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11/29/2005 Archived Entry: "VIVA BEISBOL (Mexican Pro Baseball News) Nov. 29, 2005"
Mexican Pro Baseball News
November 29, 2005
MEXICO ELIMINATED FROM OLYMPIC COMPETITION
Navojoa wins MexPac First Half Title; Quintero Hit Streak at 27
Amid some controversy over the players picked to represent the country, Mexico has been eliminated from competition for a berth at the 2008 Summer Olympics in China in baseball following a 2-3 showing and a fifth place finish at the recent Pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in Phoenix. The Mexican players were all selected from Mexican Pacific League teams, but are not generally considered the cream of Mexico’s baseball crop. One of the outfielders, Leo Arauz, is batting .167 for Guasave in the MexPac on the heels another sub-.200 showing last season. First baseman Manuel Velez is hitting .174 for Obregon, while Mexico’s other first baseman, Guasave’s Francisco Mendez, is batting .111. Among the pitchers, Hermosillo’s Juan Cerros was picked despite a 10.13 ERA for the Naranjeros in six relief outings this winter; Los Mochis bullpen mates Edgar Huerta and Edgar Lizarraga are a combined 0-2 with ERA’s of 6.00 and 7.11, respectively. Although these players may have better numbers to show for the long haul, none are having what would normally be considered good seasons in the MexPac.
Mexico opened the tournament November 15 by getting pummeled 17-4 by Panama and lost a 5-4 heartbreaker to the USA before posting a 5-2 win over Guatemala (Lefty Roberto Ramirez pitched six strong innings and Mendez did collect three hits) and a 7-2 triumph over Canada (with Rigo Beltran pitching six entradas this time). With the fourth and final qualifying berth for the next stage of pre-Games competition on the line, the Mexicans fell to Nicaragua 4-2 on November 19 as former Cubs and Marlins hurler Oswaldo Mairena allowed one run and six hits in seven innings. Both Mexico and Panama tied for fourth with 2-3 records, but the Panamanians got the nod by virtue of that Opening Day pounding. One of the disgruntled onlookers was Salon de la Fama writer Tomas Morales, whose commentary on this can be read in English on the www.VivaBeisbol.Net website.
While all this was going on, the Mexican Pacific League was wrapping up its first half schedule. The Navojoa Mayos, who had the worst record in the MexPac last winter, held on to win the crown with a 20-15 record as all eight teams had a shot to take the title going into the final week of the half. Last season’s Caribbean Series champs, the Mazatlan Venados, finished seventh but were only three-and-a-half games out of first. Los Mochis began the second half with four straight wins, as Caneros outfielder Christian Quintero (who played in Phoenix) extended his hitting streak to 27 games. The MexPac record is 29 games, set by Andres Mora in 1986.
Speaking of the Caribbean Series, there is now some question as to whether Mexico will participate in this winter’s Classic in Venezuela. Teams are not allowed to wear advertising on their uniforms there, and Mexican clubs routinely have the names of sponsors on their jerseys (a common practice in pro sports outside the USA). MexPac president Renato Vega Alvarado in Culiacan is refusing to comment.
NAVOJOA Mayos (20-15/.571/1st/8.0 points)
Although the Mayos slipped at the end and dropped six of their final 10 games, Navojoa held on to take the first half title in the MexPac. OF Douglas Clark is seventh in the LMP with a .322 batting average and is tied for the circuit lead with 10 doubles. SS Luis Alfonso Cruz (.301/6/21) is having a nice season, while OF Norris Hopper (.318 and 8 streals), C Jonathan Aceves (.305/6/18) and 3B Abel Martinez (.303) are solid. Mayo pitching has been decent, too. Mario Mendoza Jr. is 5-1 after a win over Obregon on November 26, one night after Hansel Izqierdo (2-3) pitched a beautiful one-hitter against the Yaquis.
GUASAVE Algodoneros (19-16/.543/2nd/7.0 points)
The Cottoneers made a bit of a run at Navojoa in the first half’s final week, but had to settle for second place. C Noe Munoz is seventh in the MexPac with a team-best .323 average, and OF Mario Valenzuela (.294/8/22) is among the LMP leaders in homers. OF Demond Smith (.208) is off to a slow start after 6 games, but another OF, Eduardo Arredondo (.377) has been tearing the cover off the ball in a part-time role. Guasave pitching has been excellent as the Algodoneros lead the MexPac with a 3.27 ERA. LHP Spike Lundberg (6-1/1.92 with 29K’s) tops the league in wins and has the lowest ERA among starters.
MEXICALI Aguilas (17-17/.500/3rd/6.0 points)
Mexicali was awarded third place (and 6 points) over Hermosillo and Culiacan via tiebreaker rules. The Aguilas have received some good pitching, but the batting remains a concern. Jorge Flores (4-1/1.97) has won three times during Sunday doubleheaders, and fan favorite Fernando Valenzuela (1-0/3.10) looks okay four starts into his latest comeback. OF Howie Clark (.330) is fourth among MexPac batters, OF Darryl Brinkley (.311) has been a nice pickup and 1B Carlos Sievers (.300) has been productive in limited duty, but this team needs to hit better. New OF Johnny Gomes should help here.
