Monday, April 9, 2018

Four teams bunched one game apart atop LMB South

Quintana Roo Tigres infielder Brian Hernandez
While the Monterrey Sultanes were able to maintain their three-game lead in the Mexican League North Division over the past week, only one game separates the top four teams in the LMB South in what's been a very competitive start out the gate for what has been considered the weaker of the Liga's two eight-team divisions.

The Quintana Roo Tigres continued to surprise many observers by holding on to a tie for first with Yucatan in the South after a 12-6 win Sunday in Durango to lift their Spring 2018 record to 11-4.  Third baseman Brian Hernandez had five of the Tigres' 20 hits on the night, doubling twice and scoring two runs while driving in two more.  The Leones kept pace with an 8-3 victory over Union Laguna in Torreon as former MLB All-Star Freddy Garcia tossed five innings of four-hit ball for the victors, allowing one unearned run for Garcia's first LMB win in three decisions.

Sitting one game behind the leaders with identical 10-5 records are the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Puebla Pericos.  The Red Devils completed a three-game home sweep of defending champion Tijuana with a 3-1 win over the defending champs Sunday.  Ricardo Valenzuela's two-run single with the bases loaded in the fourth inning broke a scoreless tie and starter Luis Niebla (4 IP, 0 R) combined with closer Jean Machi and two other relievers to make the lead stand.  Puebla stayed even with the Diablos by recording a 7-2 triumph in Monclova over their big-brother Acereros, thanks to Jesus Arredondo's three-run homer in the third and starter Rogelio Bernal's 6.2 innings of one-run pitching against his former teammates.  Oaxaca, Leon, Tabasco and Campeche are all under .500 and in danger of falling out of contention early in the shortened format, but the LMB South overall has fared better thus far in 2018 than they collectively showed last summer.

Monterrey struggled a bit on the road against South teams last week, dropping two of three games against Tabasco in Villahermosa before rebounding to win twice in Campeche, maintaining their three-game LMB North leadership with an 11-4 record after winning eight of their first nine games of the year.  The Sultanes missed their chance for a three-game sweep of the Piratas Sunday by dropping a 6-4 contest as Uriak Marquez had three hits with a run scored and another driven in for the hosts.  Even so, Monterrey is up three games on the only other North team with a winning record, the 8-7 Aguascalientes Rieleros, who rode a two-hit shutout from starter Guillermo Trujillo and four relievers.  Olmecas opener Alejandro Astorga (2 R, 4 H) pitched seven strong innings but lacked support in absorbing a tough loss.

Dos Laredos, Tijuana and Durango are all tied for third in the LMB North with 7-8 marks while Monclova sits a game behind in sixth at 6-9, but the season has gotten off to bad starts in Saltillo (5-10) and Union Laguna (3-12).  Mexican baseball has never been the most secure for managers and drumbeats in Torreon and Gomez Palacios for Algodoneros skipper Ramon Orantes' replacement only got louder after Sunday's home loss to Yucatan and Freddy Garcia.

None of the upcoming midweek series would make the menu at a five-star restaurant, but the most interesting set may be when Monclova visits Merida to take on Yucatan in a matchup between two the Liga's top teams.  Next weekend's fare looks more palatable, with longtime rivals Mexico City and Monterrey squaring off in the northern city for three games.

Ricky Alvarez off to torrid start in first year with Sultanes

Monterrey Sultanes first baseman Ricky Alvarez
It would be hard to blame first baseman Ricky Alvarez if he got off to a slow start with Monterrey this spring.  After all, the Sultanes are the Tijuana-born slugger's third Mexican League team since he was traded by Laguna to Yucatan late last June in a seven-player swap even though he was leading the LMB with 75 RBIs in 66 games and mentioned often in early MVP conversations.  Alvarez cooled off over 43 games with the Leones, playing home games in Merida's pitching-friendly Parque Kukulkan, and finished the 2017 campaign with a .311 average and 17 homers to go with his 105 RBIs to nudge out Saltillo's Rainel Rosario by one ribbie for the crown.

