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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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Yasmany Tomas            After a decent first half during which they went 19-16 to tie for third in the Mexican Pacific League standings (and collecting 7.0 playoff points), the Los Mochis Caneros have had a strong start in the Mex Pac's second half by winning five of their first six games to take a one-game lead over Obregon and first-half champs Hermosillo in the standings.


            New Caneros manager Jose Moreno, who replaced Victor Bojorquez in the offseason after a disastrous 2021-22 campaign during which Los Mochis won just 23 of 68 games, has gotten solid performances from a number of players thus far. Outfielder Yasmany Tomas tops Los Mochis hitters with a .335 average, five homers and 28 RBIs and has been among the LMP's batting leaders all season. Veteran third baseman Rudy Amador has given the team a .314 average and his usual solid defense at the hot corner, Braves farmhand Justin Dean is batting .299 and is second in the league with 11 steals while eighth-year infielder Isaac Rodriguez has a .294 average and ranks among Caneros leaders in several offensive categories.


            Luis Miranda has led a good Los Mochis pitching staff with a 4-0 record and a league-leading 0.20 ERA, allowing just one earned run in 44 innings over eight starts. Former Mariners minor leaguer Rafael Pineda is 4-2 with a 2.52 ERA, Fabian Cota is 2-2 and 3.09 and former Mexican League Pitcher of the Year Yoanner Negrin is 1-2 and 3.30. Moreno also has a solid bullpen with relievers Tomas Solis, Fredy Quintero, Juan Gamez and one-time Baltimore hurler Connor Greene, who leads the Caneros with six saves.


            The Caneros helped themselves greatly over the weekend by sweeping a three-game series in Mazatlan. They host Navojoa in a midweek series before defending champs Jalisco visits Los Mochis for three games starting Friday. Both the Mayos and Charros have overall losing records thus far and give the Caneros a prime opportunity to pad their 5-1 record.


            Monterrey's Roberto Valenzuela continues pacing Mex Pac batsmen with a .380 average, well ahead of Tomas' .335 mark and Jalisco's Fernando Villegas at .321. Venerable Jesse Castillo of Guasave belted six homers in as many games earlier this month to take over the LMP longball lead at 10, one more than Mexicali's Anthony Giansanti and three up on both Jesus Espinoza (Navojoa) and Sebastian Valle (Obregon). Valle's Yaquis teammate, Victor Mendoza, has 34 RBIs for a comfortable lead over yet another Obregon batter, Yadir Drake (29) and Tomas' 28 ribbies for the Caneros. Mazatlan's Randy Romero has 17 steals in 21 tries to lead the circuit, with Jose Carmona of Hermosillo right behind with 16 swipes while Pirates minor leaguer Jared Oliva has had 13 steals for both Obregon and Monterrey.


            Two pitchers have finally won their fifth games of the season, Hermosillo's Wilmer Rios and Cristian Castillo of Monterrey. After serving mainly as a reliever over his first six winters for the Naranjeros, Rios has become one of the Mex Pac's most reliable starters the past two seasons. Nine other pitchers have four wins, including ERA leader Miranda (0.20) of Los Mochis and strikeouts leader Matt Pobereyko of Guasave, who's tied with Culiacan vet Manny Barreda at 44 K's apiece. Miranda's 0.727 is also tops among starters. Guasave's Brandon Koch still leads the LMP with 10 while former big leaguer Josh Lueke of Jalisco is tied with Monterrey's Joe Riley at nine salvados apiece.


            Among managers, Mexicali fired Gil Velazquez a week ago (see below) and while in most baseball leagues the skipper of a defending champion usually has breathing room during a slow start to the subsequent season. However, this being Mexican baseball, Jalisco helmsman Roberto Vizcarra's seat may be getting hot in Guadalajara, where the Charros are following up a ninth-place finish and a 15-20 record in the first half with five losses in their first six contests in the second half.



Los Mochis 5-1, Hermosillo 4-2, Obregon 4-2, Guasave 3-3, Mexicali 3-3, Monterrey 3-3, Navojoa 3-3, Culiacan 2-4, Mazatlan 2-4, Jalisco 1-5.





            Puerto Rican Robinson Cancel has been named as interim manager of the Mexicali Aguilas after the Mexican Pacfic League team fired Gil Velazquez during the season for a second time after the Eagles finished tied for sixth in the first half standings with a 16-19 record. Velazquez was canned by the Aguilas during the 2016-17 season and took the reigns of the squad a second time after Bronswell Patrick was canned midway through the schedule last winter. The “interim” label isn't usually applied when a new manager is hired but in Mexican baseball, all managers seem to end up working on a interim basis.