HERMOSILLO Naranjeros (17-17/.500/4th/5.5 points)
Conversely, hitting is not a problem with the Orange Growers. MVP candidate OF Luis A. Garcia (.365/11/35) leads the MexPac in everything (well, six categories, anyway), and vet DH Juan Carlos Canizales (.346/7/28) has obviously benefited from all the good pitches he’s seeing, and is second in the LMP batting race. OF Chris Roberson (.317 and 6-for-7 in steals) provides speed, and 3B Jorge Luis Valle (.348) has smoked the ball when he’s been in the lineup. Pitching has been another story, as the Naranjeros’ 5.20 ERA is worst in the league. Jonathan Castellanos (3-2/3.53) has pitched well, however.
CULIACAN Tomateros (17-17/.500/5th/5.0 points)
Culiacan was the hottest team in the MexPac at the end of the half, winning 7 of their last 10 games to finish at .500. OF Ruben Rivera (.321/10/23) is putting together a season that would draw more notice if nor for Hermosillo’s Garcia, while OF Ben Francisco (.306 with 6 homers) and 1B Adan Munoz (.266/7/28) have acquitted themselves well. However, the Tomato Growers are not strong offensively. The pitching is mediocre, too, although Miguel Angel Gonzalez (4-0/2.40) and newcomer Chad Zerbe (1-0/1.80) offer some quality.
OBREGON Yaquis (17-18/.486/6th/4.5 points)
The Yaquis are a hard team to figure out. On paper, they don’t look very imposing, yet only finished three games out of first. The batting has been marginal, with SS Alfredo Amezaga (.315), OF Ryan Spilbourghs (.298), C Chris Coste (.282) and 3B Javier Robles (.276) all hitting consistently but without much pop. Robles is looking ordinary after a .393 MVP season for Angelopolis last summer in the Mexican League. Obregon pitching isn’t that good, either, although reliever Joakim Soria hasn’t been scored on yet in eleven appearances.
MAZATLAN Venados (16-18/.471/7th/4.0 points)
Good defense, weak offense. The defending LMP and CS champ Venados never really got going in the first half. 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.301/6/26) has cooled down after a hot start, but the recent addition of his 3B brother, Edgar (a .300 hitter himself early on) has already picked things up a little. DH Roberto Saucedo is hitting .272 with 5 homers, but only 10 RBI’s. RHP Francisco Campos (2-1/2.17) leads the LMP with 41 K’s and is second to Guasave’s Lundberg in ERA. RHP Pablo Ortega (2-3/2.93) has pitched better than his record shows.
LOS MOCHIS Caneros (15-20/.429/8th/3.5 points)
A late nosedive dropped the Caneros from the middle of the pack to the cellar, but don’t blame OF Christian Quintero. Quintero’s 27-game hitting streak has pushed him into a tie with Hermosillo’s Juan Carlos Canizales for second in the MexPac with a .346 average. 1B Calvin Pickering (.324/10/25) keeps on hitting well, and OF’s Victor Bojorquez and Rontrez Johnson are both batting .310. LHP Heat Phillips (4-1/3.15) and RHP Francisco Rodriguez (4-2/3.77) are a strong 1-2 punch, while a productive RHP Steve Bourgeois (0-0/3.00 in 1 start) would help. RHP Nick Mattioni (1-0/2.68/34K’s) has everything but luck.
UPCOMING LMP SCHEDULE (Nov. 29-Dec. 15):
NOV 29-D1 Hermosillo@Mazatlan, Guasave@Navojoa, Culiacan@Mexicali, Obregon@LosMochis
DEC 2-4 LosMochis@Hermosillo, Navojoa@Obregon, Mazatlan@Culiacan, Mexicali@Guasave
DEC 6-8 Hermosillo@Navojoa, Obregon@Mexicali, Culiacan@LosMochis, Guasave@Mazatlan
DEC 9-11 Obregon@Hermosillo, Mazatlan@LosMochis, Guasave@Culiacan, Mexicali@Navojoa
DEC 13-15 Hermosillo@Guasave, Navojoa@Mazatlan, LosMochis@Mexicali, Culiacan@Obregon
MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP: Los Mochis, Sinaloa
Heading south from Navojoa, Sonora on Highway 16 in Mexico, our Road Trip takes us across the Sinaloa state line into Los Mochis, a city of 350,000 residents founded in 1893 by Pennsylvanian Benjamin Johnson. While it is a wealthy city in a fertile agricultural area, Los Mochis (like most MexPac cities) is not geared towards tourism. It is a hub of sorts, as it is connected by ferry to La Paz, Baja California Sur; has a busy airport with flights to and from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson; and is the western terminus of the legendary Copper Canyon railroad, Mexico’s last major passenger railway featuring one of the most spectacular views in North American train travel.
Los Mochis sits on the Rio Fuerte river, which irrigates an extensive valley region whose main crops are vegetables (such as beans and corn) and sugar cane and of which Los Mochis is the commercial and financial center. The city sits 15 miles from the Pacific Mexican port of Topolobampo, which is famous for its shrimp and fishing activity. One of the native animals is the yellow crocodile, which can grow as large as 38.8 feet and weigh over a ton.
