Cards Minors Manager of the Year

Memphis Redbirds skipper Chris Maloney is our choice as top manager in the St. Louis Cardinals system in 2009.

Chris "Hammer" Maloney is on top of the Pacific Coast League as his Memphis Redbirds earned their first league championship since 2000. For his leadership and success, Maloney is our Cardinal Nation Minor League Manager of the Year for 2009.

Maloney finished his third year as the skipper of the Redbirds as his club posted a 77-67 regular season record, then stormed to the PCL title over Albuquerque and Sacramento before falling to Durham in the single-game Triple-A championship. Following the completion of his club's season, Maloney was selected to assist Tony La Russa with the major league club.

Cardinals Director of Minor League Operations John Vuch acknowledges Maloney's 2009 success despite him having to deal with considerable adversity.

"Hammer did a great job with the Memphis club this year, under difficult circumstances," Vuch observed.

This was not a wire-to-wire coasting-to-the-championship job. As late as June 21, the Redbirds were 8 ½ games out of first. Losing at Iowa that night, Memphis hit a season-low six games under .500 at 32-38. They were coming off a disastrous 4-14 stretch of losing baseball.

Vuch was aware the major league club had made Maloney's job more challenging.

"Memphis lost several key players to the big league club early in the year, and to his credit, Chris was able to keep the club motivated despite a big deficit in the standings midway through the season," Vuch said.

It would have been easy to leave the Redbirds for dead, especially after the Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday trades stripped them of their top starter, Clayton Mortensen (ten quality starts, seven wins, 105 innings, 82 strikeouts), top reliever, Jess Todd (24 of 26 in save opportunities), and top hitter, Brett Wallace (.298 BA, number one Cardinals prospect).

In addition, St. Louis made at least 21 different calls for players from his club this season, many of them have been taken away multiple times, yet Maloney held his team together.

Instead of folding, the Redbirds put together an impressive 26-13 (.667) run over the next month and a half. On August 4, they had climbed back to seven games over .500 at 58-51, tying their season high water mark first set on May 9. Despite a very tough schedule over the final month, the Redbirds held serve with a 19-16 finish.

The Cardinals minor league director explains the manager's role in the impressive turnaround.

"One of Hammer's strongest attributes is his ability to get his players to embrace the "team" concept and do the little things necessary to win ballgames," Vuch recalled. "That discipline paid off down the stretch as Memphis pulled away to win the division and then swept their way through the PCL playoffs."

Maloney has spent a majority of his career with the Cardinals organization, having spent 13 years as a St. Louis minor league manager and coach from 1988-2001. He then spent three seasons as manager of the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs in the Houston Astros system. Maloney posted a 212-220 record with the Zephyrs, including a first-place finish in 2002, before returning to the Cardinals for the 2005 season.

The 47-year-old served as the inaugural Springfield manager from 2005-2006. An exclamation point was placed on Maloney's work with young players when he was recognized with the 2006 George Kissell Award, presented annually by the Cardinals organization for excellence in player development.

Vuch acknowledges Maloney's long-term success as an organizational leader.

"His reputation for helping to develop fundamentally sound players is well-deserved and he exhibited that once again this year," Vuch said.

Maloney's previous tenure with the Cardinals included Manager of the Year honors in three different leagues: the New York-Penn League while leading Hamilton to a 56-20 record in 1992, the South Atlantic League with Savannah in 1993, and the Texas League with Arkansas in 1998.

His 1993 Savannah squad posted a 94-48 record and captured the league title as Maloney was named Baseball Weekly's Minor League Manager of the Year. In his 13 seasons as a manager in the Cardinals system, his clubs have compiled a 857-742 (.536) record.

Once again, I am pleased to name Chris Maloney as our Cardinal Nation Minor League Manager of the Year for 2009.

Past winners:
2008: Mark DeJohn
2007: Ron "Pop" Warner

Note: To reference our entire series of Players of the Year at each level of the St. Louis Cardinals system, click here.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Catch his Cardinals commentary daily at his blog, The Cardinal Nation.

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