            The 46-year-old Cancel took over from temporary dugout boss Jesus Arredondo this past Saturday after the Aguilas had dropped their series opener in Guasave, 7-0, on Friday night. Mexicali split the two remaining games of the weekend set, including Sunday's 3-0 shutout over the Algodoneros as David Reyes tossed five scoreless innings for the win.


            As a player, Cancel spent eight years as a catcher in the Milwaukee organization and appeared in the majors with the Brewers, New York Mets and Houston between 1999 and 2011, batting .200 with one homers and 10 RBIs over 45 games. He wrapped up his playing career in the Mexican League with Monterrey in 2012 and Minatitlan in 2013, hitting a combined .316 with 14 homers in 97 contests.


            Cancel has since managed six years in the minors in the Braves and Rockies system, taking Fresno to a first-place finish in the Class A California League's North Division last summer with an 83-49 record before falling to Lake Elsinore in the loop's championship series. He's had previous stints managing in the Mex Pac with Los Mochis and Mazatlan.

            Arredondo returned to coaching third base after filling in as Mexicali's helmsman following the ouster of Velazquez, bench coach Pedro Mere and pitching coach Eleazar Mora on November 22 (with the usual “We thank Gil Velázquez, Pedró Meré and Eleazar Mora for their dedication and professionalism towards our organization, wishing in advance the best of successes in their future projects” press release from the front office). A pair of ex-MLBers have been added to the coaching staff: Pitching coach Vicente Palacios and bullpen coach Jailen Peguero.





Beatriz Pereyra            According to Mexico City's Proceso magazine writer Beatriz Pereyra, “The scandal over manipulation of television cameras in Games One and Two of the Mexican League South Division championship series between Mexico City and Yucatan is not the first in which Miguel 'El Negro' Ojeda (once a catcher and now a director of the Diablos Rojos) has been involved.”


            In an interview with Pereyra, entrepreneur Alredo Aramburo, a former owner of the Durango Generales, talks about the problems he had with Ojeda when he was the sole owner of that team. “ He did not transfer or steal from me,” referring to the hiring of the players, “he did more delicate things than that...”

            The following is a translated Pereyra column in which Ojeda's alleged transgressions are discussed and first appeared in
Proceso in September. It's as fascinating as it is a long one and worth reading all the way through:


            The Yucatan Leones will appeal the fine and sanction that the Mexican League imposed on the Mexico City Red Devils and its sports director, Miguel Ojeda. One of the Leones owners believes the entire technical body of the Diablos should also be punished for manipulating the television broadcast of Games One and Two of the LMB South finals.


            Yucatan team president Juan José Arellano tells Proceso that they do not agree with the resolution made by LMB president Horacio de la Vega, who determined that Ojeda must comply with a one-year suspension and the Red Devils must pay a fine of 1.5 million pesos (approximately US$77,000). According to the Manual for the use of electronic and video devices in stadiums, Arellano argues, there are others involved who deserve to be penalized.


            As of this edition, the directors of the Leones had not yet presented their appeal. Or had the Red Devils, whose owner, businessman Alfredo Harp Helú, announced that they would file the appeal after the LMB released the punishment on September 4. “The Diablos Rojos support Miguel Ojeda Siqueiros, sports director, and Marco Antonio Ávila, television producer. We are in the process of appealing to the accusation made to the team,” Harp posted on his Twitter account September 5.


            Likewise, through a statement, the Mexico City club emphasized that if the LMB concludes that “there is no evidence of signal theft” derived from the investigations requested by the Yucatan Leones, these unsubstantiated allegations have caused them moral harm.


            The conflict originates from the fact that on September 1, Leones executive president Érick Arellano asked the LMB to open an investigation folder against the Red Devils “for manipulating the television shots” during the first two games of the LMB South title series held at Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú in Mexico City.


            “The television broadcast was done fraudulently and with all the intent to benefit the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and harm the Yucatan Leones” Erick Arellano states, ”since the shots showed the signs of the catcher (Sebastián Valle) when the Leones were on defense and deliberately there was never the same shot when the Diablos were on defense (with catcher Julián León), this is clearly a theft of signals...”, accused the plaintiff, who accompanied his complaint with the videos that demonstrate “the willful manipulation.”


