in Hermosillo.


            Mazon also helped oversee the construction of Estadio Sonora, a 16,000-seat ballpark that opened in February 2013 to replace Estadio Hector Espino (the Naranjeros' longtime home) and is considered by many to be the nicest baseball facility in Mexico. Hermosillo annually ranks among the LMP's attendance leaders with well over 10,000 seats filled nighty. Last winter, the team finished second in the loop with an average of 14,324 per opening in the regular season.  This winter, he's celebrating 33 years as the Naranjeros team president.



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