TCN Blog 2012 top story #20: Returning to Peoria and State College

The St. Louis Cardinals have enjoyed relative stability in their minor league system in recent years. That is due in a large part to the fact the organization owns five of its eight minor league affiliates.

Two of the three others will be shifting for 2013 and beyond, but the changes are not dramatic. In fact, they are quite familiar and comfortable.

On September 11, Triple-A Memphis and the Cardinals agreed to remain together for two more seasons. However, full-season Class-A Quad Cities and short-season Class-A Batavia were replaced by other teams in the same leagues – Peoria of the Midwest League and State College of the New York-Penn League.

The Cardinals had previously been affiliated with both Peoria and State College, each with the same ownership still in place.

One rumored move became official on September 18, when the Cardinals ended their eight-year affiliation with Quad Cities, opting to partner with Peoria instead. The Cardinals and Chiefs shared a 10-year relationship from 1995-2004. That included 2002, when the Chiefs won their lone Midwest League Championship, plus playoff clubs in 1996, 1998 and 2004. Earlier, the Cardinals had a three-year minor league presence in the Illinois town from 1954-56.

Though there were apparently some ruffled feathers when the Chiefs dumped the Cardinals for the Cubs eight years ago, the two sides seemed pleased to reconcile for what was announced as a four-year agreement. Quad Cities realigned with the Houston Astros.

The Chiefs’ motivation for a change could be as simple as wanting to see more winning baseball. As a Cubs affiliate since 2005, the Chiefs had an overall losing record at 549-559. They made the playoffs just twice in eight years, losing in the first round both times.

The Bandits’ time with St. Louis was far more productive. The Cardinals had an overall record of 587-515 (.533) in Quad Cities. They reached the MWL playoffs five times in eight years, including two of the last three seasons, and brought home the 2011 title.

The Cardinals are also coming home to State College, though their previous stay was just one season. Chuck Greenberg’s ownership group purchased the franchise seven years ago and relocated it from New Jersey to a spacious new state-of-the-art facility on the campus of Penn State University, Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. An existing player development contract (PDC) with St. Louis had one year remaining.

When that expired, the Spikes aligned with the regional MLB club, the Pittsburgh Pirates, a move that was expected as soon as the sale was first announced. A by-product was that the Cardinals were out.

After six years of losing clubs and declining attendance, the Spikes decided to consider ending their affiliation with the Bucs and seek out alternatives this fall.

The Cardinals were also interested in bettering their situation in Batavia, a money-loser perennially at the bottom of the New York-Penn League in attendance. The facilities are below average and the club is for sale, likely to be relocated shortly afterward.

In their six years in Batavia, St. Louis’ clubs went 240-209 (.535), reaching the post-season twice and winning the 2008 NYPL championship.

On September 17, the Cardinals and Spikes agreed to a two-year Player Development Contract covering the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Batavia will be affiliated with the Miami Marlins going forward.

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

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