HERMOSILLO, Mexico -- The Dominican Republic's Leones del Escogido, a powerhouse team looking to win back-to-back titles, is once again dominating the Caribbean Series, winning five of its first six games and locking up a spot in the championship two days early.
But they're also in the middle of controversy here at Estadio Sonora, with gripes over compensation and the new format.
Throughout the tournament, Escogido players -- though not so much those who come from Major League organizations -- have taken issue with their team's organizers, alleging that they were promised more than they're being paid for their participation in the Caribbean Series and threatening to boycott.
On Wednesday, it almost came to a head.
Right up until game time -- with both lineups announced over the PA system, the anthems being played and Venezuela's Navegantes de Magallanes on the field -- Escogido was nowhere to be found. The entire team was in the clubhouse, having a players-only meeting regarding their compensation. Players say they were promised 15 days of pay, but are only going to be paid for seven days, plus practices and travel dates -- which adds up to 10 or 11 days.
At 4 p.m. MT, Escogido players rushed into the dugout, put on their helmets and went to the on-deck circle to hit as the visiting team without even warming up. They wound up eliminating Venezuela with a 4-2 win, and the game started only five minutes later than scheduled.
But the issue remained unresolved.
Escogido players are expected to meet with the club's higher-ups later Wednesday night, and a couple of players said they expect to come to an agreement prior to the championship, which will take place at 7 p.m. MT on Thursday.
"That's something between the team and organizers of the [Dominican Professional Baseball League]," shortstop Miguel Tejada said in Spanish. "I expect it to get resolved."
Escogido is also the victim of a new format.
In prior years, the Caribbean Series champ was the team with the best record after six days of double-round-robin play. This year, though, a championship game is being held, pitting the team with the best record against the team with the second-best record. Some Escogido players don't think that's fair, given that they'll go into the championship 5-1 and their opponent, Mexico, is 3-3.
"I don't think that has been a good decision on the part of the organizers of the Caribbean Series," veteran infielder Julio Lugo said in Spanish. "I don't think a team that has won [five] games should be knocked out by a team that has won only three. It's not right. I don't think that's been managed well."