What ended up a solid season by any standard wasn't enough to keep Alvarez in Yucatan, however, as he was a centerpiece in a major offseason deal between the Leones and Sultanes that sent Alvarez and outfielder Francisco Lugo to Monterrey for shortstop Walter Ibarra and designated hitter Luis Juarez.  Rather than struggle to fit in with yet another new team or wonder what it takes to keep from having to change teams, the 5'11" 220-pounder is off to a torrid start for the Sultanes.  Alvarez hit three homers over the weekend in Campeche to take LMB lead with six roundtrippers in his first 15 games while his four RBIs at Estadio Nelson Barrera on Saturday and Sunday gave him 16 for Spring 2018 to put him in a five-way tie at the top in that category.   With a .410 average, the former Tigers farmhand ranks sixth on the batting derby table.   Now in his seventh Liga season after debuting with Monterrey back in 2012, Alvarez has LMB career totals of .293/82/365 over 552 games while going 50-of-69 on stolen base attempts.  In short, it doesn't appear to really matter whose uniform Ricky puts on because he's going to produce for that team.

Leading the LMB bat race through last weekend is Tijuana outfielder Maxwell Leon, a journeyman utility player who spent five years in the Detroit Tigers system before his 2011 LMB debut with Minatitlan, where he hit .341 with 14 homers and 43 RBIs in 57 games for the Petroleros.  While the Mexico City native didn't approached those numbers over his subsequent six seasons with four teams, Leon has proven to be a useful player who can plug a defensive hole while offering a .290 hitting average with some gap power.  Leon has taken the lead in the Mexican League batting race with a .515 average, 33 points higher than Durango's Yadir Drake and 53 points up on Drake's Generales teammate, newcomer Dustin Geiger.  Drake and Geiger are tied with Alvarez, Quintana Roo's Brian Hernandez and Monclova's Manny Rodriguez (who else?) for the RBI lead with 16 each while Tijuana's Justin Greene and Jeremias Pineda of Dos Laredos are knotted up at eight stolen bases in what is already shaping up to be a tight race for both 2018 seasons in Mexico.

Four Liga pitchers are carrying identical 3-0 records, but the hurler who's gotten the most out of the least amount of time on the mound is Yucatan middleman Jesus Barraza, who has yet to be scored upon over eight innings in seven appearances out of the Leones bullpen.  Monterrey's Marco Tovar has a 0.96 ERA in three starts (tops among LMB starters) while Puebla's Mitch Lamson's effectiveness has been an even 2.00 per nine innings.  Javier Solano of Monterrey, the fourth 3-0 hurler and a past Mexican Pacific League Pitcher of the Year, saw his ERA rise to 4.20 after being touched for four runs on ten hits in five innings at Tabasco last Wednesday.  Josh Lowey's 24 strikeouts for Monclova is one better than the 23 of Tiago Da Silva, who is in Durango's starting rotation after being one of the LMB's top closers in 2017.  Three men are tied with four saves apiece: Yucatan's Ronald Belisario, Anthony Carter of Aguascalientes and Campeche's Pedro Rodriguez.

Villanueva swats three homers in single game for Padres

San Diego Padres third baseman Christian Villanueva
Third baseman Christian Villaneuva's impressive major league debut for San Diego after a September callup last year (.344 with four homers and 7 RBIs in 12 games) wasn't enough to keep the Padres from reacquiring former first-round draft pick Chase Headley to play some third base at Petco Park in 2018 along with incumbent starter Cory Spangenberg, another onetime first round pick who hit .264 with 13 homers and 11 steals in 2017.  The crowded situation at the hot corner carried over throughout spring training, when there was some speculation that Villanueva might be sent back down to AAA El Paso (for whom the Guadalajara product was .296/20/86 over 109 contests while splitting time between third and first base).

Villanueva, who has appeared in two winterball seasons with Obregon (winning BBM's Most Valuable Player award in 2015-16 for his play with the Yaquis), ended up sticking with the parent club and has been the starter at third for most games thus far.  While he's had his ups and downs, like most rookies, Villanueva solidified his standing by belting three homers in a home game against Colorado on April 4 as the Padres topped the Rockies, 8-4.   With his trio of longballs, Villanueva became the fourth Mexican-born player to whack three homers in a single MLB game, joining Erubiel Durazo (2003, 2005), Vinny Castilla (1999, 2002) and Roberto Avila (1951).  For the record, he went deep with two homers off Colorado starter Kyle Freeland in the second and fourth innings while touching Antonio Sentazela with a three-run blast in the seventh.  All three roundtrippers were to left field at Petco Park, one of the hardest ballparks to homer at in MLB.

