|Current season, competition or edition:|
2021 Mexican League season
|Founded||June 28, 1925|
|President||Horacio de la Vega|
|No. of teams||18|
|Headquarters||Mexico City, Mexico|
|Toros de Tijuana|
|Most titles||Diablos Rojos del México (16)|
The Mexican League (Spanish: Liga Mexicana de Béisbol, LMB, lit. 'Mexican League of Baseball') is a professional baseball league based in Mexico and the oldest running professional league in the country.
The league has 18 teams organized in two divisions, North and South. Teams play 114 games each season. Five teams in each division advance to a four-round postseason tournament that culminates in the Serie del Rey, a best-of-seven championship series between the two division champions. The Mexican League has two affiliated minor leagues, the Liga Norte de México and Mexican Academy League.
Though founded in 1925, the league joined the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (Minor League Baseball) in 1955, when it was designated a Double-A league. Some member teams entered player development contracts with teams in the National League at that time. Triple-A classification was granted in 1967. As part of the 2021 reorganization of the minors, the Mexican League was not included as a Triple-A league, though it continues to operate independently.
From 1925 to the 1960s, the league consisted of about six teams each season. The league expanded to eight teams in the 1960s. In 1970, after the circuit had grown to 10 teams, the league was split geographically for the first time. In 1979, the Mexican Central League was absorbed into the expanded Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (Mexican Baseball League). The newly expanded league featured a 20-team circuit with four divisions. However, after a series of team bankruptcies, the Mexican League was reduced to 14 teams in two divisions.
Although there is a stable core of teams in the league, it is not unusual for clubs to relocate. Often, new incarnations of the teams come about through new owners. Teams also cease after unsatisfactory results or bankruptcy. Since its foundation in 1925, more than 90 teams have passed through the Mexican League, and the only organizations that have remained since their inception are the Sultanes de Monterrey (1939), Diablos Rojos del Mexico (1940), Tigres de Quintana Roo (1955), Saraperos de Saltillo (1970), and Piratas de Campeche (1980). The Acereros del Norte have played uninterrupted since 1982, the Olmecas de Tabasco since 1977, and the Leones de Yucatán since 1979.
The league has lost 12 teams since it was established in 1925.
Beginnings of Mexican baseball
Some sources claim that baseball reached Mexican soil because of the US military forces that participated in the US-Mexico War between 1846 and 1848. The last decades of the nineteenth century have been beneficial to the baseball boom, while American companies were investing in various sectors of the Mexican economy and their employees were broadcasting the game. The origin of baseball in Mexico City, the capital, dates back to 1887 with the birth of the "Mexican Club", which is undoubtedly the oldest team of the republic. Since the start of the 20th century, baseball has become one of the favorite sports of all of Mexico.
As early as 1925, Mexicans' interest in baseball was such that sports journalist Alejandro Aguilar Reyes and his friend baseball player Ernesto Carmona founded the Mexican League. They had to overcome many difficult obstacles, especially when, on May 26, the rival Mexican Association prepared a "coup" against them, but managed to rebuff it. In the period since, competing leagues have occasionally been formed, but have been absorbed by the LMB, the most famous being Central League in 1979.
Popularity and growth
The sport's popularity rose immediately and culminated with the first Mexican-born major leaguers.
During the so-called "first stage of the Mexican League" the league attracted several well renowned players from Cuba and the Negro leagues. Cuban ballplayers Martín Di higo, Lázaro Salazar, Brujo Rossell, Agustín Bejerano all played in Mexico at some point. The era was mostly dominated by the teams in the central areas of the country, in and around Mexico City. The first champions were Regimiento 74, a team from Puebla. After that for a solid decade the Championship was only won by teams from the capital city, with Agrario de Mexico and Tigres de Comintra dominating with two titles each. In the late 30s, when the first wave of Cuban players arrived, teams from the Gulf coast started dominating the league; they were more attractive to Cuban players given their proximity to their home island, with the Cafeteros de Cordoba and the Rojos del Águila de Veracruz winning titles.
