Baseball's premier choke artists are now denying an earlier report that the troubled New York-based bank was trying to back out of its commitment to the team. New York Newsday is quoting a team official "We're committed to our agreement with Citi, and Citi has indicated it is committed to users." He went on to defend Citi, saying that the bank "needs to advertise."
If you believe that, I have got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you along with a rent-controlled apartment overlooking Central Park. The reality is that the Mets and Citi are stuck with one another.
Even if the Mets wanted to find a new corporate sponsor, they probably couldn't. Many teams are having trouble finding corporate benefactors for their stadiums because of the recession. Boneheaded moves like this may explain why Citigroup needed a $50 billion bailout from the federal government.
The Mets also need the money. The team has a payroll of about $140 million, which is reportedly tops in the National League. Manager Jerry Manuel is pushing the team to sign Manny Ramierez, the troubled yet gifted slugger. Moreover, the Wilpon family, which owns the team, was victimized by accused swindler Bernard Madoff. The family says the Madoff losses won't hurt the Mets, but you have to wonder how much they were counting on the Citigroup money to pay its payroll.
Citi needs the stadium deal too so that it can get publicity for something besides lavish corporate perks and billions of dollars in losses. Members of Congress are probing the deal. Odds are great that the Obama administration is putting the screws on Citibank too.
If I was a Mets fan, I would be outraged that my team's stadium is associated with one of the worst run banks on Wall Street that helped propel the economy to the brink of disaster. Surely, there are far more deserving people for the Mets to honor such as Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges or Casey Stengel. What about former New York mayor Ed Koch?
Citigroup certainly does not deserve to be associated with one of the most storied franchises in baseball.