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The Cardinals buy their Triple-A team

Nov 15, 2013, 1:19 PM EDT

Image (1) cardinals%20logo.jpg for post 4972

Not a lot of teams do this, but the Cardinals did: they bought their Triple-A team, the Memphis Redbirds. Also, the City of Memphis is buying AutoZone Park, where the Redbirds play.  They’ll in turn lease it back to the Redbirds.

The current owner is the Memphis Redbirds Foundation, a non-profit. There’s a lot of debt, however, and the ballpark needs upkeep and renovation. Part of the deal involves the city making a capital investment in the park.

The Cardinals have long been interested in buying the Redbirds, but previous efforts went nowhere, be it because of the financial or the leadership of it all. But now it’s sealed. This makes the third of the Cardinals’ four full-season minor league affiliates to be owned by the team. Also Cardinals-owned: the Class AA Springfield club and Class A Palm Beach club. The club also owns its short season Gulf Coast League affiliate.

  1. pilonflats - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    I think all teams should do this – there should be a lot of room for increased efficiency…

    • kopy - Nov 15, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      There are some exceptions. I’m a huge Twins fan, but their AAA club (Rochester Red Wings) is owned by 8,000 shareholders and has one of the longest running legacies in American professional sports, and I’d hate to see that get messed up.

  2. jcmeyer10 - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    Hopefully they keep the stadium nice. Was in Memphis recently and it looked like the nicest building in the city, of course aside from Earnestine and Hazel’s.

  3. asexatheani - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    This makes the Cardinals one of the few teams to outright own most of their minor league affiliates. The Braves do as well, I believe.

  4. NYTolstoy - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    their farm system continues to produce and they so happen to own most of the teams? Wonder if there’s a connection? Probally not now I’m going to ignore the elephant in my room.

  5. hk62 - Nov 15, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    This is cool – Red Sox also trying to own all of theirs, but the GCL team – Craig, the HAVE TO own that one – its a requirement for that league, so it really doesn’t count. (That’s why they call it a “Complex League”).

    In regard to more teams should do this – only if it makes the fan experience better. Take Quad Cities – no real need for HOU to own them to make that a superior fan experience but the team and the minor league owner have to be on the same page. Not really seeing the increased efficiency?

    Pretty sure that the only reason an MLB team would buy Bakersfield though would be to move it.

    • natstowngreg - Nov 15, 2013 at 2:47 PM

      MLB team ownership isn’t for every situation. You need a good working relationship. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a strong bond between the MiLB team’s fan base and the MLB team.

      Memphis has long been part of the Cards’ fan base, and has long hosted a Cards’ farm club. So there’s a natural affinity there. Springfield, Missouri, also works for the Cards from a fan base standpoint. Don’t know about Palm Beach. At one time, the Cards trained in West Palm Beach, so maybe there’s still a relationship there. As I recall, the Braves went so far as to buy their AAA farm club and move it from Richmond to suburban Atlanta.

      If the relationship isn’t good enough, and the local affinity isn’t there, either the MLB or MiLB team may need the flexibility to get out. For example, Rochester hosted the Orioles’ AAA club for over 40 years. When the Orioles were among MLBs’ best-run franchises, the Red Wings propsered, even though Rochester isn’t that close to the Baltimore market. However, after years of Orioles neglect, the Red Wings (a community-owned franchise, ala the Green Bay Packers) got fed up and exchanged them for the Twins (also not a local MLB team).

      There’s now a biennial process of shuffling minor league affiliations, with some being basically the last chairs after the music stops. Currently, for AAA, that’s Las Vegas. It was supposed to be a great thing when the Buffalo got the Mets as their parent club. It wasn’t. Buffalo exchanged the Mets for the Blue Jays (the closest MLB team), while Las Vegas got the Mets.

  6. umrguy42 - Nov 15, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    Interesting reading up on the minor leagues. I’d wondered, when seeing a mention of the PCL in Burying the Black Sox if it was the same league as today, and, looking through Wikipedia, it would appear to be the case. Same league, flirted with becoming major, then drifted back to minor.

    Also fun: Looking at the *old* American Association (the one in the 1880s), and seeing a lot of familiar names for teams that would come out of there (I’m assuming deliberately reintroduced, naturally): NY Metropolitans, Washington Nationals and Senators, Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Atheletics…

    • DJ MC - Nov 15, 2013 at 5:16 PM

      There was a time in the 1950s where the PCL was officially considered “Open” classification, which was above AAA but below the majors. That lasted until the Dodgers and Giants moved west and took the two biggest cities away from the league.

      It’s also easy to wonder if the league is the same, because they merged with the American Association in 1997. That’s why they have all of the Midwest teams in addition to the ones out west.

      The 1880s American Association is one of the most important markers in the timeline of baseball, too. Organized pro ball began with the National Association in 1871, and the majors with the National League in 1876, but a lot of what we think of as modern baseball really begins when the AA showed up as real competition for the NL: many modern team names, but also official postseason championship series, beer (and whiskey!) sold at ballparks, intracity competition, etc.

    • gloccamorra - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:33 PM

      The PCL is nothing like the original one. Six of the eight 1947 PCL teams that tried to become a third major league are now major league cities, except Portland and Sacramento. It kind of make you think the denial of status was political.

      • umrguy42 - Nov 16, 2013 at 6:53 PM

        Well, what I meant was, while it may not be exactly the same as it was (including losing teams), it seems to be as an overall organization one with a continuous history – as opposed to the American Association that joined with them in ’97, which is NOT the same AA from the 1880s that I mentioned above.

  7. 8man - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:02 PM

    With the success the Cardinals have had over the last decade, I have to believe this is a move that makes them better.

    It seems as if they now own the entire channel. It’s an interesting model. And I am not willing to bet against this franchise.

    As I quietly yell, “go sox.”

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