Because of the late foundation of the league, there never was a "dead-ball" era, which helped enhance the sport's popularity quickly. This along with the fact that it was only played on weekends, which allowed for easy following on a game-to-game basis, helped the sport grow.
22 Major Leaguers move to Mexican League in 1946
In 1946, twenty-two Major Leaguers, including eight members of the New York Giants, moved to the Mexican League.
These moves were motivated by businessman Jorge Pasquel investing more money to raise the profile of the Mexican League and offering contracts which were in some cases higher than American Major League contracts. These moves were also motivated by the anticipation of increased competition from former Major Leaguers who had been serving in World War II and were now returning home.
1949: Landmark ruling of Gardella v. Chandler
The U.S. Supreme Court case Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs held that the baseball leagues and their commissioner are not violating antitrust laws (specifically the Sherman Antitrust Act) when they ban, trade, or otherwise change the playing eligibility of players.
The ruling went untested until the Mexican League was formed. Players who went to play in the Mexican League were blacklisted from Major League Baseball. One such player, Danny Gardella, was blacklisted because he had specifically violated his contract by going to play professional baseball in Mexico.
During 1948, Gardella brought a claim against Commissioner of Baseball Happy Chandler, the National League and American League, as well as their presidents (Ford Frick and Will Harridge, respectively). Gardella charged that they were engaged in interstate commerce because the defendants had made contracts with radio broadcasting and television companies that sent narratives or moving pictures of the games across state lines. MLB then settled with Gardella and offered all Mexican League jumpers amnesty, protecting the ambiguity of the antitrust protection.
Expansion and MiLB
For most of its existence, the league consisted of six to eight teams. During its first few decades most of the league's teams played around Mexico City and the Gulf Coast. The southernmost team being Veracruz, while the northernmost team being Tampico. Most of Mexico City's teams disappeared in the late '30s, and were replaced by teams all around the country. It wasn't until the 1940s, that the League first reached the northern part of the country with the introduction of the Sultanes de Monterrey. Teams in Nuevo Laredo and Torreon soon followed. The west coast first had a team in 1949 with the emergence of the Charros de Jalisco. It still was a difficult region to gain popularity given the presence of the Mexican Pacific League, an important winter league in the northwest of the country.
The emergence of teams in the north was key in expanding the league's popularity. The north followed baseball closely, because of various aspects that all helped its teams thrive and has been the home of the most consistent teams in the league, with the Saraperos, Sultanes and Acereros not having stopped play in over 40 years. For the Sultanes it even resulted in a Minor League partnership with the Dodgers, and played a major role in the league achieving AAA status with the Minor Leagues. This achievement should be attributed mainly to Anuar Canavati, who is considered one of the greatest Mexican baseball executives along Peralta and Harp. His relationship with MiLB was key in the growth of Mexican baseball.
Southern Mexico has also been a bastion of baseball, with both the Tabasco and Campeche teams enjoying consistent attendance due to the sport's popularity. The league first expanded southward with the introduction of the Olmecas de Tabasco in 1975, which was followed by the Piratas de Campeche in 1980, and the Leones de Yucatán in 1979, after a couple of previous unsuccessful attempts. Although the Yucatán Peninsula teams have consistently existed for 40 years, they have enjoyed little successes in comparison with their northern peers, although these southern teams have won seven titles.
In 1979, the Mexican Central League was absorbed into the expanded LMB. The newly expanded league featured a 20-team circuit with four divisions. However, after a series of team bankruptcies, the Mexican League was reduced to 14 teams in two divisions.
Rule changes and the introduction of playoffs
For the 1970 season teams were divided into geographic zones to lower travel costs, however it was not until three years later that the league introduced a playoff system for the first time. In 1973 the first of what is now called the Serie del Rey was held. The members of each zone have changed frequently as teams have come and gone (particularly for those teams in a central location), but each zone has maintained a core of the northernmost and southernmost teams. In 1974 the League introduced the designated hitter rule.
