The Cardinal Nation blog

Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

TCN blog 2013 top story #17: Eventful external minor league ownership

The St. Louis Cardinals own a number of their minor league affiliates. However, three of the top five steps on the ladder short of St. Louis are not organization-owned – at Triple-A, Class-A and Class-A short–season.

All three locally-operated clubs were in the news during 2013, with the proposed ownership change of the Memphis Redbirds and AutoZone Park front and center.

This subject has received considerable ink recently, here and elsewhere. The net of the situation is that the Cardinals would like to buy the Pacific Coast League team, but the City of Memphis would also need to acquire AutoZone Park.

The proposed terms were not popular with the members of the City Council, which delayed deliberations until December 17. The mayor, who helped negotiate the initial agreement, pushed the item off further, until January 7, beyond the December 31 deadline set by…

A firm called Fundamental Advisors holds the cards, with the implied threat of foreclosure and sale of the ballpark and team at auction lurking.

During this past summer, the Redbirds finished just one game out of a playoff berth despite a 69-75 overall record. Memphis had a franchise-record 147 transactions, sending a number of top prospects to the majors. A fair share of injuries in St. Louis and Memphis accounted for many of those moves.

In the Class-A Midwest League, the Cardinals committed to return to a former haunt – Peoria – for the 2013-2016 seasons after the Chiefs had been the Cubs Midwest League affiliate since 2005. The Cards and Chiefs had previously been aligned for a decade – from 1995-2004.

Dealing with serious financial difficulties also rooted in stadium debt, the money-losing club put together an assistance plan totaling $7.35 million needed to remain afloat. While most of the cash provided to the Vonachen family-owned club was privately-sourced, the City of Peoria also forgave $1.2 million in debt to close the equation and ensure the team remains in the Illinois city. That deal, which included the naming rights for the newly-rechristened Dozer Park, was closed at the end of April.

After a strong start in the first half of the season, the 2013 Chiefs struggled down the stretch and finished with a 68-69 record in the MWL Western Division. The club was 38-29 prior to the All-Star break in July and remained in the postseason hunt into the final few games in the second half as well. A team-record 57 non-rehab players suited up for the Chiefs in 2013.

Another 2013 return for the Cardinals occurred in State College, PA, where the Spikes had previously been aligned with the Cards for a single season – in 2006 – before shifting to the nearby Pirates. Back together again, the 2013 Cardinals-powered Spikes had an exciting summer.

The club led the New York-Penn League in wins with a 48-27 record, a .640 winning percentage, and earned State College’s first-ever division title en route to the franchise’s first playoff berth. The Spikes made it to the last game of the league finals before bowing.

The State College ownership situation is stable. Attorney and Pittsburgh native Chuck Greenberg and his Greenberg Sports Group have owned and operated baseball clubs from Class-A ball up through the major leagues. Greenberg’s group purchased the franchise seven years ago and relocated it from New Jersey to an impressive facility on the campus of Penn State University, Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

While it remains to be seen how the Memphis ownership saga ends, 2013 was an eventful year overall for the Cardinals’ three externally-owned affiliates.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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One Response to “TCN blog 2013 top story #17: Eventful external minor league ownership”

  1. [...] Matheny’s extension 19. Oscar’s ongoing ouchie 18. Beltran walks again 17. Eventful external minor league ownership 16. 15. 14. 13. 12. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. [...]

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