If you ever needed additional proof that America really is composed of two nations — the big city and the heartland — think about the current state of Major League Baseball.
The Philadelphia Phillies sent shock waves through the heart of the national pastime this week when they signed their star first baseman Ryan Howard to a multiyear contract paying him roughly $25 million a season.
It's official now. Baseball has gone insane.
Yes, Howard, a previous Most Valuable Player recipient and a perennial All-Star selection, is a terrific player. But is he worth that much money?
I can tell you two people who were absolutely delighted with the Phillies' decision: Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees and Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals, two Cooperstown-bound players who soon will be eligible to become free agents. They can sign with the highest bidder.
The Yankees' solution is obvious: Ask Jeter how many zeroes the club should fill in on his new deal and back up a truck.
But out in the heartland, the Cardinals have a king-size dilemma now: Is Pujols worth the $30 million a year or so that he no doubt will demand from the Cardinals, a small-market team that acts like a big-market franchise?
Will the Cardinals, who have other stars to keep happy as well, be able to afford the best player to surface in The Gateway to the West since Stan "The Man" Musial?
Fans love to gripe that the Yankees have The Best Team That Money Can Buy, as they derisively point to the team's $200 million annual payroll. The Yankees, for their part, shrug their collective shoulders, remind people that they're functioning in the confines of the sport's rules, and say effectively: Tough luck.
Even if the Cardinals, as expected, pony up for Pujols, it is an aberration. This probably wouldn't take place in Kansas City or Milwaukee or San Diego or Toronto or Pittsburgh.
We really are two nations, the haves and the have-nots.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column.
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