"This is a great day for baseball in Peoria and Central Illinois," said Chiefs President Rocky Vonachen. "We are thrilled to bring the color red back to the ballpark with one of the greatest organizations and fan bases in baseball. We hope that with all the great young talent the Cardinals have produced the last few seasons to bring another MWL Championship to Peoria as they continue to bring World Series trophies to St. Louis."
The majority of the defending World Series Champion Cardinals squad played in the Midwest League either with Peoria or Quad Cities, where St. Louis was affiliated from 2005-2012. While both teams were home to Jason Motte, the River Bandits saw current Cardinals stars: John Jay, Jaime Garcia, Matt Carpenter, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, and top prospect Shelby Miller who made his MLB debut earlier this month. Overall, 20 players who have seen action in St. Louis in 2012 played in either Quad Cities or Peoria (Motte, Yadier Molina and Kyle McClellan).
"We are extremely pleased to have a new four-year affiliation in place with the Chiefs and the Peoria community," said Cardinals' Senior Vice President/General Manager John Mozeliak. "We know how Peoria and Central Illinois represent a big part of what "Cardinals Nation" is all about and that the Chiefs run a first-class operation that will only enhance our player development efforts."
"We are excited to be returning to Peoria," stated Cardinals' Farm Director John Vuch. "The Midwest League has tremendous tradition and we are pleased to remain part of it."
During their eight-year run in Quad Cities, the Cardinals Midwest League teams posted an overall record of 587-515, for a .533 winning percentage. They made the playoffs five times (2005, 2006, 2007, 2010 & 2011) and won the MWL Championship in 2011. In the period from 2005-2012, only West Michigan made the playoffs more (6) or won more regular season games (603) than Quad Cities. The Chiefs meanwhile were 549-559 as a Cubs affiliate and made the playoffs just twice in 2006 and 2009, never winning a playoff series in the eight years with Chicago.
The two organizations first linked up in 1995 and a year later the Chiefs were Second Half Division Champions at 79-57 under Roy Silver. The 1998 team also made the playoffs going 72-68 under Jeff Shireman before losing in the playoffs. The 2002 team was hands down the best in Chiefs history with a new stadium to show off as well. The 2002 squad won a franchise-record 85 games under Danny Sheaffer and brought home the first ever Chiefs Championship with a 7-1 playoff record. The 2004 season was the last for the Cardinals in the first go-around in Peoria and also saw a playoff appearance. That squad, led by Joe Cunningham, went 75-64 before losing in the first round as a Wild Card team.
The first tenure for the Cardinals in Peoria brought the likes of Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, Dan Haren, Rick Ankiel, Placido Polanco, Coco Crisp, Jason Motte, Chris Duncan, Jack Wilson, Pablo Ozuna and Chris Narveson to the Midwest League. All told 60 players that played in Peoria as a Cardinals affiliate between 1995 and 2004 made it to the Majors.
While the Cardinals-affiliated River Bandits missed the MWL playoffs this season at 68-61, the three teams below the Midwest League all had winning records. In the Short-Season-A New York-Penn League, the Batavia Muckdogs were 44-30 and the Rookie Level Johnson City Cardinals made the Appalachian League playoffs at 39-28. The Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Cardinals also made the post-season at 34-24. Players from those three winning squads should comprise most of the 2013 Peoria Chiefs roster. Over the last four seasons, Cardinals affiliates in the Midwest League and lower have combined to go 737-608 (.548) with seven playoff appearances and three titles.
This is the fourth affiliation chance in the 30-year history of the Peoria Chiefs. The franchise began in 1983 as the California Angels-affiliated Peoria Suns. After a name change to the Chiefs in 1984, the organization welcomed the Chicago Cubs as an affiliate in 1985 for a 10-year run. The St. Louis Cardinals called Peoria home for a 10-year run of its own from 1995-2004 and the Chiefs were again affiliated with the Cubs from 2005-2012. There was also a three-month span in which the Chiefs were affiliated with the Boston Red Sox during the 1994 off-season though they never played a game under the Red Sox.
Of the 34 Cardinals 2012 draft picks who signed, five made it to Quad Cities this season and two surpassed the Midwest League. Top pick Michael Wacha, the 19th overall selection out of Texas A&M, finished the season at Double-A Springfield. James Ramsey, drafted 23rd overall out of Florida State finished in Advanced-A Palm Beach. The top supplemental pick, Stephen Piscotty out of Stanford, played 55 games in Quad Cities. Two other supplemental picks, Patrick Wisdom and Steve Bean played below the Midwest League as did all the other top 12 picks except seventh rounder Kyle Barraclough.
The rest of the Cardinals organizational setup is as follows: Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Cardinals - Jupiter, Florida; Rookie Level Appalachian League Johnson City Cardinals - Johnson City, Tennessee; Short Season-A State College Spikes, State College, Pennsylvania; Low-A Midwest League Peoria Chiefs - Peoria, Illinois; Advanced-A Florida State League Palm Beach Cardinals - Jupiter, Florida; Double-A Texas League Springfield Cardinals - Springfield, Missouri; Triple-A Pacific Coast League Memphis Redbirds - Memphis, Tennessee.