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January 7, 2005
Pound for pound in the drama department, politics has TKOed sports throughout this holiday season. To which I say, give agent Scott Boras just a few more days to read the fine print on Mets and Yankees contract offers for his superstar client Carlos Beltrán, and the partisan trash-talk will no longer hold sway on this island of enchantment.
Beltrán and Boras met with Mets GM Omar Minaya earlier this week in San Juan to hear the pitch coming from Shea Stadium. The Yankees and Houston Astros are also bidding for the five-tool centerfielder. Stay tuned.
Bernier next Sports and Recreation Secretary
Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila wasted no time naming fencer David Bernier as Department of Sports and Recreation Secretary-designate this week. Bernier, who was a 2003 Pan Am Games bronze medallist (along with brother, Victor, and Jonathan Peña) in the team epee category, also completed dental school last year. The 27-year-old Bernier was the director of Sila Calderóns Youth Affairs office for the past two years and is a former Elite Athletes Association president. The Patillas native was a member of the first class to graduate from the Olympic Training Centers special sports school in Salinas and will replace Georgie Rosario, who served at the Sports and Recreation post for four years under Calderón.
What Bernier lacks in practical experience will be compensated for by undersecretary Lucy Molinary, who headed up the Education Departments unwieldy Physical Education department during the Hernandez Colon administration and who spent three decades working in physical education before turning to politics. Molinary was also in charge of the City of San Juan department of Sports and Recreation when Calderón was mayor. For the past four years she has worked in the offices of Rep. Ramon Dasta, who headed up the Houses Committee on Sports and Recreation.
Muñoz named WL MVP, Manager of Year
Lucky for Caguas Jose "Chepito" Muñoz, baseball is the only sport in which those directing the plays wear the same garb as the players. Otherwise, Muñoz, who served as Criollos manager and first baseman this season, might have had some clothing issues.
As it turned out, the 37-year-old Muñoz multi-tasked seamlessly, and for his efforts earned both the Puerto Rico Winter Leagues MVP and Manager of the Year honors after finishing fifth among the batting leaders with a .338 average and tied for the lead in hits (49, along with batting title winner Jesús "Motorita" Feliciano, of Santurce) while skippering Caguas to a 24-16 regular season record, tops in the league. This was the first time in the leagues 66-year history that one person earned both awards at the same time.
Muñoz, a native of Yabucoa and playing in his ninth season with the Criollos, also led the league in doubles (13). During the 1959-60 season, Vic Pellot Power won Manager of the Year honors and the leagues batting title, a feat similar to Muñozs.
Feliciano wins WL batting title
Santurce centerfielder Feliciano overtook Ponces José Enrique Cruz, teammate Lou Lucca, Mayaguez import Byron Gettis and Muñoz in the final week to win a close race for the leagues batting title. Feliciano, the son of one of Puerto Ricos most famous amateur pitchers, Jesús "Motora" Feliciano, finished with a .402 (49-122) average to beat out Ponce infielder Cruz (.369), who was second, and Lucca (.360), who was third. Feliciano, who hit a modest .273 last season, became just the 17th player in league history to hit over .400 during a season. He cinched the title last week after batting for the cycle (5-for-5) to keep Santurce in contention up to the final days of the 40-game regular season. A Santurce batter has not hit over .400 in 44 years, according to league historian Jorge Colón Delgado. The last Santurce hitter to reach the magic number was Orlando "Peruchín" Cepeda during the 1960-61 season with .415. Other Santurce sluggers in the .400 club were Clarence Palm (1940-41), Joshua Gibson (1941-42), Juan "Tetelo" Vargas (1943-44), Willard Brown (1947-48) and Bob Thurman (1947-48).
Caguas pitcher, Saúl "Monaguillo" Rivera, hero of the 2002 Caribbean Series-winning Santurce Cangrejeros, earned Comeback Player of the Year honors. Rivera, who missed last year due to surgery, finished the season with a perfect 5-0 record and a 2.32 ERA, going a total of 31 innings allowing just 23 hits and eight runs. He also struck out 22 batters in 17 appearances, but was one inning of work short of being considered for the leagues Pitcher of the Year award.
Meanwhile, Mayagüez Indios infielder Erick Monzón earned Rookie of the Year honors after hitting .241 (14-58) including 12 runs scored and eight RBI in 27 games. Monzón didnt even have a regular spot in the Indios lineup, yet proved to be one of the teams best clutch hitters. Monzón knocked the ball out of the park in his very first WL career at-bat back in October and in early December helped the Indios score a narrow 3-2 win over the Ponce Leones in a regular season game with a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
Santurce right-hander Evan Thomas won Pitcher of the Year after finishing the 40-game regular season with a 5-2 record and a leagues second-best 2.20 ERA, fanning 53 batters in 57 innings and pitching in just nine starts.
Manatí finished the season 14-26, 10 games behind Caguas while Santurce was also eliminated from the post season by Carolina after finishing 19-21, five games behind the league-leading Criollos. Caguas, Ponce, Mayaguez and Carolina are the four teams in the playoffs, which get under way Jan. 7.
Gabrielle Paese is a sports reporter in San Juan. She was the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at email@example.com.
Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.