The St. Louis Cardinals Class-A affiliate, the Quad Cities River Bandits, made the Midwest League playoffs in the first half, but to their credit, played just as strongly after the All-Star break. Better yet, they swept three levels of opposition in the post-season, taking the league championship.
Of course, quality players were a big part of the Bandits’ success, but so was their leadership, topped by manager Johnny Rodriguez along with hitting coach Joe Kruzel and pitching coach Tim Leveque. The skipper deflected all praise aimed his way.
|Rodriguez (center) hoists the hardware|
"I want to give thanks to John Vuch, our farm director; Jeff Luhnow, our scouting director; John Mozeliak, the general manager; and the owner of the Cardinals, Mr. [Bill] DeWitt, because they drafted character players," Rodriguez told the team’s website following the playoffs.
Despite a solid core of players graduated from 2010’s Appalachian League champions in Johnson City, Rodriguez dealt with a season of considerable player churn, while maintaining a consistent and steady hand. The one star that remained all year, outfielder Oscar Taveras, played in just 78 games as the result of two stints on the disabled list.
"We had a big turnover here (during the season),'' the manager told the Quad-City Times. "We promoted players. We lost the bullpen. We lost (top five Cardinals prospect) Carlos Martinez. We lost (ace pitchers Kevin) Siegrist and (Jordan) Swagerty. On and on. So it's unbelievable, this moment, to not only win, but go 7-0 (in the playoffs).''
The father of Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Sean Rodriguez and a South Florida resident, Rodriguez worked in the New York Yankees, Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins minor-league systems. The 54-year-old was also a scout, a high school and college coach before joining the Cardinals organization in 2009 as the hitting coach at Johnson City.
In his first season at the helm of the Bandits, 2010, Rodriguez’ club went 83-55, an improvement of 22 wins from the prior year. They made their first playoff appearance in three seasons. Quad Cities was almost as good during the 2011 regular season, with an 81-56 record prior to the perfect playoff run.
|Rodriguez on the job|
The Cardinals last won a championship at the Class-A level while affiliated with Peoria in 2002, but the Quad Cities hadn’t celebrated a title since 1990.
Cardinals farm director John Vuch recognizes the asset the organization has in Rodriguez.
“Johnny Rodriguez is a tireless worker and an outstanding baseball man,” Vuch noted. “He did a tremendous job of ensuring that his players were prepared at all times this season, and his team was very strong fundamentally. He helped set an example for his players that contributed to the winning environment in Quad Cities.”
Congratulations to The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Minor League Manager of the Year for 2011, Johnny Rodriguez.
Recent TCN/Scout.com Managers of the Year
2010: Mike Shildt, Johnson City
2009: Chris Maloney, Memphis
2008: Mark DeJohn, Batavia
Note: Link to article with links to all articles about previous award winners across the system club by club, schedule for upcoming announcements as well as 2011 team recaps, much of it exclusively for The Cardinal Nation subscribers. Not yet a subscriber? Join now!
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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