After the game, San Diego manager Andy Green sagely allowed as to how Villanueva's outburst would probably earn a little more playing time.  Word does travel and pitchers are now working the 26-year-old a lot more carefully than they might have and the subsequent five games have seen him go 3-for-18 at the plate with eight strikeouts to drop his batting average from .429 to .240.  Still, no matter what Villanueva does the rest of the season (or his career, for that matter), he'll have had a night that precious few of his countrymen have experienced at the highest level of the game.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Monterrey races to 8-1 start, leads LMB North by three games

Monterrey first baseman Ricky Alvarez
New manager Roberto Kelly's offseason overhaul of the Monterrey Sultanes roster appears to be panning out, if the first ten days of the Mexican League's 2018 Spring season are any indication.  Not that things were all that dire with one of the LMB's flagship franchises, as the Sultanes copped the LMB North regular season title before falling to Tijuana over six games in the division finals last summer, but the Panamanian ex-Yankee outfielder has been very direct since he was hired to replace Felix Fermin at the helm of the Sultanes that he wants a team that emphasizes speed and baserunning and went about finding players who fit that image.

So far, so good.  The Sultanes roared out the gate by winning their first six games before being mauled by Monclova, 16-3, at home Friday night as Ruben Rivera's fifth-inning grand slam off Edgar Torres highlighted an 18-hit Acereros assault on seven Monterrey hurlers.  The Sultanes then won the next two games to cop the series and raise their record to 8-1.  First baseman Ricky Alvarez, who returned to Monterrey in a December trade with Yucatan that also netted the Sultanes outfielder Francisco Lugo in exchange for DH Luis Juarez and shortstop Walter Ibarra, ranks fourth in batting in the LMB with a .432 average and is tied with five others for the lead in homers with three longballs.  Perhaps more telling, the 5'11" 220-pound Alvarez, rarely mistaken for a gazelle, has stolen two bases in two tries over his first nine games to tie rightfielder Leo German and third baseman Agustin Murillo for the club lead.  It would be wonderful to give you some team totals for an overall view of how much has changed with the Sultanes, but Minor League Baseball appears to have decided that baseball is really an individual sport and are not posting team figures this spring so your guess is as good as mine.

Lefty Marco Tovar, who only pitched in five games in 2017 and went 1-0 with a 5.06 ERA for Monterrey, has won his first two starts and is tied for second with Union Laguna's Emil Sepulveda among LMB starters with an 0.82 ERA.  Another veteran moundman, Javier Solano, is also 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA.  Surprisingly, Kelly has not gotten much support from his bullpen as closer Wirfin Obispo (who converted 28 saves in 36 opportunities last year and went 7-5 with a 2.12 ERA) has a blown save in three opportunities thus far with a 5.06 ERA.  Obispo has earned 50 saves the past two years in Monterrey with 170 strikeouts in 126.2 innings, however, so the 33-year-old Dominican has plenty of time to regain his mojo.

The Sultanes' early success on the field has also been reflected at the gate, where Monterrey leads the LMB in attendance with 141,451 fans clicking the turnstiles at renovated Estadio Monterrey for an average of 15,717.  The Sultanes will hit the road for a pair of series this week, playing three games in Tabasco Tuesday through Thursday before opening a three-game set in Campeche Friday.

Generales' Drake picks up where he left off, leads Liga in batting
Durango Generales outfielder Yadir Drake

When Cuban outfielder Yadir Drake left the Durango Generales last summer to play in Japan, he was leading the Mexican League with a .385 batting average over 71 games before heading across the Pacific to Hokkaido and the Nippon Ham Fighters.  After a slow start with the Fighters, Drake raised his Pacific League average to .232 with one homers and three RBIs in 32 games at season's end and was not brought back to the Far East for 2018.  As a result, the 27-year-old right-handed batter is back in Durango, for whom he signed as an unheralded free agent in January 2017 after being released by the Los Angeles Dodgers following two seasons in their system (topping out at AA Tulsa, where he hit .269 in 106 contests for 2015).

Drake made his LMB debut during the Generales' turbulent first season, playing on the road for the first month and waiting for his paycheck on more than one occasion as the league covered payroll for the underfunded franchise.  Despite all the on- and off-field distractions, Drake (who also swatted 14 homers and drove in 61 runs) was awarded the Liga batting title when his 300 plate appearances barely qualified him for the crown while he also performed in the All-Star Game.

