PAT O'CONNER, PRESIDENT OF MiLB, MEDIATES DISAGREEMENTS
Until 5 PM on Tuesday the 7th of February, the status of the 2017 Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB)
season was very much in jeopardy.
The league, comprised of two Divisions with eight teams each, could not come to agreement on how many foreign born Mexicans would be allowed on each team. The number of "extranjeros", or foreign born players, would remain at 6.
At the end of the 2016 season, the Toros de Tijuana beat the Sultanes de Monterrey in the semifinals of the divisional playoffs. Jose Maiz Garcia, the President of the Sultanes, claimed that the Toros had an unfair advantage because of the number of dual nationality players on the team. Specifically, Mr. Maiz was referring to the number of Mexican-American players the Toros had hired.
This argument split the owners of the sixteen teams between the traditionalists and the "new money" owners. The team owners that wanted to limit the number of dual nationality players to 3 per team were from Monterrey, Oaxaca, Ciudad de Mexico, Cancun (Tigres de Quintana Roo), Saltillo, Campeche, and Tabasco.
The owners of teams in Tijuana, Veracruz, Laguna, Merida (Leones de Yucatan), Puebla (2016 League Champions), Monclova and Aguascalientes argued for 9 dual nationality players.
Mr Maiz argued that the LMB, and their Academies, existed to develop Mexican ballplayers and not give an advantage to one team over another.
When, after 3 months, the impasse among team ownership was not resolved, the owners asked Pat O'Conner, President of Minor League Baseball, to mediate between the 2 groups. Minor League Baseball sanctions the LMB and issues the certification of the league as a Triple A level Organization. The owners agreed to abide by the decision of Mr. O'Conner.
Mr. O'Conner, in his letter released to the league on Tuesday, made 2 minor decision. He returned Plinio Escalante to his position as league president and accepted that the Broncos de Tamaulipas would be sold to a consortium from Leon.
The final part of his letter to the league addressed the question of roster limitations on dual nationality players.
Mr. O'Conner wrote that "Although I understand and share the goal of developing the most talented baseball players in Mexico, the roster limits of dual nationality players violates the Mexican Constitution and the Federal Law to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination because the limits would act as (a) a restriction on access to work, (b) a restriction on participation in an association and (c) a restriction on participation in sporting activities." He further stated that "The roster limits could subject the Mexican League and/or it's clubs to a complaint before a court or another body such aa the National Sports Commission or Conapred." Conner also wrote "I cannot look away or encourage a member league (of baseball organizations) to engage in illegal discrimination. Consequently, there will be no roster limits for dual nationality players. The suspension of player signings imposed at the Houston assembly on February 1st is removed."
On a final note, Mr. O'Conner told the President of the LMB to review closely the claims of dual nationality players as it had been said that some were falsified.
Also on Tuesday, the owner of the Tigres de Quintana Roo, Carlos Peralta, announced his petition to withdraw from the LMB, based on this disagreement, and was placing the team for sale.
It may also be that Mr. Peralta was not pleased with the decision of the new Governor of Quintana Roo to lower the subsidy for the Tigres from 24 million pesos a year to 20 million pesos.
But for now the season is safe. The league owners will meet in the next few days to determine league schedules and the date the season will begin. If all goes well, the league should begin play around the 31st of March.
There remains the question of the Tigres, the new ownership of the Bravos de Leon (former Broncos de Reynosa) and the success of the Generales de Durango after the teams move from Ciudad del Carmen?
For those of us who love baseball and enjoy the product the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol provides, let us hope that all parties agree to abide by Mr. O'Conners' decision and the league returns for the summer.