Busch Stadium

The Cardinals may owe the City of St. Louis money. And the City of St. Louis doesn’t seem to care.

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The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports today that a group that is against public funding for stadiums — they’re actually called “the Coalition Against Public Funding for Stadiums” — is giving the city of St. Louis hell over the fact that it apparently isn’t keeping tabs on whether the Cardinals are keeping the promises they made to the city when Busch Stadium III was built.

Of specific interest: whether owners who sold shares in the team were, as they were required to do, pay the city back the money they received in tax abatements. There were apparently sales — team President Bill DeWitt sold some of his shares as did others — but no collection of the putatively required taxes. Why? It’s unclear. The city and the Cardinals say it wasn’t owed. The Coalition Against Public Funding for Stadiums says that’s not true, and the article at least suggests that the Coalition is right.

I’d normally be inclined to believe the city — since when does the government not try to get all the taxes it’s owed? — but in this case there is reason to doubt. Why? Because the city has apparently never asked the Cardinals to keep track of such things or any of the other promises they made such as the furnishing of free tickets for charitable purposes and the like. When the media finally started asking about free tickets and other things the Cardinals eventually reported — on the honor system, it seems, not pursuant to any standard auditing — that they were holding up their end of the bargain there. The taxes situation is, well, still a little gray.

I don’t know what’s going on here and I don’t have any reason to believe the Coalition people over the city or the team. The Coalition may be a bunch of loony tunes. To the extent we know about what the Cardinals have done pursuant to the stadium agreements, they have performed. But the fact that no one at city hall is keeping tabs on this and that no one knew anything until some angry citizens group and the newspaper started asking questions is troubling to me. Oversight and good bookkeeping always seems to fly out the window when governments get into the ballpark business. They’re fans too. They get a little star struck. No one wants to be seen as hounding a local institution like the Cardinals.

Which of course is yet another reason to keep governments out of the ballpark business.

Athletics trade Billy Burns to the Royals for Brett Eibner

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 13: Billy Burns #1 of the Oakland Athletics waits on deck to bat during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 13, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.

Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.

Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.

Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.

Nationals acquire closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 20:  Mark Melancon #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies on May 20, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
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The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.

Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.

With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.

Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.

Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.

The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.