There were two huge news events yesterday, both of which made me more hopeful about the future of our nation, for drastically different reasons.
First, health care reform. I’ve been a big supporter of this since the beginning. The promise of reform of our woefully dysfunctional health insurance system was a key issue of President Obama’s campaign, and I am impressed that he stuck to it against considerable odds. Charting a course both idealistic and pragmatic, he achieved something other presidents have tried, unsuccessfully, for decades.
Is it a flawed and perhaps inadequate reform? Yes. But it’s a start. We’ve known we were on the wrong road, a dead-end road, for decades. We’re not back on the right road yet, but at least we’ve finally turned around and are heading in the right direction.
I’ll save the particulars for another discussion, and I’ll refrain from my usual complaints about the likes of Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin et al. I believe this is a profoundly good thing for America, and I believe in the coming months it will get better. By election day, the true value of what has been achieved will have started to become apparent. We’ll still be plugging our ears over the screeches from the far right, but in the end it won’t matter, because the Democrats in Congress, despite themselves, managed to get something, something really big, done. For more on what this reform bill means, there are some excellent articles at the New York Times.
The other big news, less essential to most Americans’ day-to-day lives, but great for Minnesota Twins fans, and really for anyone who appreciates the role baseball plays in America’s cultural life, is that the Twins signed Joe Mauer to an 8-year contract. And not just any 8-year contract, but a New York Yankees-sized 8-year contract. The amount of money involved may seem obscene to many, and I’m sure there will be complaints that if the team can afford that kind of salary for one player, they could have afforded to chip in more of the cost of Target Field. (I’d have to admit, there’s some credence to that argument, considering that this 8-year contract for Joe Mauer — $184 million — is more than the Twins’ share of stadium construction costs — $167.4 million.)
But that doesn’t matter. The fact is, Joe Mauer is unequivocally a superstar of Major League Baseball. And this is the scale of MLB superstar salaries. If Mauer had gone to free agency at the end of this season, he would have been signed by the Yankees, or the Red Sox, or another “large market” team on the East or West Coast, and if anything, he would have been paid more. I’m proud of the Twins for sticking it out, keeping the hometown boy at home, and giving him the kind of salary his stature in the league warrants.
Considering that less than a decade ago the Twins were being considered for contraction, the fact that they have become a perennial contender, and are now beginning a new era in a first-class ballpark with an MVP catcher, this contract is a decisive statement that mid-market teams do count, and that Major League Baseball really does happen outside of the Bronx. For more thoughts on the Mauer contract, check out this article from ESPN.com.