by Bruce Baskin, Baseball Mexico, http://baseballmexico.blogspot.com/
LMP 2020-21 SEASON REAFFIRMED, THREE TEAMS WORRIED
The Mexican Pacific League held a Board of Presidents meeting last Thursday and while the LMP reaffirmed their intention to play a full schedule in the upcoming 2020-21 season, one website reports that at least three teams broached the possibility of sitting out the campaign due to concerns originating from the Wuhan virus.
Tito Escobar of ElJonronero.com reports sources told the website that three unnamed franchises expressed their concerns over operating at all next winter while discussions were held to address difficulties in securing advertising, contract disagreements and readjustments regarding beer and soft drink brands sold at ballparks and the uncertainty over how many fans will be allowed to attend games (if health authorities allow people in the stands at all).
Another worry brought up among the owners was the status of the Caribbean Series which is scheduled to take place in Mazatlan from late January into early February. Caribbean Professional Baseball Confederation president Juan Francisco Puello has already spoken of the possibility of affiliated leagues not playing their season because of the Wuhan virus, which would necessitate a Plan B of sorts if the Serie del Caribe is to be salvaged. One possibility is that a de facto all-star team consisting of players on LMP rosters could be cobbled together, in a fashion similar to how National Teams are formed, to represent Mexico in the Crown Jewel of Latin Baseball.
In the end, all the hesitant teams agreed to move forward, however tenuously, toward playing the upcoming winterball season. Although the Monterrey Sultanes will be playing their home games in Mazatlan, sharing Estadio Teodoro Mariscal with the hometown Venados, no other similar arrangements were announced, even though there’s been talk of the Mexicali Aguilas moving to Hermosillo for the season and alternating home series with the Naranjeros. Another rumor involved the less-likely prospect of the Jalisco Charros wintering in Culiacan and playing at Estadio Tomateros. Guadalajara, which also hosts the LMP office, is closer to other Mex Pac cities than either Monterrey or Mexicali while Charros ownership would be loathe to want to ship their team out of town for the season. The LMP was scheduled to announce the regular season schedule on Monday, August 10.
The Septima Entrada.com site reported that safety protocols for the season were discussed. LMP president Omar Canizales said during a videoconference that there are a number of steps the Mex Pac and its ten franchises will take to help ensure the health of players, coaches and team staff. The first step, Canizales said, is to talk with players and staffs, asking them to stay away from any risk and to isolate themselves and monitor their health for 15 days before they think they’ll report to their teams.
He said the next step would be to test everyone for the Wuhan virus upon their arrival to training sessions, with those testing positive quarantined according to procedure. Finally, players and coaches will be instructed to leave their hotels for games already in uniform, while waiting upon their return to change in order to avoid the use of ballpark dressing rooms, where players would be in close proximity to each other while dressing before and after games.
YOANYS QUIALA SIGNS WITH CPBL FUBON GUARDIANS
The Mexican Pacific League’s 2019-20 Pitcher of the Year has signed a one-year contract with a team in Taiwan after his anticipated summer with the Tijuana Toros was scuttled when the Mexican League pulled the plug on playing games in 2020.
Cuban right-hander Yoanys Quiala inked a pact last month with the Fubon Guardians of the Chinese Professional Baseball League, who also signed Mexican pitcher Manny Banuelos s an import in June. The CPBL is the only league in the world to begin its season on time in April and play a full schedule (minus rainouts) while other loops have delayed or canceled their seasons altogether due to the Wuhan virus. Quiala will undergo a physical and two-week quarantine in New Taipei City before being activated.
The 26-year-old Quiala was born in Mayari, Cuba but defected from the island nation prior to signing a free agent contract with the Houston organization in time for the 2015 season, when he posted a 2-0 record with a 1.54 ERA in nine appearances (four stats) for
an academy team in the rookie Dominican Summer League.
Quiala pitched in the Astros minor league system for four years, appearing in the 2017 Carolina League All-Star Game while pitching for Buies Creek. However, his 2018 season with AA Corpus Christi ended early after he received an 80-game suspension for using steroids. Quiala was subsequently released by Houston and signed a minor league free agent contact with San Francisco for the 2019 campaign. He was 6-8 for the Giants’ AAA Sacramento affiliate and had a 6.68 ERA for the River Cats before he was released on August 10. The 6’3” righty, who tips the scales at 235 pounds, signed with Tijuana last November.
Expectations weren’t high when Quiala reported to Los Mochis last season. He’d pitched for the Caneros in 2018-19 and went 3-5 with a 4.37 ERA as a swingman, which had been his usual role over five professional seasons. However, after he was used solely as a starter with Sacramento, Caneros manager Victor Bojorquez gave Quiala the ball every fifth game and he rewarded Los Mochis with a 9-2 mark (for a 32-36 team), leading the MLP in innings pitched (87.2), wins (9) and WHIP (0.98) while coming in second in ERA (2.57) and strikeouts (71) en route to an easy win as the Mex Pac Pitcher of the Year.
Quiala was set to help fill Tijuana’s starting rotation this year before the season was called off and rumors began circulating early last month that he was in talks with Fubon to pitch in the CPBL. The CPBLstats.com website reports that five days later, the Guardians filed a hiring application for a new player with the Ministry of Labor and Quiala was confirmed as that player. At last report, Quiala was awaiting results of a test for Wuhan virus and hoping to arrive in Taiwan by early August.
LMB TEAMS TO LOSE 1-3 MILLION PESOS MONTHLY IN SHUTDOWN
According the Beatriz Pereyra of Mexico City’s Proceso magazine, the Mexican League’s sixteen franchises stand to lose between one to three million pesos (US$45,000-135,000) per month now that the LMB has cancelled its 2020 schedule. LMB president Horacio de la Vega called off the season in late June for the first time since its 1925 inception due to ongoing concerns over the Wuhan virus, which has taken a steep toll in confirmed cases and deaths south of the border.
The possibility of playing games behind closed doors was considered until it was determined that most Liga teams could not afford to put teams on the field without ballpark-related revenue. Owner decided that their losses would be reduced by not playing a shortened regular season followed by playoffs. Although there are a handful of franchises like the Mexico City Diablos Rojos, Monterrey Sultanes and Tijuana Toros who have the financial strength to withstand what will be a year’s worth of red ink without income generated at their home stadiums, most of the teams were already operating on the margins even before the pandemic arrived last spring, causing an initial delay in the LMB’s anticipated April openers.
Even though the anticipated monetary losses will cause further damage to the league’s Have-Nots, LMB franchises will spend money to help finance the league office in the nation’s capital, including financial support for ballplayers and the circuit’s 36 umpires, because the loop does not have sponsorship resources allowing it to fund itself at the executive level. Pereyra says the league office issued a statement saying, “The LMB and its 16 teams have agreed to provide financial support to the players, as well as to the corps of umpires.”
As a result, each team will analyze what percentage of salaries for their rostered players as well as coaching staff members. Pereyra states that the average player in the Mexican League is paid US$6,700-7,600 per month, although there are novice players earning US$2,000-2,250. At the higher end of the payroll, star players may receive up to US$22,500 per month during the season, although the range for them is usually closer to US$13,500-18,000 every 30 days.
With the 2020 campaign abandoned, the LMB is moving ahead with plans to open their next season in April 2021 and using their extended offseason to invest in a “digital and technical transformation,” as the league office says, while addressing a television and media infrastructure that de la Vega considers a “weakness.”