Monday, March 22, 2010

2 Big Thoughts

There are two big thoughts bouncing through my head tonight. First, the health care issue. It's huge. And I want to give it its proper due. I do plan on putting up a post about it. Even though this blog is (obviously) coming towards its end. So look for that soon. But for tonight, let me just say: I understand the apprehension that people feel. But a lot of the challenges to the bill, a lot of the "can we afford it?" and other similar questions being thrown around by opponents... well, they're nonsense. And the opponents know it. If the numbers were really on the health care opponents' side you can believe they'd be focusing on them, instead of just asking rhetorical questions meant to raise fear or complaining about the process or throwing fits about the size of the bill. No, those are all tactics meant to distract from the substance.

So for all those who have their doubts: asking the questions is a good thing. But asking a question is just the beginning of the inquiry; you also have to look for the answer. And in this case the answers are most definitely there.
The second big thought, and this is the one I really want to talk about, is Joe Mauer.

8 years!

There are those "realists" out there who will caution about devoting so much payroll to one player. They would point out that injury concerns and longevity and basic considerations of chance and risk all mean that someday the Twins and their fans might regret this deal.

But those "realists" are ignoring reality. Baseball is about more than wins and losses. It's about more than playing for the postseason. It had better be, after all, because for every team that wins there's another that loses. Of course I want to see my team make the playoffs every year, but there are things in baseball that are more important. There are the stories. There are the heroes. There is the history.

Joe Mauer is all of that.

Try this for a story: Local kid is the top football and baseball recruit in the country, decides to play for his hometown team, and stays with them his entire career. If that doesn't cut against the "baseball is a business" line then nothing ever will.

You want a hero? Minnesotans are a fiercely loyal bunch. Quiet, unassuming, gracious, hardworking and very often very very good at what they do. Every single one of those words describes Mauer. He's an ideal Minnesotan. Even as the best player in the league he's quiet and unassuming. His work ethic is praised throughout baseball. He was recently touted as the "Fan-Friendliest" athlete in all of sports. Now he's proved his loyalty to Minnesota (just as the rest of us Minnesotans figured he would). Oh, and he's very very good at what he does. A hero is someone who represents an ideal, who lives up to a higher standard. And Mauer is Minnesota's hero.

How about history? Mauer is only 27 and it would already be more than fair to mention his name among the greatest catchers in history. He has 3 batting titles in the past 4 years. That's as many as all other catchers in the history of the game combined. Think about that. Even with a significant decline in his game he would still be a Hall Of Fame caliber catcher. To watch Joe Mauer is to watch one of the greatest baseball players of all time. What has happened over his career so far, and what will almost certainly continue to happen throughout the years, is history.

And, of course, there's the wins and losses. Even the strict realists must concede that Joe Mauer adds an awful lot of wins to a team.

So is this a good deal? The "realists" might have their doubts. But the reality shows us something different. Signing Mauer through 2018 gives the Twins an untouchable story, an ideal hero, and a front seat to history.

So we'll march day and night
By the big cooling tower
They have more money
But we have Joe Mauer!


Jacob Grier said...

Gosh, if only there'd been policy analysts devoting their efforts practically full-time to critiquing the CBO estimates. Alas Michael Cannon at Cato and Peter Suderman at Reason, to name just two, are fictional characters, so opponents' concerns have no basis in reality.

Mike said...

Excellent post about Mauer -- wish you'd decoupled it from health care ;). My feelings about Cal Ripken and (to a lesser extent) Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell (as a former Washingtonian and Houstonian) have been documented. I feel like every team needs one or two solid rocks, consistent players that fans gravitate to. The fact that Mauer (like Ripken) is also homegrown helps too. There aren't enough stories like that in baseball these days, but it makes those that exist all the more powerful.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Jacob -

You'll have to forgive my skepticism at numbers put forth by economic libertarians. Cannon and Suderman might not be fictional characters but they are apologists for a fictional world of perfect markets. They seem to have forgotten that, starting back in Econ 101, we were only pretending that people were rational actors and that perfect information existed and that the complexities of decision making were reduced down to simple choices and that money equals happiness.

I don't say that there is no basis in reality for some of the concerns and criticisms of the bill. But I'll be taking libertarian criticisms - which are found whenever and wherever there is government expansion, without reference to efficacy and effect - with the biggest grain of salt I can find.

I would consider suggesting that the libertarians who don't like big government consider pooling their money and buying an island somewhere, but of course libertarians would reject such a communal good.