by Bruce Baskin, Baseball Mexico, http://baseballmexico.blogspot.com/
LMB RACES TIGHTEN AS ALL-STAR WEEKEND APPROACHES
With three games to play before next weekend’s All-Star break, two games separate the top three teams in both Mexican League divisions. In the LMB North, defending champion Monterrey won their fifth straight Sunday at Monclova, 7-4, in a vital matchup between two pennant contenders. The 39-18 Sultanes have the best record in the Liga after knocking the 37-20 Acereros down from first place to third. Monclova entered the series with a home record of 22-5 before being swept by the visitors. Tijuana nipped Union Laguna, 20-11, in a pitcher’s duel Sunday to slip past the Steelers into second with a 38-19 mark. The Toros’ number nine batter, second baseman Maxwell Leon, belted two homers and four runs while newcomer Carlos Peguero (a former MLBer and NPBer) went 4-for-6 with two doubles and four ribbies.
In the LMB South, Oaxaca completed a three-game sweep of Tabasco Sunday with a 10-0 shutout in Villahermosa. Andres Meza scattered three hits over seven innings for the Guerreros, striking out five and walking one. An Alejandro Gonzalez triple to right that scored Alonzo Harris from second to give Meza all the support he’d need as Oaxaca improved to a division-leading 35-22. Mexico City sits two games back in second at 31-22 after drubbing Quintana Roo, 10-2, in the nation’s capital. Diablos Rojos starter David Reyes entered the eighth with a shutout and left with two out and a 9-1 lead. One inning earlier, Emmanuel Avila socked a grand slam for the winner. Puebla kept pace with Mexico City at 31-22 by winning for a fifth straight time, an 8-5 sweep-clincher over Leon at home. Herlis Rodriguez and Danny Ortiz both homered to key the Pericos’ four-run first inning, but the Bravos fought back and tied the game at 4-4 before Puebla had another four-run cloudburst in the fourth to essentially salt the game away. Jesus Arredondo’s bases-loaded single to right and an errant throw by Felix Pie resulted in three runners crossing the plate and Arrendono standing safely on third.
Despite the defensive miscue, Pie continues to enjoy a comfortable lead in the LMB batting derby with a .459 average, well ahead of Tabasco’s Ronnier Mustelier (.410). Pie’s Bravos teammate Matt Clark is tied with Jose Vargas of Aguascalientes for the RBI lead at 68 each. Vargas remains atop the home run table with 28 longballs in 55 games for the Rieleros. Monclova’s Chris Carter (25) and Puebla’s Danny Ortiz (24) are also on a pace to top 50 home runs this season, thanks in part to the livelier Franklin ball that replaced a Rawlings ball in the off-season. Ortiz spent eight years in the Twins system and was MVP in the Puerto Rican League in 2017 while playing for Santurce. Dos Laredos outfielder Johnny Davis stole ten bases over his last eleven games to run his season steals total to 38. The Compton, California product has twice as many swipes as his nearest Liga competitor (Tigres OF Alonzo Harris has 19).
Yucatan righthander Cesar Valdez’ 6-1 win over Campeche Sunday in Merida brought his record to 9-0, edging him ahead him of 8-0 Josh Lowey (Monclova) and Edgar Gonzalez (Monterrey) for the Mexican League wins lead among pitchers. The 34-year-old Valdez, who made his MLB debut with Oakland in 2017 after toiling 12 seasons in the minors, has allowed just six walks in 69.2 innings while striking out 43 batters en route to a 2.71 ERA (and an LMB-best 1.16 WHIP). The only moundsman in the league with a lower ERA is Leones teammate Yoanner Negrin at 2.63. Yasutomo Kubo of Leon has 80 strikeouts to lead Oaxaca’s Alex Delgado (74) by six Ks after Delgado whiffed nine Tabasco batters in 6.2 innings during the Guerreros’ 3-1 road win. Monterrey closer Wirfin Obispo recorded saves in his last ten outings dating beginning May 23 to take the Liga lead with 17 while Tijuana’s Jesus Pirela’s 16 holds is tops for that underrated stat (a Save being little more than a Hold with better timing).
