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.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.