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11/18/2002 5:33 pm ET 
Cards' organization is recognized
AutoZone Park is the home of the Memphis Redbirds. (John L. Focht/AP)

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' farm system may be shaking the "much-maligned" prefix that has dogged it for years.

St. Louis still doesn't have the greatest depth of talent in its organization, but a look at the recent products of the system shows some names you may have heard of: Albert Pujols and J.D. Drew, not to mention Bud Smith, who was sent to Philadelphia in the Scott Rolen deal. But now the organization is starting to get some recognition.

The Memphis Redbirds were recently named the winners of Baseball America's Freitas Award for Triple-A. The Freitas Awards "recognize long-term success by minor league franchises." It was the first year the franchise was eligible for the award, which requires a franchise to have been in existence for at least five years.

"This validated the mission we're on here," Redbirds president and general manager Dave Chase said in a team statement. "This is an important award to win. It's a milestone the Redbirds have looked forward to and have worked towards these first five seasons. And now, to see so many other clubs starting foundations... It feels good. Memphis has plowed that ground."

 

  Albert Pujols   /   LF
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 210
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Player page
Stats
Hit chart
stlcardinals.com
 

 

Memphis is a different kind of team, the first non-profit pro sports team in the United States. The Redbirds play in a new facility, AutoZone Park, that is considered one of the finest in all the minors. In short, by all accounts Memphis does pretty much everything right.

"That's a huge award," said John Mozeliak, the Cardinals director of baseball operations. "That's great. It recognizes the most outstanding minor-league team as far as how it's run, the game experience and so forth. That's quite an accomplishment."

The Redbirds drew 794,550 fans in their second season in AutoZone Park, setting a Pacific Coast League record. They were the second highest drawing team in all the minors at over 11,000 fans a game. Memphis went 71-71 on the field in 2002, finishing fourth in a four-team division, but just three games out of first.

The award will be presented at the Winter Meetings in Nashville in December.

Cards get a B-plus: Baseball America had nice things to say about the Cardinals organization as a whole, also.

In its annual organizational ratings, the magazine gave the Cardinals a B-plus, joining Oakland, San Francisco and Cleveland at that level. Only the Angels and Twins received better marks. The Cardinals received A's for their Major League performance and "organizational direction," and the magazine said that Walt Jocketty "could be the best GM in baseball."

It was gratifying for the organization, which has been something of a whipping boy for minor-league observers in recent years.

"It points out a lot of our strengths and where we've come in the last year," Mozeliak said. "We're real grateful for the work Bruce (Manno, director of player development) has done, and really his entire staff. When you look at those rankings, probably the one place we were weak in a year ago (the minor leagues), we definitely picked up. Right now the talent level inside our minor-league system is still probably below average. But that's just something that's gonna take some time. It's not instantaneous."


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