When the St. Louis Cardinals
arrive in Memphis to play their Triple-A affiliate, the
Memphis Redbirds, for a pair of exhibition games on April 3-4, the weather
forecast may be a bit chillier than originally planned.
According to multiple reports out
of Tennessee, Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt
Jr. informed Redbirds officials in late December of his club’s intent to
withdraw from their letter of intent to purchase the team and rental of
Commercial Appeal attributes the
failure to the economy and specifically to at least two specific factors that
are concerning the Cardinals:
- Debt assumed by the major league
club as part of the $365 million price tag of the new Busch Stadium, which
opened three seasons ago.
- Their future revenue
Neither DeWitt nor general manager
John Mozeliak was available for comment to the paper.
While all appearances are of a
cordial break up, Redbirds president of business operations Bill Harter labeled
the news “disappointing” and said they were “surprised” by the turn of events.
The two sides had been in negotiations since at least September 16, when the
formal announcement was made at Busch Stadium.
From the Memphis side, sticky
points in the proposed sale revolved around bond and tax issues surrounding the
required change of the Redbirds from a non-profit to a for-profit
The Redbirds are carrying
significant debt load of their own. Dave Chase, president of baseball operations
and general manager of the Redbirds, summed up the situation for the Memphis
“We’re still the top grossing team
in minor league baseball, we still have the best ballpark in minor league
baseball and we still have the most loyal fans. But we also have the most debt
and were looking for an infusion of cash that we’re not going to get now,” Chase
The aborted agreement could be
revisited in the future if the Cardinals want to return to the table – if the
Redbirds are still for sale at that time. While Harter made it clear they are
not desperate to sell, he seemed open to consider interest from the right
The decision does not affect the
four-year extension of the player development agreement signed last fall that
binds the Redbirds and Cardinals together on the field for four more seasons, a
relationship that began back in 1998.
Further comments from the Redbirds
brass revolved around their continued preparation for the 2009 season as the
club comes off a very successful 2008 campaign.
"We heard loud and clear in August
from our fans that they want Redbirds baseball, AutoZone Park and Cardinals baseball," Chase told the paper.
"All of those things will be here April 3. That's what's important."
Brian Walton can be reached via
email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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