February 3, 2009
Since it was learned that CitiCorp is in such bad financial shape that it needs a bailout from Uncle Sam (see Nov. 23, third item), some critics question whether it is proper for it to go ahead with the "Citi Field" naming rights deal with the New York Mets. CNN.com reports that two Congressmen -- Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Ted Poe (R-TX) -- wrote a letter to the new Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, arguing:
Citigroup is now dependent on the support of the federal government for its survival as an institution. As such, we do not believe Citigroup ought to spend $400 million to name a stadium at the same time that they accept over $350 billion in taxpayer support and guarantees.
Rep. Kucinich is known as something of an oddball, but it's still hard to disagree with the argument he and Rep. Poe make. On the other hand, barely two months remain until Opening Day, and it would be extremely difficult to come up with a new naming rights contract in the current economic climate, and then to fabricate new stadium nameplates from scratch in such a short time. (At least CitiCorp is not in the same roguish league as the now-defunct Enron and Ameriquest.) Thus, the Mets are in an unfortunate no-win situation -- kind of like the United States of America as a whole is! As one of the wealthiest franchises, the Mets should follow the example of the Yankees and shun any such naming rights deal. Why not call their new ballpark "Mets Stadium"?
UPDATE: I just noticed that this was the lead story in today's Wall Street Journal. It seems that, like the Mets, CitiCorp finds itself in a no-win predicament as well: If they pull out of the naming rights deal at this late stage, it will be seen as caving in the public pressure and might make it harder for them to exercise negotiating leverage in other high-stakes transactions. Those poor guys...
John Meyer let me know about an old home movie that he posted on YouTube about two years ago. The film shows several scenes from the 1929 World Series when they played the Athletics -- losing, of course. It opens with Flag Day ceremonies on June 21, 1930, when the Cubs hoisted their National League pennant. There are great views of the ballpark from several angles, and it's just an amazing "time machine" experience. See youtube.com.