There have been a number of changes in Durango since the end of the 2017 season, including new ownership, a new team president in former MLB catcher and Mexico City manager Miguel Ojeda and a new manager in Matias Carrillo.  One thing that hasn't changed is Drake's production at the plate, where he leads the LMB tables with a .515 average (17-of-33) and is tied for the top of the list with three homers while driving in 10 runs over his first nine games.  His on-base percentage of .600 is also tied for the Liga lead with Puebla first baseman Daric Barton.  There IS one change that affects Drake, however:  He married a Mexican woman during the offseason and is applying for Mexican citizenship.  It's expected that once Drake's nationalization is completed, the Generales will activate pitcher Francisley Bueno to fill one of the squad's eight slots for import players.  Bueno, another Cuba native and a former Kansas City Royals reliever, was 3-2/4.47 in eleven starts for Durango in 2017.

The Generales, who spent the entire month of April on the road last year while their ballpark was being fixed up for Durango's return to the LMB, have played all nine of their games on the road so far in 2018 (winning five of them to tie with Aguascalientes and Dos Laredos for second in the LMB North, three games behind Monterrey).  They'll open their home schedule Tuesday night when they host Yucatan for a midweek series.

Other LMB batting leaders one day into April include Durango's new first baseman Dustin Geiger (a former Cubs farmhand) with 14 RBIs, Dos Laredos centerfielder Jeremias Pineda with 12 runs scored and Tijuana centerfielder Justin Greene with seven stolen bases, setting up a dandy battle with Pineda (five swipes) for the steals title in Spring 2018.

Among pitchers, Tijuana reliever Jesus Barraza, an eighth-year LMB middleman, is 3-0 for the Toros to lead the loop in wins.  Barraza teammate Kyle Lobstein is 1-0 in two starts and has yet to give up an earned run in 9.1 frames to lead the Liga in that category, Monclova's Josh Lowey in in his accustomed position as strikeouts leader with 15 K's over 14 innings and four pitchers are tied with three saves apiece (Yucatan closer Ronald Belisario has tossed the most innings of the foursome with 6.1 entradas and has six whiffs with one walk).

Velazquez earns first win of 2018 for Bosox; 10 Mexicans in MLB
Boston Red Sox pitcher Hector Velazquez

Mexican pitcher Hector Velazquez has picked up his first win of the season by going 5.2 innings for the Boston Red Sox in a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday in St. Petersburg, Florida.  The 29-year-old righty from Obregon scattered five hits, struck out five Rays batters and walked just one in front of 14,256 onlookers at Tropicana Field.

Tampa Bay's lone run came via a leadoff solo homer to deep right field by first baseman Brad Miller on the first pitch of the second inning.  Velazquez struggled a bit in the second, allowing two more hits before retiring Mallex Smith on a fly out to left and inducing Adeiny Hechavarria to hit a force-out grounder to second to end the threat.  Velazquez eventually made it seven consecutive outs by Rays batters before allowing a two-out single to Joey Wendle and a walk to Wilson Ramos, then closing out the frame by dishing up a long fly by Smith that was hauled in by Red Sox centerfielder Jackie Bradley.  He retired the side in the fifth and set down the first two Tampa Bay batters in the sixth prior to a Matt Duffy single up the middle, bringing Boston manager Alex Cora out of the dugout to wave Marcus Walden in from the bullpen and a trip to the showers for Velazquez, who had to enjoy what late pitching coach great Johnny Sain used to call "the cool of the evening," Sain's way to describe a pitcher's state of mind after turning in a strong effort on the mound.

Velazquez spent seven years pitching in Mexico prior to signing with the Bosox early last year.  He was the Mexican League's Rookie of the Year in 2010 after turning in a 6-4 record and a 2.63 ERA for the Campeche Piratas, including a complete-game shutout among 14 starts in 29 appearances.  He spent six summers in the Walled City before a trade sent him to Monclova in 2016.  Velazquez' seven-year LMB career record is 51-33 with a 3.56 ERA in 155 outings.  His winterball record wasn't quite as sparkling over eight Mexican Pacific League campaigns, going 27-22 and registering a 4.00 ERA.  However, two of those seasons (the last six with Navojoa) resulted in Pitcher of the Year awards.  He was 8-1 and 2.17 in 2013-14 but it was Velazquez' 2016-17 showing that caught the eye of Red Sox scouts when he finished 9-3 and had a 2.32 ERA, good enough for a minor league contract with Boston.

