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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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            A Twitter entry by Proceso writer Beatriz Pereyra regarding rumors that former Cy Young Award winner Fernando Valenzuela and his wife Linda Burgos are trying to sell the Quintana Roo Tigres has raised several eyebrows across the country, with the team office denying Pereyra's claim a day after it was first posted.


            Pereyra's translated comment on Twitter last Wednesday was that "the Tigres for sale. There are several interested, mainly in northern states of the country. The team will inevitably change owners. The Valenzuela family will say goodbye to the project.”


            A translated tweet from the Tigres team office in Cancun on Thursday read in part, “The Tigres de Quintana Roo organization categorically denies the rumors that occurred in the last hours about its sale. The team remains under the leadership of the Valenzuela Burgos family based in Cancun, Quintana Roo. We appreciate the support and endorsement of the fans to our team during all these years.” 


            Still, Pereya doubled down on her claim following the Tigres' tweet. "I maintain that the team is for sale," she said. "Time will tell who is right. Fact: Do you remember when Mr. Murra denied that he was not the owner of the Union Laguna Algodoneros? It is something similar.” Pereya's reference is to Union Laguna's current president Guillermo Murra Marroquin, who denied his family was buying the Cottoneers from the Arellano brothers (also co-owners of the Yucatan Leones) in January 2019, a month before the Murras were announced as the franchise's new owners.


            Longtime Mexican baseball coach, scout and administrator Carlos Fragoso of Mexico City says simply, “Fernando Valenzuela declared that the Tigres are not for sale, so as of now they will continue being part of LMB.”


            Valenzuela fronted a group of unnamed investors that bought the Mexican League heritage franchise from Carlos Peralta (son of team founder Alejo Peralta) for an undisclosed amount in February 2017. Almost immediately, the former Dodgers All-Star and his wife were confronted by challenges when their partners reportedly bailed out on the investment, leaving them sole owners of the 12-time LMB champions. Then it was discovered that a number of prospects who'd been on a list of protected players given to the Valenzuelas prior to the sale had been surreptitiously transferred to the Mexico City Diablos Rojos, touching off the Rookiegate scandal that rocked the LMB for months.


            The common denominator in Rookiegate appears to be Francisco "Pollo" Minjarez, who worked in the Tigres' front office prior to the sale before taking the Diablos' general manager's job shortly afterward and was thus the recipient of the six prospects, two of whom were subsequently sold to the Texas Rangers for more than two million dollars combined. Former LMB president Javier Salinas eventually ruled that the rights to the prospects be returned to the Tigres along with the money received from the player sales but at last report, the Diablos have honored neither order.


            Minjarez was also placed on suspension by the Liga office, but reportedly never gave up his duties in the Red Devils' front office. He'd previously been suspended indefinitely by  the Mexican League in 2013 after allegedly violating internal agreements and using inappropriate behavior as general manager of the Obregon Yaquis and has not worked in the Mex Pac since.


            Although Cancun has grown to over 700,000 residents and has a 9,500-seat ballpark (Estadio Beto Avila), the city has never greatly supported baseball. An earlier LMB team, the Langosteros, played in Cancun from 1996 through 2005, when Hurricane Wilma devastated the ballpark and forced the team to move to Poza Rica after ten seasons of tepid response from the local audience. The Tigres moved to the tourist mecca in 2007 and despite four division titles and three pennants since, the club is usually in the middle of Liga attendance tables. In 2019, they finished eighth with 226,525 fans over 59 home dates for an average of 3,839 per opening. The Tigres have never drawn 4,000 a night.


            If the Valenzuelas do sell the Tigres, it would mark the end of a 43-month era in Cancun that began with great fanfare accompanying the purchase of one of Mexico's most-storied baseball teams by perhaps its most popular Major League star. Instead, the Tigres have since seen middling success on the field accompanied by a rising tide of red ink in the franchise's coffers.


            There have been calls over the years for the team to move back to its original home of Mexico City but given their enmity towards the Diablos, Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is more likely to renounce baseball for cricket than the Valenzuelas sharing the capital city with the Red Devils.


            Nobody from the "northern cities" Pereyra mentioned in her initial tweet has been identified, but Septima Entrada's Jose Alfredo Ortiz reported earlier this month that the Aguascalientes Rieleros are rumored to be moving to Veracruz for 2021. Otero mentioned nobody in his story either, but it's been said that sisters Regina and Fabiola Vasquez Saut (who operated the now-defunct Veracruz Winter League in 2018-19 and owned the rights to the Acayucan Tobis franchise) are interested in bringing an LMB team back to Veracruz.





