For good reason, there was considerable pride throughout the St. Louis Cardinals Baseball Operations department last fall when it became clear that each of the organization's top six minor league clubs would finish the 2008 season with winning records.
In aggregate, the Triple-A (Memphis), Double-A (Springfield), A-Advanced (Palm Beach), A (Quad Cities), Short-Season A (Batavia) and Rookie (Johnson City) clubs won 60 more games than lost. Their combined record was 376-316 (.543).
One club stood out from the pack as the sole league champion among them - manager Mark DeJohn's 2008 Batavia Muckdogs. In just the Cardinals' second season in the New York town, the club posted a stellar 46-28 record (.622).
The Muckdogs, champions of the New York-Penn League's Pinckney Division, captured the league crown by defeating the Lowell Spinners (Red Sox) two games to one in the semi-finals and knocking off the Jamestown Jammers (Marlins) two straight in the finals.
It was a record-smashing, precedent-setting feat.
Locally, it was the first New York-Penn League championship celebrated by Batavians in 45 years, since the 1963 Pirates achieved the feat. The Cardinals' league affiliate last took the crown in 1994, to conclude their first year in New Jersey, two stops ago. The Muckdogs' pennant was the first for any club in the Cardinals' minor league organization since Palm Beach took the Florida State League in 2005.
The 2008 Muckdogs are the winningest New York-Penn League team to have been housed in Batavia since the 1997 Clippers (Phillies) went 47-27 (.635). That club lost in the finals, though.
The last Cardinals New York-Penn League affiliate to post a better record than the Muckdogs was the 1992 Hamilton (Ontario) Redbirds. That club went 56-20 (.737). Ironically, their manager was the current leader of the Memphis Redbirds, Chris Maloney.
No Cardinals minor league club at any level had registered a better record than the .622 2008 Muckdogs in the last 15 years! It is tops in the entire system since the 1993 Savannah Cardinals of the Single-A Sally League had a .662 winning percentage (94-48). Their skipper? Maloney, of course!
Count Cardinals Director of Minor League Operations John Vuch among those impressed over the combination of factors that had to come together to enable such success.
"We were really pleased to see the success experienced by our Batavia club. It was a reflection of the hard work not only by our Batavia staff and players, but also our amateur scouting department, who provided many of the players who helped lead the Muckdogs to the championship.
"While our focus is always on developing future major league players over winning minor league championships, teaching them how to play "winning baseball" is often part of that development.
"What happened in Batavia was an example of the best of both philosophies, as we had a very young team relative to the league, but they were also able to compete very effectively," Vuch said.
For all of the above record-breaking reasons, I am giving the 2008 Batavia Muckdogs the label of the Cardinals Minor League Team of the Decade (so far). They can't yet stake their final claim, however. After all, there is technically one season to go.
Let's see what DeJohn and his 2009 Batavia club can accomplish in their encore!
2008 Batavia Muckdogs championship firsts
- First Batavia team championship since 1963
- First Cardinals New York-Penn League championship since 1994
- First Cardinals minor league team championship at any level since 2005
2008 Batavia Muckdogs record bests
- Best Batavia team record since 1997
- Best Cardinals New York-Penn League record since 1992
- Best Cardinals minor league team record at any level since 1993
2008 Batavia Muckdogs offensive highlights
- Shut out just once all season
- Fourth of 14 NY-P clubs in runs scored (359)
- Third in team OPS (.759)
- OF Shane Peterson's .400 on-base percentage tied for third-best in the league
- Peterson's 39 walks were also third-highest.
- 2B Jose Garcia scored 48 runs, tied for fourth in the league.
- Garcia swiped 26 bases, second in the circuit.
- SS Colt Sedbrook hit .305, eighth-best in the NY-P.
- Sedbrook's 84 hits tied for third in the league.
- All-Stars: Peterson, Sedbrook, 3B Jermaine Curtis, OF Frederick Parejo.
- 2008 Scout.com Batavia Player of the Year: Sedbrook
2008 Batavia Muckdogs pitching highlights
- In a true team effort, shut out their opponents seven times, tied for the league best.
- Third in the league in team ERA (3.27).
- Closer Adam Reifer tied for second with 22 saves.
- Reifer's 32 appearances and 29 game finishes led the league.
- All-Stars: Reifer, Arquimedes Nieto
- 2008 Scout.com Cardinals Rookie Starting Pitcher of the Year: Scott Gorgen
- 2008 Scout.com Cardinals Rookie Reliever of the Year, Batavia Reliever of the Year: Reifer
- 2008 Scout.com Batavia Starting Pitcher of the Year: Thomas Eager
Most games played by position
C: Charles Cutler (37)
1B: Xavier Scruggs (61)
2B: Garcia, Sedbrook (29)
3B: Curtis (39)
SS: Sedbrook (43)
OF: Parejo (53), Peterson (50), Edwin Gomez (39)
SP: Nieto, Eager, Miguel Tapia (9)
RP: Reifer (32)
Photograph courtesy of Mike Janes/Four Seam Images.
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