Velazquez spent most of 2017 with AAA Pawtucket, where he was one of the International League's top twirlers by going 8-4 with a 2.21 ERA in 19 starts.  He made his Major League debut for Boston on May 18 in a start at Oakland, giving up three homers in five innings to lose an 8-3 contest before being shipped back to Rhode Island.  He was brought back a month later, securing his first win on June 14 at Philadelphia, 7-3, in an interleague contest.  Velazquez won two more games for the Red Sox to finish the regular season with a 3-1 record, posting a solid 2.92 ERA.  He pitched briefly for Navojoa last winter before Boston shut him down until training camp opened in February.

The right-hander is one of 10 current Mexican-born players on MLB rosters, joined by Philadelphia pitcher Victor Arano (Cosamaloapan), Toronto pitchers Jaime Garcia (Reynosa), Roberto Osuna (Juan Jose Rios) and Marco Estrada (Sonora), Arizona pitchers Jorge de la Rosa (Guadalajara) and Fernando Salas (Huatabampo), Cincinnati pitcher Yovani Gallardo (Penjamillo), White Sox pitcher Joakim Soria (Monclova) and San Diego third baseman Christian Villanueva (Guadalajara).

Monday, March 26, 2018

Lowey, Acereros top TJ in Mexican League 2018 opener

Monclova Acereros pitcher Josh Lowey
The Mexican League's Pitcher of the Year for 2016, Josh Lowey, tossed five innings of two-hit shutout ball and former American League Championship Series MVP Delmon Young slugged a solo homer to lead the Monclova Acereros to a 6-1 win over defending champions Tijuana last Thursday night in the LMB's Spring 2018 season opener at a sold-out Estadio B'Air in the border city.

Lowey looked like the Lowey of two years ago as the Liga strikeout king for the past two summers whiffed four Toros batters and walked two.  It wasn't entirely a sleigh ride for the Floridian righty, though, as he loaded the bases in the bottom of the first by walking Isaac Rodriguez and Dustin Martin after Tijuana leadoff hitter Justin Greene reached first on a throwing error by Monclova third baseman Rudy Amador, but Lowey settled down to retire dangerous batters Cyle Hankerd, Corey Brown and Jorge Cantu on ten pitches to escape the inning unscathed en route to setting down ten straight Toros batsmen.

Young, who swatted 18 homers for Detroit in 2012 and paced the Tigers' four-game sweep of the Yankees with two homers, a double and six RBIs, took Tijuana's ageless reliever Rafael Diaz deep in the third with a line-drive bomb over the wall in left-center to bring give the Acereros a 4-0 lead after Monclova had scored three times in the second, starting with an Alberto Carreon double that plated Matt Clark with the game's first run.  The Steelers' lead had risen to 6-0 before Greene scored TJ's lone run from third on a Martin ground-out against reliever Zach Phillips.

A total of 17,698 fans packed the stands for the contest in Tijuana, held one night before the rest of the LMB teams opened their seasons on Friday.  In all there were three sellout crowds among the eight Liga openers.  Besides the full house in Tijuana, a total of 21,746 aficionados were on hand at Estadio Monterrey for the Sultanes' 5-1 win over rival Saltillo as Agustin Murillo reached base four times (two singles, two walks), scored once and drove in a run while 5,600 onlookers filled tiny Estadio Fray Nano in Mexico City for the Diablos Rojos' 8-5 loss to Puebla in which the Pericos broke open a scoreless tie with a seven-run fifth inning keyed by Michael Crouse's two-run double.  Surprisingly, the usually-moribund Tabasco Olmecas lured 8,132 fans to Parque Centenario 27 de Febrero for a 4-2 defeat to Yucatan, thanks to Jose Aguilar's tiebreaking two-run single in the top of the ninth.  At the other end of the spectrum, just 4,138 were on hand in Leon to see the Bravos hold off Oaxaca, 7-6, as veteran third sacker Miguel Torrero singled, tripled, scored two runs and drove in three for the home team.

MexPac to move league office from Hermosillo to Guadalajara
LMP Assembly of Presidents meeting in Hermosillo
After nearly five decades with headquarters in Hermosillo, the Mexican Pacific League has announced it will be moving its offices east to Guadalajara during the offseason. The LMP has been based in the Sonora city since 1970-71, when the circuit changed its name from Sonora-Sinaloa League to its current title and became part of the revived Caribbean Series lineup (along with Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic) after the CS had been discontinued in 1961 following Cuba's exit in the wake of a communist takeover of the island nation, where purported baseball fan Fidel Castro abolished the professional game and replaced it with the nominally-amateur Cuban National Series.