A Mexican baseball legend’s birthday was marked last Thursday when all Liga ballparks hosting games celebrated Hector Espino Day. Espino is widely regarded as Mexico’s best-ever ballplayer, a dignified hero who rewrote record books and never sold himself short as either a player or a man. The Superman of Chihuahua represents a blend of Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson with a dash of Roberto Clemente to Mexican fans and his number 21 has been retired by all 26 LMB and LMP teams.
Mexican League teams will play one midweek series before taking a break for All-Star Weekend, scheduled for June 15-16 at Mexico City’s new Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu and including a Double Play Derby and Home Run Derby. Rosters for both North and South teams were announced last week:
LMB NORTH ALL-STAR TEAM
Pitchers (12): Manny Barreda (Tijuana), Carlos Bustamante (Monclova), Frankie de la Cruz (Union Laguna), Jumbo Diaz (Tijuana), Romario Gil (Monclova), Edgar Gonzalez (Monterrey), Felipe Gonzalez (Monterrey), Wirfin Obispo (Monterrey), Jesus Pirela (Tijuana), James Russell (Tijuana), Jake Sanchez (Tijuana), Ivan Zavala (Dos Laredos).
Catchers (2): Juan Apodaca (Saltillo), Bruce Maxwell (Monclova).
Infielders (8): Rodolfo Amador (Monclova), Erick Aybar (Monclova), Chris Carter (Monclova), Victor Mendoza (Monterrey), Ramiro Pena (Monterrey), Jose Vargas (Aguascalientes), Michael Wing (Aguascalientes), Amadeo Zazueta (Monterrey).
Outfielders (6): Domonic Brown (Dos Laredos), Francisco Ferreiro (Union Laguna), Jon Kemmer (Durango), Junior Lake (Tijuana), Francisco Peguero (Monclova), Juan Perez (Saltillo).
Designated Hitters (2): Yamaico Navarro (Monterrey), Saul Soto (Aguascalientes).
Manager: Roberto Kelly (Monterrey).
LMB SOUTH ALL-STAR TEAM
Pitchers (12): Ruddy Acosta (Oaxaca), Francisco Campos (Campeche), Erick Casillas (Oaxaca), Casey Harman (Campeche), Francisco Haro (Campeche), Yasutomo Kubo (Leon), Arturo Lopez (Mexico City), Yoanner Negrin (Yucatan), Jose Samayoa (Yucatan), Nathanael Santiago (Mexico City), Cesar Valdez (Yucatan), Fabian Williamson (Quintana Roo).
Catchers (2): Erik Rodriguez (Oaxaca), Sebastian Valle (Yucatan).
Infielders (8): Jesus Arredondo (Puebla), Emmanuel Avila (Mexico City), Jorge Cantu (Mexico City), Juan Carlos Gamboa (Mexico City), Hector Hernandez (Yucatan), Marco Jaime (Leon), Ronnier Mustelier (Tabasco), David Vidal (Mexico City).
Outfielders (6): Jay Austin (Campeche), Jesus Fabela (Mexico City), Carlos Lopez (Leon), Felix Pie (Leon), Nick Torres (Puebla), Ruben Sosa (Quintana Roo).
Designated Hitters (2): Japhet Amador (Mexico City), Matt Clark (Leon).
Manager: Sergio Gastelum (Oaxaca).
LMP EXPANSION DRAFT: GUASAVE, SULTANES SPLIT 64 PLAYERS
The Mexican Pacific League has held its expansion draft, during which the newly-minted Guasave Algodoneros and Monterrey Sultanes each picked the rights to 32 Mexican national players. The draft was held over eight rounds with Guasave and Monterrey picking four players each per cycle, one from each existing LMP team.
