Tabasco: Che Reyes out as skipper, Marco Antonio Guzman in
As has been chronicled here numerous times, baseball managers are “hired to be fired” is an axiom that seems to be taken to another level in the Mexican League. Less than three weeks into the 2017 season, there’s already been a dismissal as veteran pilot Enrique “Che” Reyes was let go Monday by the Tabasco Olmecas after a slow start after the team stumbled out the gate with a 3-11 record. A press release from the front office announcing the firing was accompanied by the almost obligatory thanks to Reyes for service, professionalism, etc. Another veteran of Mexico’s managerial recycling program, Marco Antonio Guzman, will take over the Villahermosa club.
This is not unfamiliar territory for Reyes (pictured), who was canned in Oaxaca last April 28 after the Guerreros got off to a 4-18 start. He was picked up a little over a week later by Tabasco, who had fired another veteran of the revolving door, Francisco “Paquin” Estrada (currently managing the Leon Bravos this season and presumably safe for the time being by leading the new team to a 7-8 mark playing exclusively on the road). Here is a list of Reyes’ previous stops as helmsman in the LMB since 1998: Aguascalientes, Puebla, Dos Laredos, Cancun, Puebla (again), Angelopolis/Quintana Roo, Veracruz, Tabasco, Monterrey, Aguascalientes (again), Tabasco (again), Oaxaca and Tabasco for his third tour of duty with the Olmecas. The 54-year-old has a career Liga managerial record of 982-984, copping one pennant with the Angelopolis Tigres in 2005. One suspects he’ll resurface elsewhere. Again. Perhaps in May.
As well, Guzman has done this dance before. According to Baseball-Reference, the former catcher whose nickname is El Buzo (“The Dude”) has managed in Campeche, Cancun, Puebla, Tabasco, Laguna, Campeche (again) and now Tabasco (again). Clearly, he has some catching up to do. The Olmecas lost Guzman’s debut at the helm, 6-4, Tuesday night in Aguascalientes.
As with the Union Laguna Vaqueros, who were profiled Monday on BBM, the Olmecas have traditionally been among the LMB’s have-nots. Since entering the Liga in 1975, Tabasco has won only one title (when Salon de la Fama member Juan Navarette led the Olmecas to the pennant in 1993) and they haven’t appeared in the postseason since 2012. Fan support in Villahermosa has been tepid as well, with only 22,629 attendees through eight home games thus far in 2017 at the 53-year-old Estadio Centenario 27 de Febrero, which has 10,500 seats but only fills an average of 2,829 of them per game. The team is among those in the Mexican League that are dependent upon government largesse to meet their budgets, thus putting them squarely in the so-called Old Guard camp.
One recognizable name on the Tabasco roster for North American fans is relief pitcher Tony Pena Junior, whose father was an All-Star catcher in Major League Baseball. Other prominent players include volatile first baseman Sandy Madera, infielder Abel Martinez (who turned 40 last Saturday) and outfielder Rogelio Noris. Madera and catcher Sergio Burruel are tied for the team lead with .300 averages while Martinez is right behind at .298. Although pitcher Salvador Valdez has lost both decisions on his current record, his 2.65 ERA is quite good for the bat-friendly Liga. However, the Olmecas are last in the 16-team league with a .243 batting average and have scored just 37 runs over 15 games, not nearly enough for a club whose pitching staff has a collective ERA of 4.08 (fifth in the LMB). While Tabasco has also added former MLB infielders Ronny Cedeno and Carlos Triunfel to the roster to try bolstering their anemic offense, Guzman has his work cut out for him.