In announcing the shift from Hermosillo, MexPac president Omar Canizales said "the Assembly of Presidents, where the eight teams were represented, agreed to a very important decision in making a move from the current headquarters of the Liga del Pacifico de Beisbol to the city of Guadalajara."  Canizales explained that the objective in the move is "having greater closeness to different actors in the media and different business partners, as well as a greater presence in the center of the country."  Home of the Jalisco Charros, Guadalajara is Mexico's second-largest metropolitan area with more than five million residents (Hermosillo's metro population is about 900,000) and is easily the easternmost franchise site in the LMP.

Much speculation has arisen among Mexican baseball columnists about the move, much of it on whether Canizales & Company are gearing up for expansion away from the Pacific coast and into the country's larger population centers.  The shift of the Guasave Algodoneros to Guadalajara in 2014 marked the first venture outside states bordering the Gulf of California and Canizales has previously said he'd be interested in placing MexPac franchises in Mexico City and Monterrey.  Some talk is that the shift may be tied to a proposed Mexican National League in which stronger franchises from both the LMP and Mexican League would combine into one larger circuit playing year-round using Liga MX soccer's two-season approach as a template in much the same way the Liga is going this year with their Spring and Fall seasons and playoffs.  At this juncture, however, speculation is just that.

There appears little doubt that the move to Guadalajara is in part a reaction to the very proactive moves that first-year LMB president Javier Salinas has been making to raise the profile of his circuit as the LMP completed a schedule amid concerns of stagnating and declining attendance in many of its cities, with one Puro Beisbol writer stating that he believed the announced attendance at a number of ballparks was fudged after watching games on TV showing the stands far less occupied than the boxscores were stating.  Although it is the younger of the two leagues based in smaller cities than the Liga, the MexPac has shown itself to be the better-attended and more stable league of the two over the past several years.  The LMB still has plenty of problem franchises (Puro Beisbol editor Francisco Ballesteros says that only five or six of the Liga's 16 teams are on solid financial ground, with a like number subsidized almost entirely by local and/or state governments) with many unresolved internal issues such as Rookiegate, but Salinas' bold offseason moves may be forcing Mexico's Junior Circuit to step up its own game.

The next LMP Assembly of Presidents meeting is slated for April 19 in Mazatlan, where league officials will tour Estadio Teodoro Mariscal to view upgrades being made to that ballpark.

Ex-MLB player, coach Castro claims mistreatment during short Toros stint
Former Tijuana Toros GM/coach/??? Juan Castro
Former Major League Baseball infielder Juan Gabriel Castro, who served as a coach for the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers last season, is now looking for work after a short, strange term of employment with the Mexican League's Tijuana Toros came to an end after just two months.  And the 45-year-old Los Mochis native is not happy about his first foray in LMB baseball.

Castro spent all or part of 17 seasons in the big leagues between 1995 and 2011, primarily with the Dodgers and Cincinnati.  While never an established starter, Castro made himself useful with his versatility as a shortstop who could fill in capably at second or third base.  He hit .229 with 36 homers for his career, batting .253 with career highs of nine homers and 33 RBIs over 113 games for the Reds in 2003 for his best offensive season.  Following his retirement as a player in 2011, Castro was named as a special assistant to the General Manager with the Dodgers and also coached the Mexican National Team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic under current White Sox skipper Rick Renteria.  He's spent the last two summers as the Dodgers' Quality Assurance Coach for helmsman Dave Roberts.

That pedigree was enough to draw the interest of Toros owner Alberto Uribe, who first expressed interest in Castro joining the borderite squad after the latter sent a congratulatory note to Uribe following Tijuana's win over Puebla in the LMB Championship Series last year.  According to Castro, the two went on to discuss Castro making a powerpoint presentation using sabermetrics to the Toros' front office staff during the offseason, a conversation that led to Uribe offering Castro the job of Sports Director (with duties similar to a General Manager north of the border), a position that had been left vacant after former MLB pitcher Jorge Campillo was moved into a Vice President position at the end of September.  After Castro accepted, he says, that's when things went south.

In a letter posted by Mexico City's Excelsior, Castro says that he took the job in December, letting the Dodgers brass know he was moving on and reported for work in January.  After a month on the job, however, Castro says Uribe told him that "I have decided to take up the sports administration of the organization and will support you until you can resume your successful life and career plan."  In other words, you're fired.  Castro says that Uribe urged him to stay in contact with the Toros secretary to coordinate payments from the team until he found a new job.

