In this, that short period between the Super Bowl and pitchers and catchers, let's go inside a couple of the numbers, shall we?
The first is $400 million - that's what bailout baby Citicorp is on the hook for over the next two decades to slap its misspelled metropolitan moniker on the home of the displaced Metropolitans. But really, what's the reason big companies pay big money get their names on new stadia anyway?
Branding. A positive association of the company's name with the great game of baseball. The recognition that the suits in the midtown office tower - and the the friendly little branch on the corner - are doing their patriotic best to help fund David Wright's long-term deal.
But let's face it - that positive association is gone, torn like the ligaments in Billy Wagner's shoulder, a mere vestigial sponsorship that ties a brand that is, shall we say, mired in robber baron territory to a new stadium whose hometown fans generally despise the naming, thereof.
Now, that new ballpark looks to me to be brilliantly designed, just right in scale - and I'm guessing it'll be the feel-good sleeper hit of the upcoming stadium unveiling season. From the pictures, it reminds me inside of Seattle's Safeco Field - wide open concourses, open views, and a lower-than-usual upper deck. Outside, it's all brick and huge arched windows - the Queen of Corona.
Still, every Mets I know hates the name. Some of us pine away for the rotgut pile of concrete that was Shea Stadium, now just a crumbling half-shell, soon to disappear forever. Others despite the too cute "Citi" - I once knew a girl named Patricia who spelled her name Patti, but I digress. Many just can't stand the chump change of corporate stadium sponsorships.
But this might not be chump change - that's because of the other big number: $50 billion, the rough estimate of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, a scandal that enveloped the Wilpon family in losses and may have been the death knell for any hopes of signing the transcendent professional hitter named Manny Ramirez to play left for the Metties. I think it certainly influenced their decision to allow innings eater Derek Lowe to sign with Atlanta.
It's amazing to me that Ramirez can't find a job, given that he's a hitting machine who constantly delivers despite occasionally goofy behavior. Sure , Manny can be a pain - but he's light years from Barry Bonds.
The Mets need Citicorp's $20 mill this season. And the company said today that despite looming Congressional hearings on the money, the bank "signed a legally binding agreement with the New York Mets in 2006," a warm and fulsome endorsement if ever we've heard one.
Of course, the Citi execs won't be lining up for luxury boxes this year, now that their pay has been capped at a mere half a million a year, just above major league minimum - or less than the price of the last guy in the bullpen.