As mentioned, Los Mochis is considered a stopover for travelers, not a destination. Visitors to town should check out Parque Sinaloa, which contains the most complete collection of palm trees in Mexico (including rare species imported from around the world) and is a great setting for a stroll in the cool of the evening. Parque Sinaloa is set in the old “Colonia Americana” section of Los Mochis, a former residential district for North American residents easily identified by its typical USA-style architecture featuring brick houses with front porches and yards on all four sides which give a unique character to Los Mochis unlike anywhere else in Mexico.
The Los Mochis Caneros (or “Sugar Cane Growers”) entered the Mexican Pacific League in 1962, and are currently playing their 43rd winter of pro ball. The Caneros play their home games at Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada, which seats 11,000 fans. While the team is not usually one of the prime contenders for a MexPac title, Los Mochis has won LMP pennants in 1968-69 (under manager Ben Valenzuela), 1983-84 (under Vinicio Garcia) and in 2002-03 for Juan F. Rodriguez. In two Caribbean Series, the Caneros have gone 4-8 over 12 games with second and fourth place finishes.
NEXT VISIT: Guasave, Sinaloa
MAESTROS OF MEXICO: Cornelio Garcia, 1B (1984, 1990-05)
The first player ever drafted out of Mexico’s baseball academy, Cornelio Garcia went on to fashion a notable career in both the Mexican League and Mexican Pacific League as a good-hitting, fleet-footed outfielder/first baseman over the past two decades. After 17 years, Garcia (who played for the hapless Laguna Vaqueros last summer) leads all active Liga hitters with a .350 career average, while his .289 mark over 19 winters in the pitching-dominated MexPac ranks fourth all-time in that circuit.
Cornelio Garcia Chaidez was born January 23, 1955 in Ensenada, Baja California Norte. After playing in the Academia and batting .225 in 19 games for Yucatan as a 19-year-old in 1984, Garcia signed on with the Chicago White Sox and played minor league ball in their organization before returning to the Leones in 1990. After hitting .290 in 40 games, Garcia went on a tear in which he never hit below .330 through the 2000 season. The 5’11” 154-pounder joined Monterrey in 1995, leading the LMB in 1997 with 171 hits and a .382 batting average. He also led in stolen bases with 45 for Yucatan in 1993 and triples with 11 for the Sultanes in 1995.
Garcia was also a hitting machine in his 19 winters for Hermosillo. While he never won a MexPac batting title, he did lead the LMP with 79 hits and 47 runs in 1993-94 and topped the circuit with 18 doubles in 1999-2000. His 151 stolen bases in 1,010 LMP games ranks eighth all-time, while his 566 runs are sixth on the list. Although he retired after only hitting .214 in 42 at-bats for the Naranjeros last winter, his 9 hits pushed him to 1,002 for his career to become one of just 12 players to hit 1,000 safeties in MexPac history. He still plays summer ball, finishing his eighth year with the Vaqueros with a team-high .348 average and 10 homers last summer.
Although he was never regarded as a power-hitting first baseman (hitting a career-high 15 for Yucatan in 1992), Cornelio Garcia made his mark in Mexican pro baseball as a good instinctive hitter, aggressive at the plate and on the bases and a quality glove man in the field. He has been a smooth player throughout his career (Carlos “The Latin Insider” Fragoso compares Garcia to Vic Davalillo), and should expect to be considered for induction into the Salon de la Fama in the future. He’s spending this winter as a hitting coach for Hermosillo.
NEXT MAESTRO: Alfonso “Houston” Jimenez, shortstop (1974-2000)
VIVA BEISBOL TRIVIA QUIZ
Answer to last issue’s Quiz: Jose Pena joins Vicente Romo as the only pitchers in Mexican Pacific League history with more than 150 career wins. Romo is the all-time leader with 184 wins over 24 winters, while Pena was 173-113 victories in 22 campaigns. Third place belongs to Obregon’s ageless wonder Angel Moreno, whose 1-1 record gives him 138 wins in the midst of his 28th LMP winter.
This issue's Quiz: Can you name the longtime Mexican League franchise which got their team nickname from the fact they hosted the first night game in Liga history?
NOTE TO READERS:
Viva Beisbol is produced twice per month for both www.Hitazos.com and www.HispanicVista.com, and is the only regular source of information on Mexican professional baseball written in the USA (and the only English-language source anywhere). The Viva Beisbol newsletter is available free of charge to online subscribers by e-mailing us at info@VivaBeisbol.net. Our website is located at www.VivaBeisbol.net and contains ten pages, including Mexican Baseball Hall of Famer Tomas Morales’ legendary “Tommy al Bat” column in English.
We are planning to expand Viva Beisbol over the next few weeks. First, the newsletter you are reading now will be produced on a weekly basis for the first time by the end of December as Viva Beisbol Weekly; while during that timeframe we will introduce the Viva Beisbol Daily one-page newsletter featuring current standings, scores and schedules whenever pro baseball is being played in Mexico. Work will also be done to upgrade the website over the next few weeks.