Confused by the situation after receiving a text from the team eight days later that they were waiting for him to "report to work," Castro drove to the Toros training camp in Tucson for a meeting with Uribe, who he says never showed up but had arranged for the ex-big leaguer to serve as a coach under Tijuana manager Pedro Mere.  While noting in text exchanges with the front office that he had been hired as a GM and not a coach, Castro says he spent last month helping the team prepare for the season but received no pay for his time in camp before leaving for his home in Phoenix.

The experience has left Castro wondering why he was let go, let alone what he's going to do now, thanks to Uribe:  "It is very sad that the lack of ethics and professionalism has left me without a job with the Dodgers because of all the promises that Mr. Uribe made to convince me to work for the Tijuana Toros team as sports director," Castro's letter states.  "In the end, because a person changed his mind, it's left me without the opportunity to continue as a coach in the best baseball in the world with the Dodgers."

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Mexican League 2018 Directory

Mexican League
Av. Insurgentes Sur #797 3er. piso. Col. Napoles
C.P. 03810  Benito Juarez, Mexico, D.F.
PRESIDENT: Javier Salinas
UMPIRE COORDINATOR: Luis Alberto Ramirez

Phone: 52 449 915 1596
Fax: 52 614 459 0336
Facebook: rielerosags
President: Armando Medina Gonzalez
GM: Raul Rodriguez
Manager: Homar Rojas
Ballpark (capacity): Parque Alberto Romo Chavez (9,000), opened 1946
2017 attendance (average): 196,439 (3,572)
First season: 1975
Pennants: 1 (1978)
2017 record:  64-50 (fourth North, lost to Tijuana in Division Semifinals)
Team colors: Black, Gold

Phone: +52 981 827 4759
Fax: +52 981 827 4767
Facebook: CampechePiratas
President: Gabriel Escalante
GM: Manuel Duran
Manager: Daniel Fernandez
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Nelson Barrera Romellon (6,000), opened 2001
2017 attendance (average): 133,641 (2,905)
First season: 1980
Pennants: 2 (1983, 2004)
2017 record: 43-63 (sixth South, no playoffs)
Team colors: Red, Navy

Facebook: generalesdDgo
President: Miguel Ojeda
GM: Alejandro Lizarraga
Manager: Matias Carrillo
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Francisco Villa (9,000) opened 1992, renovated 2017
2017 attendance (average): 180,118 (4,094)
First season: 2017
Pennants: None
2017 record: 43-66 (eighth North, no playoffs)
Team colors: Green, purple

Phone: +52 871 718 5515
Fax: +52 871 717 4335
Facebook: VaquerosUnionLaguna
President: Carlos Gomez del Campo
GM: Francisco Mendez
Manager: Ramon Orantes
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Revolucion (12,000), opened 1932
2017 attendance (average): 250,596 (4,396)
First season: 1940
Pennants: 2 (1942, 1950)
2017 record: 60-49 (fifth North, no playoffs)
Team colors: Cherry, Gold

Phone: +52 867 000 0000
Facebook: TecolotesNvoLdo
President: Jose Antonio Mansur
GM: Grimaldo Martinez
Manager: Eddy Castro
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Nuevo Laredo (12,000), opened 2008
                                Laredo Uni-Trade Stadium (6,000), opened 2012
2017 attendance (average): 151,671 (2,661)*
First season: 1940
Pennants: 6 (1937, 1938, 1952, 1961, 1970, 2012)
2017 record: 48-67 (fourth South, lost to Leon in South Qualifier)*
Team colors: Blue, Red
*Team played in Veracruz in 2017, will move to North Division in 2018

Owner: Arturo Blanco
GM: Gabriel Low
Manager: Luis Carlos Rivera
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Domingo Santana (8,500), renovated 2017
2017 attendance (average): 108,670 (2,717)
First season: 2017
Pennants: None
2017 record: 45-60 (fifth South, lost to Puebla in Division Semifinals)
Team colors: Blue, Red
Team will move to South Division in 2018

MEXICO CITY DIABLOS ROJOS Phone: +52 555 639 8722 Fax: +52 555 639 9722 Email: Website: Facebook: DiablosRojosMX President: Othon Diaz GM: Francisco Minjares Manager: Victor Bojorquez Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Fray Nano (5,000), renovated 2014 2017 attendance (average): 127,621 (2,503) First season: 1940 Pennants: 16 (1956, 1964, 1968, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1981, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1994, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2014) 2017 record: 57-52 (sixth North, no playoffs) Team colors: Red, White