The 21st century and future expansion
The league has found the stability it lacked in the 90s, and has managed to sustain 16 teams for almost two decades, although some teams have relocated, and attendance has been inconsistent, though has rebounded in the latter part of the 2010s with the opening of new ballparks and greater stability. This led to unanimous approval for expansion to 18 clubs.
Despite having cancelled the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in December 2020, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced the addition of two expansion teams to the league: El Águila de Veracruz and the Mariachis de Guadalajara. The league officially approved the additions on January 26, 2021.
In contrast to the Major Leagues in which teams commonly wear a white uniform at home, and a grey one for away games, with team-color jerseys only worn as alternates, Mexican League teams use a colored option as their regular road jersey, a practice started in the 1970s to attract larger crowds and make teams more recognizable.
The current LMB regular season, consisting of 120 games per team, typically begins in late March or early April. Each team's schedule is typically organized into three-game series. Postponed games or continuations of suspended games can result in an ad hoc one-game or five-game series. A team's series are organized into homestands and road trips that group multiple series together. Teams generally play games five to six days per week, commonly having Monday or Sunday as an off day. Frequently, games are scheduled at night. Sunday games are generally played during the afternoon. In addition, teams will play day games frequently on Opening Day, holidays, and getaway days. Each team plays either six or nine games against each opponent.
In mid-to-late July, just after the midway point of the season, the LMB All-Star Game is held during a four-day break from the regular-season schedule. The All-Star Game features a team of players from the North Zone, led by the manager of the previous North Serie del Rey team, and a team of players from the South Zone, similarly managed, in an exhibition game. It has been held consistently since 1942 and from that year up until 1971 a team of foreign players battled it out against a team of Mexicans.
The first all-star game took place on August 29, 1939, in the since-demolished Delta Park of Mexico City, in a game between the selections of Ernesto Carmona and Manuel Oliveros. The game ended in 11 innings, 1–0 in favor of the Oliveros team after a walk-off home run.
When the regular season ends at the end of August, between eight and ten teams enter the postseason playoffs. The top four finishers in each zone automatically qualify, however if the fifth place team in a zone finishes three or fewer games back of the fourth place team, that fifth-place team qualifies as a wild card and plays the fourth place team in a single game playoff. That is followed by three additional rounds:
- The First Playoff: two series per zone, each is a best-of-five-game series.
- The Zona Norte and Zona Sur Championship Series: each is a best-of-seven-game series between the winners of each Zone's First Playoff series
- The Serie del Rey a best-of-seven-game series between each zone's champion.
Within each zone the first seed (the team with the best record) will face the fourth seed on the First Playoff, while the second and third seeds face each other. Since 2017, home-field advantage in the Serie del Rey is determined by regular-season records of the two zone champions, replacing a system used previously where the champion of the zone that won the All-Star Game would receive home-field advantage.
Similar to MLB, the Mexican League has had issues with doping by several players. Between 2012 and 2016, 45 players tested positive at the Mexican League's Prevention and Control of Substances program, all of whom were suspended according to the organized baseball anti-doping rule, headed by the Major Leagues. Even so, the league has been accused of "softening" its anti-doping policy to create a safe space for foreign ballplayers to continue their careers there.
Allegedly, the league allows players to pay a fine equivalent to US$5,000, without suspension to make the positive test "disappear". This has caused controversy among the fans and media who have called for the firing of league president Javier Salinas. As recently as August 2019, a player has tested positive, and a press release informing the media of said situation has been handed out, while protecting the player's name.
Sky Sports, AYM sports, and TVC Deportes broadcast games from the LMB. Sky Sports is also the official broadcaster of home games for Diablos Rojos del México and Sultanes del Monterrey, making it the channel that has the greatest coverage of the league. Other teams have local broadcasting agreements.
La Liga Mexicana de Béisbol has an agreement with Cadena RASA, through which the radio network has the exclusive national radio broadcast rights, including the All-Star Game and the Serie del Rey, as well as any other baseball event of national relevance that is presented. Gustavo Torrero, a well-known baseball commentator on radio and television, provides play-by-play for these broadcasts alongside Javier Figueroa and occasional guest commentators. In addition to this, all teams have their games broadcast on local radio.
