Serie del Caribe 2018

November 26 – play continues south of the border as the Latin American winter leagues enter their final month of “regular season” action.  Here’s the latest:

MEXICO – first-half play in the LMP (Liga Mexicana del Pacifico) concluded on Sunday, November 19.  First-half results were:

Naranjeros de Hermosillo were awarded first place, and the eight points that go along with it, by virtue of their winning the first-half series against both Tomateros de Culiacan and Venados de Mazatlán.

Second-half play is now only a week old, with Aguilas de Mexicali and Venados tied for the lead at 4-1.

Sebastian Elizalde of the Tomateros leads LMP hitters with a .383 batting average.  He is a Reds farmhand who had a solid summer season at Louisville of the International League, recording a .707 OPS in 134 games played.

CUBA – second-half action continues with the current standings at:

Team W L GB
Las Tunas  44 21
 Matanzas 43 23 1.5
 Industriales 40 26 4.5
 Granma 38 28 6.5
 Artemisa 35 33 10.5
 Pinar del Rio  34 33 11.0

Las Tunas and Matanzas have played well in the second half and seem to be consolidating their positions as 1-2.  Artemisa and Pinar will both have to rally to make the playoffs (the top four clubs advance to the semi-finals in January).  There are four weeks remaining in the SN57 regular season.

Veteran Las Tunas DH/OF Danel Castro logged his 2000th hit in Serie Nacional play earlier this month.  He is only the 21st player to achieve that mark in 57 years of SN play.

DOMINICANA

Tigres del Licey are celebrating the club’s 110th anniversary this season.  They have achieved 22 LiDOM league titles and won 10 Series del Caribe in their long, successful history.

Current standings in the Dominican Republic are:

Team W L GB
Aguilas 18 12
Gigantes 18 13 0.5
Estrellas 16 13 1.5
Licey 15 17 4.0
Escogido 14 17 4.5
Toros 11 20 7.5

VENEZUELA – Leones de Caracas have won 15 of 20 games since last report and have surged into first place in the Liga Venezolana de Beisbol Profesional (LVBP).  Current standings are:

Team W L GB
Caracas 25 15
Aragua 22 16 2.0
Magallanes 22 18 3.0
Zulia 19 19 5.0
Lara 18 19 5.5
Caribes 18 22 7.0
La Guaira 16 22 8.0
Margarita 15 24 9.0

Magallanes OF/DH Jesus Valdez, a veteran Dominican who has played in the minors with the Cubs and Nats, leads the LVBP in HR (13), RBI (46) and Runs Scored (34).

PUERTO RICO – as the Enchanted Island continues to recover from Hurricane Maria, planning continues for a short 21-game “regular season” to begin January 6.

In the meantime, Puerto Ricans can celebrate the naming of Dave Martinez as manager of the Washington Nationals.  A New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage, he joins Alex Cora as current dirigentes puertorriqueños en Grandes Ligas.

November 3 – there’s no need for “baseball withdrawal” after an exciting World Series in the U.S. — there’s plenty of baseball action south of the border.  Here are some highlights:

CUBA – Serie Nacional 57 second-half action is underway.  Defending champs Granma, along with Artemisa, won their wild-card rounds and join Industriales, Las Tunas, Matanzas, and Pinar del Rio in second-half action.  Each of the advancing six teams selected five refuerzos (reinforcements) from the rosters of the teams that were eliminated.  Slugging DH/1B Frederich Cepeda was drafted by Pinar del Rio.

Current SN57 standings for the second half are as follows (remember that first-half W/L results carry over to the second half):

Team W L GB
Industriales  34  16  —
 Las Tunas  33 16 0.5
 Granma  32 19 2.5
 Matanzas 31 19 3.0
 Pinar del Rio 29 22 5.5
 Artemisa  27 24 7.5

Granma is riding a 12-game winning streak that has jumped them up to third place currently.  Pinar del Rio has won only three of their last ten.

VENEZUELA – Navegantes de Magallanes are celebrating their 100th anniversary this season.  Venezuelans around the baseball world are reveling in the success of countryman Jose Altuve (el Astroboy) in the World Series.

Current LVBP standings are:

Team W L GB
Tigres de Aragua 16 4
Aguilas del Zulia 10 9 5.5
Leones de Caracas 10 10 6.0
Navegantes 10 10 6.0
Bravos de Margarita 9 11 7.0
Cardenales de Lara 9 11 7.0
Tiburones de La Guaira 8 12 8.0
Caribes de Anzoátegui 8 13 8.5

MEXICO – the LMP is in its fourth week of play and the standings are crowded; only 2 games separate the top five clubs:

Team W L GB
Culiacan 12 8
Jalisco 12 8
Hermosillo 11 9 1.0
Mazatlán 11 9 1.0
Mexicali 10 10 2.0
Los Mochis 9 11 3.0
Navojoa 8 12 4.0
Cd. de Obregon 7 13 5.0

DOMINICANA – Estrellas (San Pedro) have taken a one-game lead in the LiDOM standings through three weeks of play:

Team W L GB
Estrellas 10 4
Gigantes 9 5 1.0
Escogido 8 6 2.0
Aguilas 7 7 3.0
Licey 4 10 6.0
Toros 4 10 6.0

PUERTO RICO – native son Alex Cora is having a great baseball year.  The native of Caguas has played, managed, and been the GM of hometown Criollos de Caguas and they won la Serie del Caribe in February.  He was GM of the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic, and they had a great run finishing second in March.  He has just won a World Series as bench coach for the Astros.  And to top it off, he has signed a multi-year deal to become manager of the Boston Red Sox.

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.

Team Wins Losses
 Pinar del Rio  16  3
 Las Tunas  14 6
Industriales (Havana) 13 7
 Santiago de Cuba  12 7
 Ciego de Ávila  13 8
Matanzas 12 9
 Artemisa 12 9
 Villa Clara 10 11
Sancti Spíritus 10 11
 Holguín 10 11
Granma 10 11
Camagüey 8 13
Isla de la Juventud 8 13
Mayabeque 8 13
Cienfuegos 6 15
Guantánamo 3 18

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
LVBP Venezuela October 10
LMP Mexico October 10
LiDOM Dominicana October 13
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.

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