Guasave had the first pick of the first round and chose Los Mochis catcher Arturo Rodriguez. The Algodoneros’ selection of the 31-year-old Monterrey native is a rather curious one. Rodriguez, who spent parts of four summers in the Marlins organization, has been a decent enough player in the Mexican League (batting .313 with 33 homers in 262 games over six Liga seasons) but his career numbers of .252 with 9 homers and 60 RBIs over five LMP campaigns hardly shout “First overall expansion pick.” Rodriguez, who can also play first base or the outfield, split last winter between Obregon and the Caneros and batted below .190 in both stops over a combined 38 games.
Monterrey snapped up former MLB pitcher Edgar Gonzalez from Culiacan with their first pick. The 36-year-old righty may be getting a little long in the tooth by most baseball standards, but his 8-0 start this summer with the LMB Sultanes suggests a little more petrol in the tank. Gonzalez went 0-4 with a 6.29 ERA in nine starts for the Tomateros in 2018-19 but he’ll give the winterball version of the Sultanes a veteran hurler who was a starter in Arizona, Oakland and Houston (plus a 2010 stint in Korea) before settling in Monterrey during the 2015 LMB season. Gonzalez was 0-4 in nine starts for Culiacan last winter before pitching for the Acayucan Tobis as one of Mexico’s two teams co-hosting the Latin American Series at Veracruz in late January.
The old adage “You can’t have enough pitching” was adhered to in the May 21 draft. Of the 64 players chosen, 39 were hurlers: Monterrey took 21 pitchers while Guasave tabbed 18. The arms buildups led to uneven rosters. The Cottoneers have just three infielders in tow (the rules suggest four) while the Sultanes show two outfielders when three are preferred. Expect much trading.
Both teams came away with recognizable veterans on their rosters. Guasave took two Mazatlan pitching products, longtime starter Walter Silva and onetime wunderkind Luis Heredia, as well as first baseman Maxwell Leon, shortstop Emmanuel Avila, outfielder Jon Del Campo and middle reliever Luis de la O. Besides Gonzalez, Monterrey selected Mexican baseball notables like versatile infielders Niki Vasquez and Issmael Salas, hard-hitting outfielder Roberto Lopez and starting pitcher Jose Oyervides, who could form a solid 1-2 top of the rotation with Gonzalez for Monterrey.
Pitchers (18): Edgar Acosta, Filiberto Baez, Jesus Barraza, Octavio Becerra, Felipe Castaneda, Hector Galvan, Francisco Garcia, William Gonzalez, Luis Heredia, Jeffrey Ibarra, Isaac Jimenez, Jovani Lopez, Luis de la O, Jonathan Partida, Dalton Rodriguez, Oscar Rojas, Walter Silva, Joakim Soria.
Catchers (3): Luis Barajas, Jose Maciel, Arturo Rodriguez.
Infielders (3): Emmanuel Avila, Maxwell Leon, Jose Lizarraga.
Outfielders (6): Bryan Arraiza, Luis Cossio, Jon Del Campo, Jose Orozco, Alejandro Ortiz, Marco Valenzuela.
Pitchers (21): Hector Ambriz, Oscar Arzaga, Gerardo Bojorquez, Jason Carmona, Erick Casillas, Oliver Cervantes, Jesus Garcia, Adrian Garza, Roberto Garza, Edgar Gonzalez, Demetrio Gutierrez, Jorge Leo, Thomas Melgarejo, Jose Oyervides, Marco Ramirez, Jorge Reyes, Jorge Rivera, Carlos Rodriguez, Rolando Valdez, Jorge Vazquez, Ernesto Zaragoza.
Catchers (3): Jose Felix, Samuel Favela, Humberto Sosa.
Infielders (6): Gilberto Carrera, Miguel Gamboa, Jose Luna, Manuel Partida, Issmael Salas, Niko Vasquez.