            Before the formal request, during play of Game Two, Érick Arellano denounced what was happening to LMB executives who were at the stadium. Two of them, Alberto Guadarrama and Diego Patricio Pérez, went to the broadcast booth where they spoke with producer Marco Antonio Ávila, an employee of the Red Devils, who informed them that he was doing the switches and frames that way at the request of Miguel Ojeda.


            In response to the accusations from Merida, team directors in Mexico City replied: “We can say categorically that in no way and at no time was it intended to commit any breach of the regulations, especially on the subject of sign theft. In this sense, the only intention was to take care of any situation with the Diablos Rojos catcher. In such a way that there was a difference between the shots during the turns to the Diablos Rojos batters and the shots during the shifts to the Yucatan Leones batters which, at that time, the league was asked to equalize and it was immediately done.


            “Within the analysis we carried out, in any case, the only thing the Yucatan Leones team could have been affected by was not allowing them to see the signs for the Diablos catcher but since sign theft is not allowed, it cannot be considered that there was such.”


            Based on the above, although the LMB emphasized that it could not be verified that the Diablos stole the signals, both the team and the sports manager deserve sanctions because what was done violates the Manual for the use of electronic and video devices in stadiums, specifically regarding the theft of signals established therein.


            “The above, together with the fact that manipulating the production and transmission of games has other effects, such as generating a reasonable and genuine doubt about the delivery of replays for review in case of game challenges during the matches, during the regular and postseason season of the LMB, which would update a manipulation in the television broadcast that could lead to damages for the defendant's rival teams, as well as favorable benefits for Diablos,” explained the LMB in its resolution.


            In accordance with the LMB regulations, both appeals will be presented to the council that is made up of the following owners: Alejandro Uribe (Tijuana), Gerardo Benavides (Monclova), Eustacio Álvarez (Aguascalientes) and José Antonio Mansur (Dos Laredos).


            If the parties do not agree with the ruling issued by these presidents, they may appeal to the LMB assembly where the owners of the 18 clubs will decide by majority. If that other resolution does not satisfy them either, they will have the option of resorting to ordinary courts. The LMB does not rule out forming a Dispute Commission to vent this case.


Alfredo Aramburo and the Durango case


            This is not the first time that Miguel Ojeda has questionable behavior. In 2019, the LMB, then led by Javier Salinas, did not dare to sanction him for posing as the owner of the Durango Generals and even brought before the assembly a certain Fernando Espinosa del Campo, a logging businessman who was supposedly his partner.


            But the reality is that the owner was businessman Alfredo Arámburo, who owned a modest batmaking company, that Ojeda had to accept in a corporation that lasted just a year due to the abuses that the now-director of the Red Devils committed. When other owners were upset, the businessman appeared before the LMB to say that he was the sole owner, having gone from having 90% to 100% of the shares. This upset the owners of the other clubs and he was forced to sell the team for getting into the league through the back door (via Process 2284). Unlike the businessman who was punished in this way, Ojeda did not suffer any retaliation.


            This reporter interviewed in February 2020 the former owner of the Generals of Durango, who recounted on tape recorder the abuses that Miguel Ojeda committed with that team, then requested that information not be published due to the damage it could cause.


            Following the events involving manipulating the transmission of games during the South Division championship series in which producer Marco Antonio Ávila (who works for the Diablos Rojos) pointed to Ojeda as the person who asked him to alter the signal, this reporter asked Aramburo again for his authorization to publish the full interview.


            The businessman confirmed something that was rumored for months when Miguel Ojeda appeared as the owner of the Generals of Durango: the LMB veteran did not have enough money to buy a baseball club. In 2018, the sale and purchase of this equipment amounted to around 28 million pesos (about US$1.5 million in 2018). Then he lied blatantly, knowing that he only owned 10% of the shares but pretended to be the sole owner.


            “The reality is that I was the owner from day one and Miguel was my partner,” Aramburo said. “I gave him shares. It was a project where he contributed the workforce and his relationships in baseball to develop the sports theme, but he did not contribute capital. ‘You are going to show your are known,’ that was the agreement. But something happened on the way.


            “I think something that collided was my rigid training to manage weight over weight. I am risking my capital, he wanted more freedom (to handle money) and there was a disagreement. He said he was not comfortable and that he was leaving, and that's when I notified the LMB that I already had 100% of the equipment. When I was not accepted, I sold the team and thus ended my ephemeral passage through the LMB.”


            Did Miguel Ojeda put his money in it? Did he have anything left, or you?


