May 30, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Crony capitalism and baseball

Question: What do Our National Pastime, the Bush administration, and the global financial panic earlier this year* have to do with each other?

Answer: The defunct subprime mortgage lender known as Ameriquest Mortgage Company, whose name used to grace the Texas Rangers' home ballpark until last year. Having updated the "(Rangers) Ballpark in Arlington" page accordingly (see my baseball blog post on Jan. 31), I did a bit of Googling and came across some interesting facts. From the Washington Post, July 29, 2005:

On the same day that the White House announced that President Bush is nominating California billionaire Roland E. Arnall to be ambassador to the Netherlands, the company he controls said it would set aside $325 million for a possible settlement of allegations of predatory lending tactics.

Hmm-mmm... As its bad loans kept piling up early last year, Ameriquest was forced to accept a multistate settlement, and it closed operations for good about a year ago, effectively bankrupt. See USA Today.

Meanwhile, Mr. Arnall continued to serve as our ambassador in The Hague until March 7, when he resigned. The U.S. embassy Web site provided this background on his company's road to wealth:

Ameriquest's success is based in part on the fact that it helped modernize the nonprime lending industry, which today is recognized as an essential part of home financing in America.

(The stricken-through portion was deleted a couple months ago, which itself is very interesting.) TRANSLATION: Mr Arnall got rich by exposing the American financial system to very grave risk. I am not, repeat not, making this up. Ten days after his resignation, Mr. Arnall died of esophageal cancer, which had only been diagnosed last week, supposedly. Could this get any stranger? See his obituary in the Washington Post.

I blogged about the connection between "crony capitalism" and baseball back in December 2005, so it's not a new phenomenon by any means. It's too bad that both of the new-era ballparks in Texas -- the former "Ameriquest Field" and the former "Enron Park" (Minute Maid Park in Houston)-- are closely tied to the corporate corruption that has weakened the American economy in recent years. As if the steroid/doping scandal didn't give us enough reasons to feel embarrassed for Our National Pastime already...

* I know, I know, anything that happened more than a week ago is considered "ancient history" nowadays. frown

The mail bag

Thanks much to Brian Hughes for sending a photo of Shea Stadium showing Citi Field under construction last summer. More photos are pending...

Matt Motyka has created a blog that serves as a seating guide to the lovely but sometimes awkward Wrigley Field: Chiblogo: Partially Obstructed Views. Apparently, the South Side ballpark isn't perfect in that regard, either. smile

And finally, Joe Schallan informed me that the fictional radical author portrayed by James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams was Terence (or Terrence?) Mann. Duly noted. More mail to get to... Thanks to everyone who helps me with fact checking.