October 17 – the Cuban Serie Nacional has reached the half-way mark and the winter leagues are now underway in Mexico, Dominicana, and Venzuela. Here’s the latest:
CUBA – SN57 has completed the first half of its season. The top-four teams in the standings advance to the second half. They are:
1-Industriales, 2-Las Tunas, 3-Matanzas, 4-Pinar del Rio
The teams in positions 5-8 advance to best-of-three wildcard series, as follows:
5-Granma (the defending SN champion) plays 8-Villa Clara; and 6-Artemisa plays 7-Ciego de Avila. The two winners will also advance to the second half of the season.
MEXICO – the Liga Mexicana del Pacifico has completed its first week of play. Culiacan and Jalisco are in the early lead with perfect 5-0 records.
DOMINICANA – likewise, the LiDOM is also under way. Escogido, Estrellas and Gigantes are all 2-0.
VENEZUELA – Tigres de Aragua and Aguilas de Zulia are 4-1, with Leones de Caracas at 5-2.
October 7 – the weather made big news for baseball in Latin America. Mother Nature and her offspring Irma, Maria, and the Terremoto twins caused havoc in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.
CUBA – Hurricane Irma forced the postponement of two series (six games) of Serie Nacional 57. These games are being made up now in order to complete the first half of the season and determine which six of the sixteen clubs will advance to the second half of the SN57 season.
Riding a 5-game winning streak Las Tunas has pulled to within a half-game of first-place Industriales (Havana) and both clubs have passed Pinar del Rio – who now sit in third place after going 3-7 in their last 10 games. First-half games are due to complete October 9.
Your author had the unique experience of attending Cubaball 2017 in late September. Our weeklong trip to see Cuban baseball is the creation of SABR member Kit Krieger, and was hosted this year by his brother Bob, travel empresario Clem Paredes Rodriguez, and Cuban baseball expert and writer Peter Bjarkman. We visited ballparks in Havana, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, Artemisa, and Pinar del Rio. The interaction with Cuban ballplayers – past and present – as well as the Cuban people was memorable. I would recommend this trip to any aficionado of beisbol latinoamericano.
A typical SN stadium, Estadio 5 de Septiembre in Cienfuegos (top). Cubaball travelers at grave site of El Inmortal Martin Dihigo in Cruces (bottom). Martin Dihigo Jr. is second from left and your author is kneeling on the right. Photos courtesy of Joel Greene with additional thanks to Ted Leavengood and Elena North.
PUERTO RICO – Hurricane Maria caused tremendous damage to the island and has forced a major postponement of the winter season. At a press conference held Thursday (October 5), it was announced that a much-shortened season would begin January 6, 2018. The “regular season” will consist of 21 games, played during the day and including Saturday and Sunday doubleheaders. Admission will be free. A short playoff series will be held in late January to determine which team will advance to the Caribbean Series. Puerto Rico is the defending Serie del Caribe champion.
MEXICO – a two-game All Star Series was held jointly by the summer (LMB) and winter (LMP) leagues as a demonstration of cooperation and solidarity in support of earthquake victims. The teams were integrated across the two leagues and the games were held in Culiacan (home of the LMP Tomateros) and Monterrey (home of the LMB Sultanes) on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.
The winter regular season will commence next week in MEXICO (Oct. 10), VENEZUELA (Oct. 10), and DOMINICANA (Oct. 13).
September 3 – the Caribbean Confederation, the ruling body of Latin American winter leagues, held its Assembly of Presidents in Jalisco, Mexico and confirmed details of the upcoming Serie del Caribe 2018 to be held in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico. Items of note are:
Schedule – the Series will open Friday February 2 and conclude on Thursday February 8. The complete schedule is posted above.
Format of competition – the five-team format used since Cuba re-entered competition in 2014 will be continued. The five clubs (the champions of the Cuban, Mexican, Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Venezuelan winter leagues) will play an initial four game round-robin. When the round-robin phase is concluded, the bottom team in the standings will be eliminated and the top four teams will enter a knock-out semi-final round. The two semi-final winners will then play one game for the championship.
Estadio Charros expansion – the host ballpark will be expanded from 12,000 to 16,000 seats, using private investment committed for the project.
Cuban participation – the commissioner of the Caribbean Confederation, Juan Francisco Puello, was asked about the current and future status of Cuban participation in the Series. He commented that the Cubans are again participating as invitees in 2018, but that he was confident that they would eventually rejoin the Caribbean Confederation. When asked a follow-up as to when that might occur, he responded “That depends on the politics.”
In other winter leagues news:
CUBA – SN 57 is well underway, and the current standings follow. Remember that the Cubans play a split season, and after the initial 45 games only the top six teams advance.
|Pinar del Rio||16||3|
|Santiago de Cuba||12||7|
|Ciego de Ávila||13||8|
|Isla de la Juventud||8||13|
VENEZUELA – the LVBP announced that it will proceed with its 2017-18 schedule after the government committed $10M USD from its foreign exchange reserves to help the league buy equipment and pay for the contracts of imported players.
PUERTO RICO – the LBPRC announced approval for a new ownership group for the Santurce franchise. Also announced were cost-control measures for the upcoming 2017-18 season, including playing more doubleheaders.
MEXICO -the LMP has changed their roster rules to increase the number of foreign-born players allowed per active club roster to eight (8). This is viewed as a necessary hedge should the Mexican summer league (LMB) follow through with its plans to play an elongated split-season schedule in summer-fall 2018. Should the LMB extend its schedule into November 2018, this will impact the number of Mexican players that would be available to the LMP for the first month of the Mexican winter league schedule.
August 4 – the start of the Winter Leagues is upon us! Serie Nacional 57 opens play in Cuba on August 5 with defending champs Granma hosting Villa Clara. Here are a few news items from the “off season”:
CHANGE IN LOCATION FOR SERIE DEL CARIBE 2018 – The host location for the upcoming Caribbean Series had been announced as Barquisimeto, Lara, Venezuela. However, due to the ongoing social and political unrest in Venezuela, the Caribbean Confederation voted on June 14 to move the Series to Mexico. The Liga Mexicana del Pacifico (LMP) then promptly voted to host Serie del Caribe 2018 in Guadalajara, Jaliso.
The location for the upcoming Series will be Estadio Charros in Zapopan, Jalisco State, a suburb of Guadalajara. This is the same stadium that hosted second-round play in the World Baseball Classic 2017, and is the home field of the Charros de Jalisco club of the LMP.
OPENING WINTER LEAGUE DATES:
|SN 57||Cuba||August 5|
|LBPRC||Puerto Rico||November 9|
INTER-LEAGUE CONTROVERSY IN MEXICO – the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB), the Mexican summer league, has announced plans to operate a split-season in 2018 that will extend that league’s schedule into November. This will overlap with the beginning of the winter league schedule of the LMP, as well as cause conflicts among those players that currently play in both the LMB and LMP.
More to come on this hot topic.