The Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs began on Tuesday, and seven of the 12 teams that qualified have at least one Mexican player — according to Mexican sports reports.
In actuality, just six of the 10 cited players were born in Mexico, and one, Cuban-born star left fielder Randy Arozarena of the Tampa Bay Rays, is a naturalized Mexican citizen.
The other three played for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) earlier this season, by virtue of having Mexican heritage. Since then, they have sort of been adopted by Mexican fans as native sons, and thus are included in the 10.
The number is three more than last year, prompting newspaper El Economista to write that the playoffs will have a real “mariachi flavor” in 2023.
One glaring omission from the list is Los Angeles pitcher Julio Urías, who was arrested Sept. 2 in Los Angeles on suspicion of domestic violence.
The native of Culiacán, Sinaloa helped the Dodgers win the 2020 World Series, then had a MLB-best 19-3 record in 2021, followed by a 17-7 record and 2.16 ERA in 2022, when he finished third in the Cy Young Award voting for best pitcher in the National League.
This year, he was a less glitzy 11-8 with a 4.60 ERA at the time he was placed on administrative leave, but without him, the Dodgers’ starting rotation is on shaky ground for the playoffs.
Urías, meanwhile, is in danger of getting a long suspension as a repeat offender; four years ago, he was suspended 20 games after allegedly shoving a woman to the ground in a parking lot. This time there has been no suspension as of yet, as the incident remains under investigation.
Though only 24 years old, Arozarena will be appearing in his fifth postseason – which includes a World Series appearance in the Rays’ loss to the Dodgers in 2020. In the full postseason that year, Arozarena set MLB records for homers (10) and hits (29).
The Cuban-born batter played winter ball in Mérida, Yucatán, and Navojoa, Sonora, after crossing the gulf on a small boat as a 19-year-old, battling 15-foot waves and eventually landing on Isla Mujeres, near Cancún.
He became a Mexican citizen in 2022 and proudly played for Mexico in the WBC earlier this year. For the Rays this season, the former American League Rookie of the Year made the A.L. all-star team and hit 23 home runs with a .254 batting average and 22 stolen bases.
Arozarena’s teammate Isaac Paredes isn’t as well known, but the 24-year-old from Hermosillo, Sonora had a stellar regular season with 31 homers and 98 RBIs. In today’s playoff opener against the Texas Rangers, Paredes is batting No. 3 in the order, one spot after Arozarena.
The Rays have a third Mexican on the roster: reserve infielder Jonathan Aranda, 25, born in Tijuana, Baja California.
Right-handed pitcher José Urquidy, 28, of the Houston Astros was born in Mazatlán, Sinaloa. He won a World Series last year with the Astros, though he pitched in only one postseason game. Normally a starting pitcher, he is expected to come in out of the bullpen in the playoffs.
Alejandro Kirk, 24, will be the starting catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. Born in Tijuana, Baja California, Kirk had a fair 2023 season, but he was better in 2022, when he started the All-Star Game at catcher for the A.L. and batted .285 with 14 home runs to win a Silver Slugger Award at his position.
Orioles starting third baseman Ramon Urías, 29, a Gold Glove winner for his defense in 2022, was born in Magdalena de Kino, Sonora.
Dodgers relief pitcher Victor González, 27, was born in Tuxpan, Nayarit, but because the Dodgers have a bye in the first round, they don’t have to submit a playoff for a few days, and González might not be on it.
Austin Barnes of the Dodgers, Alek Thomas of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Taijuan Walker of the Philadelphia Phillies all played for Team Mexico in the WBC this year, and are now often cited as Mexicans who play in MLB. All are U.S.-born but have at least one parent or grandparent from Mexico.
When Walker, 31, a former all-star pitcher, pulled on the Mexico jersey for the first time back in March, he said he felt “chills.”
At age 33, Barnes is the oldest “Mexican” in the postseason. This will be the backup catcher’s seventh trip to the playoffs, all with the Dodgers.
Rowdy Tellez, 28, was somewhat surprisingly left off the Milwaukee Brewers’ roster for the first round. He blasted 35 home runs last season, but slumped in 2023, hitting only one home run in 62 games after returning from a forearm and finger injury. Born in California, the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder played for Mexico in the WBC due to his heritage.
The playoffs begin with the best-of-3 wild-card round. The two teams with the best record in each league — Baltimore and Houston in the A.L., Atlanta and Los Angeles in the N.L. — get a bye into the next round. The postseason could end as late as Nov. 4 if the World Series goes a full seven games.
Mexico News Daily