The Chicanos vs the Boriquas. Oscar de la Hoya vs Felix Trinidad. Julio Cesar Chavez vs Hector Camacho. The Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry has been alive and well for years, and second city is no exception. With a combined 5 of 7 NL Pennants and a combined 7 of 7 NL South division titles, the arms race between the Mexico City Bandejos and San Juan Crownrificos has defined the NL gameboard. The question is whether anybody else in the NL South can infiltrate this exclusive two team society and make any noise at all. As usual, all histories are completely fabricated.
Mexico City Bandejos
History - What can you say? Mexico City was one of Second City's Original 32 franchises, put the best record in the league together in Season 7, and is the former Season 4, 5, and 6 champion. Since Season 4, the Bandejos have been one of Second City's true role model franchises.
DYuen, the noted Mexican refried-bean tycoon, before discovering the business that would make him a billionaire grew up on the streets of the toughest section of Mexico City. A lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers fan, once he made his fortune, Yuen vowed for years to bring big time baseball to his hometown. The first three seasons, Mexico City floundered, as Yuen went through general managers and insisted on active participation in player-personnel. However, after the uninspired 77-85 Season 3 campaign, in what was seen at the time as a scandalously daring move, Yuen elevated Director of Player Development Vicente Tostada to the full time GM position. Needless to say, the move has paid off.
Strengths: Offense, offense, offense. Behind the twin powers of Del Gill (73 HRs, 1.094 OPS) and Alex Shibata (54 HRs, 1.021 OPS) in addition to quality professional bats such as Edgar Quevedo (105 runs scored, 21 HRs), Mexico City offers offensive firepower all over the map. In addition, the pitching staff, led by 20 game winner Ozzie Myers continues to be solid. This is a team that is good at everything
Weaknesses: Not much, despite the disasterous ending of last season. This is a truly great team, and one cannot let one of the greatest upsets in Second City history obscure that fact.
Odds for Division: EVEN
Odds for Pennant: 3-2
San Juan Crownrificos
History - The Crownrificos, named after the Spanish word for "tidal wave caused by enormous man jumping into tiny pool", are the Hatfields to the Bandejos McCoys. The Crownrificos have been an imposing force from Second City's beginning, winning the NL South in each of the first 6 seasons, and winning the World Title in seasons 1 and 2. This has led San Juan to become the league's first dominant brand, along with their preseason tours of South Korea in Season 4 and their partnership with the AC Milan soccer team in Italy. "You can see the Enormous Man Doing a Cannonball logo on kids' caps in Taiwan, I swear" marveled owner Wang35.
However, now with 5 seasons out of the winner's circle, and the heartbreaking division loss to the hated Bandejos, Wang35 has discussed significant organizational changes if the ship is not righted:
"I got a call from Felix Trinidad asking me what the deal was with last season. We cannot rest on our laurels. When those Chicano swine are ahead of us in the standings it makes me sick. I thought we were supposed to be the professional outfit." Long time manager Pepe "Chili" Relleno, has grown used to the bluster "We have the resources, the tradition. It is funny how 116 wins becomes a disappointing season so quickly. I know we have to turn it around. Our fans around the world expect no less."
Strengths: Where Mexico City has succeeded with the long ball and solid pitching, the Crownrificos have succeeded with sublime pitching with a solid offense. The formula continues to work its magic this season. Lenny Ohman, 32 years old, is arguably Second City's greatest pitcher, and his Season 7, aside from a few missed starts, rate as possibly his very best (18-4, 2.35 ERA, 1.04 WHIP). Ohman will provide veteran leadership to a starting staff that is young but growing, with 24 year old Billy Hoffman (17-7, 4.14 ERA) and 27 year old Ronn Thomas (13-8, 3.44 ERA).
Weaknesses: Age. Lenny Ohman is 32. Star SS Dan Garcia is 33. Most of the 25 man roster is over 30. The Crownrificos have built a machine, but with age and a $99 million payroll, the window of opportunity might be closing. While the spuriousness of playoff series should not distort things -- the 5 year drought is overrated by fans -- there absolutely IS some room for concern for the Crownrifico Continent.
Odds for Division: 3-2
Odds for Pennant: 4-1
History: The Nasvhille Harmonies were one of the original 32 Second City franchises. The owner, Drennantom, rose to prominence with the sudden success of his groundbreaking country music label, Scrapple Recordings, which as everyone knows by now, is the label behind such household names as Loo-Ann Emma Jane McGee and Billy Joe Jimmy Roy Matheson. As owner, his team has had a considerably harder time finding the formula for consistent success. Nashville was the solid second best team in the NL South during the early years of Second City, but like the rest of the league, were swamped by the San Juan express. Since Mexico City has broken through, Nashville has slipped to third.
"We are at a crossroads" says general manager Lance "Big Lance" Lancelot. "Those two dang teams have turned into a right dang -- it was like that Cold War years ago with them Soviets and us. Our folks, they expect us to rise up. Dang it boy, I expect no less."
Strengths: The Harmonies, are actually a fairly balanced team. They do not bowl you over with any one category but do nothing particularly poorly. Aaron Nelson (35 HRs, .882 OPS) leads the thumpers, while Timothy James leads a talented but unproven pitching staff.
Weaknesses: The pitching has to get better. There is some interesting talent, with James, Chad Rollins, Paul Hamilton and Rafael Rosado, all under 30. However, in this division, the kids need to grow up quickly. That said, with the ceiling that the Crownrificos and Bandejos represent, and the floor of the Infuego, the Harmonies will have to do something extraordinary to be anything BUT 3rd place.
Odds for Division: 75-1
Odds for Pennant: 150-1
History: The Atlanta INFUEGO are one of the Original 32 franchises of Second City, and in its earliest years, one of the most troubled. Originally owned by by DHuffman1, the INFUEGO, started with a 66-96 season. However, after the season the franchise was put into auction after an Atlanta Journal Constitution report revealed that the bonds used to fund the building of their stadium were actually gift certificates to Fogo de Chao. BKimme, executive with Spike TV, Second City's then-television partner, agreed to bail out the INFUEGO. After a stripped down organizatiion went through a 65-97 season in Season 2, BKimme sold the team to local owner, Marietta, Georgia Sun Drop distributor Soneinlaw, who has since stabilized the franchise situation.
Matters on the field have been less certain for the INFUEGO. Their best season has was in Season 3 with a 76-86 record. New General Manager Sonny Peachtree has been brought in to try to shepherd a massive rebuilding project.
Strengths: Youth. With only one player at age 30 or older (and he is just 30), the INFUEGO are about playing the kids. After the last few seasons, the hope is that the youngsters can develop, as the franchise has invested heavily in its coaching and its actual teaching function. Sparky Dessens and Phil Powell offer solid potential.
Weaknesses: Pitching. While promise in the positional talent is solid, the pitching is a bit slower in coming. The INFUEGO are counting on Johnny Fonda, who had a rough first season (2-13) to emerge as a solid force this seasoon. The INFUEGO are asking a lot. However, as Nashville is finding out, to keep up with the very imposing Joneses, there might not be another way.
Odds to Win Division: 75000 to 1
Odds to Win Pennant: Call your bookmaker