            With the opening of the 2020-21 season less than a month away, there was concern among the ten Mexican Pacific League teams that they may all have to play games with no fans in the stands due to health concerns over the Wuhan virus. Some welcome news arrived last week when the governor of Sinaloa said in an interview that the four LMP teams within the state will be allowed to play before live audiences comprising up to 40 percent of each ballpark's capacity, depending on each facility's regular season and layout.


            According to Puro Beisbol, Sinaloa governor Quirino Ordaz Coppel told the Linea Directa website that protocols required by the Ministry of Health will be carried out so fans in Culiacan, Guasave, Los Mochis and Mazatlan can attend games this season. A Mex Pac press release says the the league will work "hand in hand with government and health authorities" to ensure that people can see games in person.


            Culiacan will be able to sell 8,000 tickets at 20,000-seat Estadio Tomateros while the Mazatlan Venados can play with 6,400 aficionados at Estadio Teodoro Mariscal (capacity 16,000). In Los Mochis, 4,800 seats at Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada (12,000) can be filled for Caneros home games while in Guasave, the Algodoneros may play for up to 4,200 fans at 10,000-seat Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon. The regular season is due to open Thursday, October 15 with games in Culiacan, Los Mochis and Mazatlan among the five scheduled for that night.


            According to the press release from the Mex Pac's Guadalajara office, "Each of the 35 games that these organizations have on their calendar for the regular season, plus the eventual playoffs, will have the proper controls and limitations, for all areas such as locker rooms, entrances, corridors, toilets and restaurants with the sale of drinks and food, respecting the protocols of their sectors at all times."


            Masks will be required (and make for great fashion statements) at all times while spaces designated for handwashing with antibacterial gel will be installed at each ballpark. Fans failing to comply with the rules will be forced to leave the ballpark.



            A pair of Hermosillo products, one who's become one of the top sluggers in Korean baseball and a highly-touted infield prospect who made his MLB debut last month, want to play in Mexico this winter once their current seasons end. Puro Beisbol editor Francisco Ballesteros reports that LG Twins first baseman Roberto Ramos is hoping to suit up for his hometown Naranjeros while Detroit Tigers third sacker Isaac Paredes seeks to perform in Mazatlan after being traded by Obregon to the Venados for veteran catcher Sebastian Valle in the offseason.


            The 25-year-old Ramos was an obscure power-hitting minor leaguer in the Colorado Rockies minor league system for six years before his contract was sold to the Korea Baseball Organization's Busan-based Twins in January, with whom he reportedly signed a one-year, U$500,000 contract. His batting average has cooled down after a sizzling start to his first year in the KBO (although he's brought it back up to .285 in recent games), but Ramos recently belted his 33rd homer of 2020 to extend his single-season record of most homers for a Mexican-born player in South Korea after breaking Karim Garcia's old standard of 30 earlier this month.


            Ramos has spent parts of the past five winters as an unheralded member of the Orangemen, hitting .220 with 14 homers in 145 games, but his newfound celebrity status in Korea will likely carry home with him. Naranjeros GM Juan Aguirre says that with the Twins expected to reach the KBO playoffs, they don't expect Ramos in Estadio Sonora until the second half of the Mex Pac season. "We have spoken with Roberto and we are aware that the first round would be lost," said Aguirre. "In fact, we will give him enough space to see if we can count on him as of December." With the Twins likely interested in signing Ramos for 2021, they'd need to sign off on him playing winterball back home.


            The 21-year-old Paredes, who signed as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs in 2016 and came to the Detroit organization a year later as part of a five-player trade, was a midseason All-Star with Class A Lakeland in 2018 and Class AA Erie last year. He spent this season practicing and playing intrasquad games at the Tigers' alternate training site in Toledo before being called up August 17. Paredes went 1-for-4 that night with a two-run single during a 7-2 loss to the White Sox in Chicago and was batting .318 after one week (belting a grand slam in 10-5 win at Cleveland on August 21). He was still hitting .258 at the end of August before going into a September slump that saw him go 4-for-36 to start the month as his averaged plummeted to .176.


            His plate woes haven't affected his work at the hot corner, as Paredes committed just one error over his first 23 games and took part in seven double plays for a .981 fielding percentage. While the Tigers are concerned over his tendency to take first-pitch strikes, they love his ability to play three infield positions (Paredes appears best-suited for second base despite his 5'11” 210-pound frame) and think his patience at the plate will be a virtue.


            Paredes has spent the past three winters with Obregon, batting a cumulative .283 with seven homers over 104 games with the Yaquis. Mazatlan GM Jesus “Chino” Valdez says Paredes should be with the Yaquis along with Houston pitcher Jose Urquidy this season. “In the talks I've had with Issac, he plans to report,” says Valdez. “The same thing will happen with Urquidy because he thinks he'll need innings this winter because of the lack of activity he's had this year in the majors.”


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