All over minor league baseball, it is again approaching the time for the bi-annual mating ritual with the major league organizations as player development contracts, or PDCs, are being re-negotiated and in some cases, re-thought.
When a minor league affiliate is not owned by the major league club, legal contracts are put in place for a minimum of two years at a time and a maximum of four. Basically they commit the organization to provide players and the local entity to run the team.
Of the nine affiliates of
PDCs for two of the other three,
While there are deadlines for
these agreements, there is nothing to preclude early contract extensions when
both parties are pleased with the arrangement and wish it to continue. Such is
the case with the new ownership in the
September 1: PDCs that run through the current season expire
September 16: Organizations may begin to formally speak with potential new affiliates
August through October: PDCs typically announced
November 30: Agreements for 2009-2010 should be in place
Since Quad Cities re-upped, at least 30 other extensions have been announced across the minor leagues, but none in the Cardinals organization.
The situation in
The Cardinals left their
long-standing New York-Penn League home in
The Cardinals, who have been in
the New York-Penn League for years and were committed to remain, explored
several other options before taking over for the Phillies, who had just departed
Off the field, a complicated local ownership situation became even messier when the club was unable to pay bills that ran well into the six figures, accrued over the first year of the Cardinals agreement.
Over the winter, league officials threatened to pull the franchise before the ownership of the Rochester Red Wings stepped in to both pay off the debt and assume operation of the business side of the Muckdogs for the 2008 season.
An article in this week's
Though plans for 2009-10 are unclear at this time, one Cardinals official I spoke with believes the Cardinals will be back. "Where else are they going to go?", he asked, listing off each of the other league towns with expiring agreements, explaining how the various moves and mostly non-moves should play out.
The Muckdogs' GM, Dave Wellenzohn,
seems to agree. He was quoted in the Daily News article as saying
the team is likely to remain in
Of course clubs can be sold and moved, with some NY-Penn League franchises rumored to be worth from $3 million to $5 million. However, with these teams a major source of civic pride, they are rarely lost without a protracted grass-roots fight.
News out of
Stated concerns seem to be related
to the competitiveness of the team, as the Cardinals had used
With 65 games already in the
victory column with three weeks to go, the Redbirds are seven games over .500
and sit in second place in the American Northern Division, six games behind
Whether that will be enough to
seal the deal for another two years remains to be seen. Mozeliak did not respond
to a request to comment on either set of negotiations,
Looking around Triple-A, there are nine other situations in limbo in addition to the Cardinals, three in the International League and six in the PCL.
The three IL expiring PDCs are the
Buffalo Bisons (Cleveland), Columbus Clippers (Washington) and the Syracuse
On top of the sheer distance
problems for the Cardinals to consider the IL, the 2009 changes are already
rumored to be lining up as follows:
That would leave the Nationals to
consider the Mets current home in
Considering all the alternatives
It would not be a new idea. Long-time Cardinals fans may recall the city hosted St. Louis' Triple-A entry back in the 1950's, a time when a local boy named Bob Gibson pitched in front of his adoring hometown crowd before he ever set foot in Busch Stadium.
In fact, the Cardinals maintained
a presence in
Future World Series-winning
manager Johnny Keane led the Cardinals during four of these Triple-A years
before joining the major league staff in 1959. In addition to Gibson, major
leaguers like Dick Schofield, Ray Sadecki and Curt Flood wore the
Returning to the present, the
current ballpark situation in
The 1948 facility in which the
Omaha Cardinals played way back then, Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium (right), is the
same one in use today. While it does not compare to the likes of modern
facilities such as
To keep the CWS in its long-time
base through at least 2030,
Those decisions were made without the involvement of the Omaha Royals ownership, who are balking at several aspects of the new stadium plans. Some issues are financially-based, such as operational costs and revenue distribution, as well as CWS schedule conflicts, fan amenities and seating capacity.
One example: The Royals average 5,400 fans per game while the new park will seat 24,000, comparable to Rosenblatt's 23,100 maximum. The Triple-A club instead wants a more intimate environment in which to play their games.
As negotiations with the city
broke off, Royals president Alan Stein heated up talks with a suburban group
pushing a second, smaller new ballpark of 9,000 seats as well as reportedly
entertaining proposals from at least two other locales outside the metropolitan
This uncertainty may or may not
affect the Kansas City Royals' immediate decision on renewal of
On the other hand, the recent
Interestingly, on Tuesday of this week, the Royals announced the extension of their PDC with their Double-A club, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, a Texas League rival of the Springfield Cardinals.
No matter what team plays in
In conclusion… there is no resolution
Perhaps this is but a moot point for the Triple-A version of the Cardinals here and now, but there is one caution.
Though the Redbirds and Cardinals
have been wed since 1998, over the past year or two, there has been an
undercurrent of concern coming out of
In the past, the Memphis PDC has often been
extended early, as with Quad Cities in February, but this time,
the locals specifically declined to do so last fall when the Cardinals
reportedly came calling with new contract in hand.
Maybe it is just a tougher negotiating stance taken prior to an extension being agreed upon. Or instead, perhaps there is a fire building from among the smoke signals.
Events over the upcoming 60-75 days should provide the answer.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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