Phone: +52 866 636 2650
Fax: +52 866 636 2688
Facebook: AcererosOficial
President: Gerardo Benavides
GM: Sergio Atwell
Manager: Dan Firova
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Monclova (11,000), opened 1975
2017 attendance (average): 392,795 (7,142)
First season: 1975
Pennants: None
2017 record: 67-41 (third North, lost to Monterrey in first playoff round)
Team colors: Blue, Red

Phone: +52 818 351 0209
Fax: +52 818 351 8022
Facebook: SultanesOficial
President: Guillermo “Willie” Gonzalez
GM: Miguel Flores
Manager: Roberto Kelly
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Monterrey (27,000), opened 1990
2017 attendance (average): 659,791 (11,575)
First season: 1939
Pennants: 9 (1943, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1962, 1991, 1995, 1996, 2007)
2017 record: 68-41 (second North, lost to Tijuana in Division Championship)
Team colors: Blue, Red

Phone: +52 951 515 5522
Fax: +52 951 515 4966
Facebook: GuerrerosdeOaxaca
President: Guillermo Spindola
GM: Guillermo Rodriguez
Manager: Jose Luis Sandoval
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos (7,200), remodeled 2008
2017 attendance (average): 141,217 (2,435)
First season: 1996
Pennants: 1 (1998)
2017 record: 40-67 (seventh South, no playoffs)
Team colors: Black, White

Phone: +52 222 222 2116
Fax: +52 222 222 2117
Facebook: PericosdPuebla
President: Jose Melendez
GM: Mario Valenzuela
Manager: Lorenzo Bundy
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Hermanos Serdan (12,100), remodeled 2016
2017 attendance (average): 152,923 (3,186)
First season: 1938
Pennants: 4 (1963, 1979, 1986, 2016)
2017 record: 56-54 (second South, lost to Tijuana in League Championship)
Team colors: Green, Yellow

Phone: +52 998 887 3108
Fax: +52 998 887 1313
Facebook: TigresdeQuintanaRoo
President: Fernando Valenzuela
GM: Fernando Valenzuela, Jr.
Manager: Tim Johnson
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Beto Avila (9,000), remodeled 2007
2017 attendance (average): 147,416 (3,008)
First season: 1955
Pennants: 12 (1955, 1960, 1965, 1966, 1992, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2011, 2013, 2015)
2017 record: 49-56 (third South, lost to Puebla in first playoff round)
Team colors: Blue, Orange

Phone: +52 844 416 9455
Fax: +52 844 439 1330
Facebook: OficialSaraperos
President: Antonio Nerio Rodriguez
GM: Rodolfo Ruiz Cabello
Manager: Len Picota
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Francisco I. Madero (16,000), remodeled 2011
2017 attendance (average): 266,847 (5,132)
First season: 1970
Pennants: 3 (1980, 2009, 2010)
2017 record: 44-64 (seventh North, no playoffs)
Team colors: Green, Black

Phone: +52 993 352 2787
Fax: +52 993 352 2788
Facebook: OlmecasTab
President: Juan Luis Dagdug
GM: Felix Zulueta
Manager: Alfonso “Houston” Jimenez
Ballpark (capacity): Parque Centenario 27 de Febrero (10,500), opened 1964
2017 attendance (average): 71,829 (1,437)
First season: 1975
Pennants: 1 (1993)
2017 record: 38-69 (eighth South, no playoffs)
Team colors: Green, Gold

Phone: +52 664 635 5600
Facebook: TorosdeTijuana
President: Alberto Uribe Maytorena
GM: Oscar Romero
Manager: Pedro Mere
Ballpark (capacity): Estadio Gasmart (16,811), remodeled 2006
2017 attendance (average): 608,819 (10,872)
First season: 2004
Pennants: 1 (2017)
2017 record: 76-34 (third North, beat Puebla for League Championship)
Team colors: Black, Red

Phone: +52 999 926 3022
Fax: +52 999 926 3631
Facebook: leonesdeyucatan
President: Erick Arellano
GM: David Cardenas
Manager: Roberto Vizcarra
Ballpark (capacity): Parque Kukulcan Alamo (16,000), remodeled 2016
2017 attendance (average): 452,162 (9,228)
First season: 1954
Pennants: 3 (1957, 1984, 2006)
2017 record: 63-42 (first South, lost to Puebla in Division Championship)

Team colors: Green, Orange