Outfielders (2): Roberto Lopez, Duilio Ochoa.
The LMP also announced their schedule for the 2019-20 season. The Mexicali Aguilas will welcome Monterrey to El Nido on October 11, followed by a full slate of five games on October 12. Teams will play a traditional 68-game Mex Pac regular season spread over two halves from mid-October through the end of 2019. Playoffs will begin the first week of January, when an expanded eight-team field eliminates the “lucky loser” system, and the Winterball season will end in early February with the Caribbean Series (scheduled for San Juan, Puerto Rico).
CuartoBat.com WRITER’S TOP SIX MEXICAN BALLPARKS (PART 6)
A writer for Mexican baseball website CuartoBat.com, Yasser Trujillo, posted a column in April naming his picks for the top six ballparks in the Mexican and Mexican Pacific leagues, showing a definite preference for venues in the west. This is the final part of a series in which we’ve brought you a translated version. It was reported in BBM shortly after our series began that CuartoBat’s site had apparently been suspended (as per a Google search), but we’re glad to report that it’s back online and that you can download a free copy of their February magazine. In a short time, CuartoBat has already become a good, entertaining source for news and commentary on Mexican baseball.
1. ESTADIO TOMATEROS, CULIACAN
Located in the heart of Culiacán, a few streets from its historic center, sits the most spectacular baseball stadium in all of Latin America. It is a property that not only any fan of the sport dreams of but even boasts better facilities than at least three major league parks: Oakland, Tampa Bay and the Chicago White Sox. Estadio Tomateros has all the attributes to be the best stadium in Mexican baseball.
External screens and colorful LED lighting are on its facade and roof. The lighting is coordinated to the rhythm of the audio equipment. It has an internal corridor of 360 degrees with which you do not need to take your eyes off the playing field to go to the bathroom or the food area or wherever you want.
Estadio Tomateros has televisions in each column, automated turnstiles to enter through your physical ticket or on your cell phone. It has an interactive team hall of fame, a time capsule and a giant official store with a baseball concept. It has several memorabilia stands throughout the park, luxury boxes, resting areas in free use chairs, photographic spots. It also has entertaining family dynamics in all its interior, allusive details to the sport in banisters, stairs and walls, ramps and elevators and ATMs.
It has a food area consisting of around 40 vendors with varied offer, a la carte bars, restaurants with a diamond view and three of the largest screens in all of Latin America with 4K definition.
Estadio Tomateros also has one of the best animation teams in the country. They squeeze all the juice out of this tool to entertain young and old for more than three hours in a park endorsed and inaugurated in a personal way by the very commissioner of the Major Leagues. I challenge anyone to mention a stadium in Mexico with more amenities.
The directors of Tomateros have understood the concept of sports tourism and have implemented it successfully. They have turned the visit to the stadium into a unique, special and very touristic experience. They have promotions, such as discounts to students, office workers, half-price drinks, free women, family packages, gifts to their assistants on key days or fireworks nights.
It is a ballpark that, even out of season, opens its doors so you can enjoy its restaurants or tours behind closed doors. “Your stadium is 360, walk wherever you want, Welcome!” and “Go up and take the picture wherever it is, this is your stadium” are two slogans that the park proudly boasts on its screens and advertisements. And it is with a place that promotes the use of cameras and free access. For me, Culiacan’s Estadio Tomateros is the best stadium in Mexican baseball.
YASSER TRUJILLO’S TOP 6 MEXICAN BALLPARKS
1. Estadio Tomateros, Culiacan Tomateros (LMP)
2. Nuevo Estadio Yaquis, Obregon Yaquis (LMP)
3. Estadio Sonora, Hermosillo Naranjeros (LMP)
4. Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu, Mexico City Diablos Rojos (LMB)
5. Estadio Teodoro Mariscal, Mazatlan Venados (LMP)
6. Estadio Monterrey, Monterrey Sultanes (LMB/LMP)