            “I did owe him money and I did not pay him of my own free will. I was left owing 300 thousand pesos that I wanted to give him as a decent departure from Generals. He said to me, 'The team cost so much, so my share is worth is so many millions,' and I said, 'No, Dad, it's not like that. These are the financial statements, I invested in this so don't be confused. I'm going to pay you because you don't have any support left. I 'll give it to you in payments.' And it was so because I wanted to take care of some situations and I wanted him to act correctly because I did have to pay him in a single exhibition.


            “The company brought millions in losses so I said, ‘Let's agree. You owe me and I can tell you that since you aren't going to contribute the money, I dilute your actions. But neither you nor me. I'll give you so much.’ I gave him 50% of what was agreed upon and the other 50% was to be paid in a year because my situation in the LMB was going to be defined there. Why did I default on those 300 thousand pesos? Because he spoke of me. I found out. I'm not stupid and I connected the dots. He threw dirt on me with the Diablos and with Mr. Harp and that did not make me look professional.


            “They played me a recording where he spoke ill of me with Harp and the LMB. He (Ojeda) sent me messages and I no longer answered him. I don't want to stain his career. He lives on it. If I tell what he did on my team, you'd run it. I don't think Don Alfredo Harp would see it well. He got into serious trouble. He did not transfer or steal,” referring to the hiring of the players,” he did more delicate things than that. For me it is a closed chapter.”


LMB president weighs in


            The president of the LMB, Horacio de la Vega, emphasizes that in the body he heads, “we are not going to allow any director of any team to get into an international transmission.”


            This was possible because the Mexico City Diablos Rojos are the only LMB club with its own television production. That of the other 17 teams is generated by LMB Media Company, a company that was born from a merger between the League and AYM Sports.


            “It is not a matter of having evidence of signal theft,” caims de la Vega, ”but unfortunately the conversations will go that way. The LMB is not sanctioning that. They are sanctioning a subject of unequal intervention, and call it what you want in terms of whether they (the Red Devils) have an advantage or not,. It is simply not equal and if it is not equal, it is not a fair game. That is what the league is not going to allow,” says De la Vega.


            So why is this issue serious if the Diablos insist, and you yourself have said, that it is impossible to steal signs in a transmission?


            “The fact that the LMB allows that with any of the teams is wrong because obviously, as you point it out, there is speculation or a possibility of doing it (to steal the) signs. The LMB is impartial in a difficult decision, but I think the evidence is clear about what we don't want to happen with franchises.'


            They insist that the signals are indecipherable on television. Don't you think it's strange that Miguel Ojeda, someone who was a catcher and who played baseball for many years, decides that to avoid sign theft, to removes Julián León of the Devils from the transmission if this is useless?


            “You will have to ask him.”


            Did YOU ask him?


            “No, we have a specific criterion of what happened, we are sanctioning based on that evidence and we consider that what was done is incorrect.”


            Horacio de la Vega anticipates that the owners of the LMB clubs are already analyzing the possibility of implementing the same electronic devices in Mexico that are already beginning to be used in the Major Leagues, through which the catchers ask the pitchers for the pitches.


            The LMB president also clarifies that if the Diablos Rojos television signal is the only independent in the entire league, it is because when Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú was built, the team made a huge investment in technology. But at the same time, there is the Manual for the use of electronic and video devices in ballparks that regulates the use of other cameras, radar and other equipment that clubs such as the Tijuana Toros have installed in order to generate data for scouting and advanced statistics, like the Bats and True Media System or even Trackman, which the LMB installed in stadiums this year.


            Obviously, the use of any technology that transmits information in real time directly to dugouts is prohibited.


            The LMB president also stressed that, although in the resolution of the LMB it was determined that it will be the personnel of the LMB who will be in charge of generating the transmission of the games of the Red Devils for a year – so that Marco Antonio Ávila no longer intervenes – “ it's something that the LMB is already going to do permanently.”


            De la Vega was questioned about a post that Monclova Acereros pitcher Héctor Velázquez made on the Instagram social network after one of the Toros players, Leandro Castro, celebrated his home runs in the playoffs. “Warned, even I batted,” the pitcher wrote to the batter, in clear reference to Tijuana stealing signals and knowing what pitches their rivals will throw.


            “As a result of sports scores, you can speculate many things and the joke is to demonstrate it. When you have strong evidence that something is wrong, you are co-responsible for the information you put on the table and if there is a player who is saying that, it is only fair that they prove it,” de la Vega says.


            “I am left with the task of investigating more on this subject. What we cannot do is that by mentioning any player, we have to open research folders. I urge any player to provide the information so the LMB can act accordingly,” the manager concludes.


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