Since 2014, LMB has had an agreement with AYM Sports to stream some games on the Internet through web page LMB.TV. Likewise, since the 2017 post-season, Cinépolis KLIC has streamed some games.
Additionally, the LMB signed an agreement with Facebook to exclusively broadcast 132 regular-season games and eight playoff games (four for each championship) during its 2018 season through Facebook Live. These streams would be free and would be available from March 22 of that year on the Facebook page of the LMB.
- Salón de la Fama del Beisbol Profesional de México (Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame)
- Baseball awards
- "Horacio De la Vega es nombrado Presidente de la LMB". Liga Mexicana de Béisbol (in Spanish). Minor League Baseball. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
- includes Claro Sports
- includes ESPN 2 and ESPN 3
- includes Canal 6 and Milenio Televisión
- includes TUDN
- Includes Azteca Digital
- "Mexican Baseball Is Finally Eliminating One of the Worst Unwritten Rules in Sports". VICE Sports. December 1, 2015. Archived from the original on March 23, 2016. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
- Rothenberg, Mark. "MEXICAN BASEBALL A SOURCE OF PRIDE SOUTH OF THE FRONTIER". NBHOF. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
- "History of baseball in Mexico" (PDF). MiLB. MiLB. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
- "Historia del Beisbol en México". November 24, 2011. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
- "From Mexico to Quebec: Baseball’s Forgotten Giants", SABR (Society for American Baseball Research), published in The National Pastime: Baseball in the Big Apple, Bill Young, 2017.
- "Gardella v. Chandler". Justia. July 13, 1948.
- "Canavati y sus aportaciones a la LMB". MiLB.com.
- "1955 marca una nueva era en la LMB". MiLB.com.
- (PDF) http://www.milb.com/documents/1/7/4/96923174/HISTORIA_DE_LA_LIGA_MEXICANA_jl94yvga.pdf. Missing or empty
- @lopezobrador_ (December 8, 2020). "Recibí en Palacio Nacional a representantes de dos nuevas franquicias de expansión de la Liga Mexicana de Béisbol: El Águila de Veracruz y Los Mariachis de Guadalajara. Vamos a seguir impulsando todos los deportes" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "LMB: El Águila de Veracruz y los Mariachis de Guadalajara ingresan a la LMB para la temporada 2021". MiLB.com (in Spanish). January 26, 2021. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
- (PDF) http://www.milb.com/documents/7/8/6/303885786/CALENDARIO_DE_JUEGOS_LMB_2019.pdf. Missing or empty
- "Juego de Estrellas: lo más espectacular". MiLB.com.
- Boada, Miguel. "45 casos de dopaje en la Liga Mexicana de Beisbol". Milenio. Milenio. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
- Campos, Jorge C. "El doping y la atractividad LMB". Strikeout. Strikeout. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
- "PELOTEROS DE LMB QUE DAN POSITIVO EN DOPING PAGAN 5 MIL DÓLARES PARA MANTENER SECRETO". Record. Record. September 24, 2019. Retrieved October 8, 2019.
- Velazquez, Ariel (September 24, 2019). "Jugador de Diablos Rojos da positivo en examen antidoping". El Universal. El Universal.
- Staff, Forbes (May 16, 2014). "Beisbol, ¿dónde está el negocio? • Forbes México". Forbes México.
- "TVC Deportes, Juego de Estrellas "Ramón Arano"". Archived from the original on May 17, 2012. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
- "Disfruta la LMB a través de Internet". MiLB.com.
- "Cinépolis KLIC tendrá lo mejor de la LMB". MiLB.com.
- "Facebook, Digital Broadcaster Oficial de LMB". MiLB.com.
- "Twitter transmitirá a la LMB". MiLB.com.
- "LMB, lista para el Playball 2018". MiLB.com.
- Official website (in Spanish)