11/18/2002 5:33 pm ET
Cards' organization is recognized
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
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
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
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
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