Published October 09, 2012
"Professional baseball is on the wane," said Albert Spalding, co-founder of the sporting equipment company of his namesake. "Salaries must come down, or the interest of the public must be increased in some way."
That was in 1881, only 12 years after the first pro team was founded, but it could just as easily be heard today on any sports talk radio station across the country.
Though it may seem like baseball salaries are detached from the real world -- this year's minimum salary is $480,000 -- America's pastime is firmly entrenched in American supply and demand.
Baseball's top eight years in attendance have all come in the last eight seasons. With an average ticket price of $27 and enormous cable and TV deals, it's easier to see how this multibillion-dollar industry results in an average player salary of nearly $3.1 million -- including those whopping contracts.
In 1988, the New York Yankees led baseball with a total payroll of just less than $19 million. Barry Zito is making more than that entire team as the San Francisco Giants' fifth starter in 2012, but he doesn't even make the list of the sport's richest players, according to figures compiled from Sports Illustrated and Forbes. Overall earnings this year are rounded and include salary and endorsement income.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, purchased earlier this year for a record $2.15 billion, wanted Adrian Gonzalez' bat and star power so badly that they not only traded for him and his enormous contract, which includes $21,857,142 for this year, but also more than $100 million in contracts for a second player who is injured until next summer. The Southern California native's haul includes approximately $500,000 in endorsement deals, including Eastern Bank.
When slugging first baseman Prince Fielder signed his mega-contract with the Detroit Tigers last winter, it not only made him one of the richest players in baseball, but it was considered a homecoming to his all-star father Cecil Fielder's team. The elder Fielder once was the richest man in baseball when he was earning more than $9 million per year. Prince Fielder is set to rake in $23 million this season alone, plus $250,000 in endorsements.
Edging out Fielder is another first baseman and the first Yankee on this list. Mark Teixeira brings in an estimated $250,000 in endorsements and has a 2012 salary of $23,125,000. A power hitter with numbers in decline, Teixeira is not letting his riches sit idly by. Last winter he invested in The Juice Press, a health-drink chain, which is about as common for rich athletes these days as the rest of us investing in new socks.
CC Sabathia has the presence to match his salary. Listed at 6 feet 7 inches tall and 290 pounds, the big man's 2012 salary of $23 million makes him the richest pitcher in the American league. His endorsements of $800,000 include Pepsi, Nike Jordan and Subway. (Wonder what 'ol Jared would have looked like in pinstripes.) Sabathia used his riches in part to pay $14.9 million cash for a 12,000-square-foot mansion in Alpine, N.J.
The highest-salaried pitcher in baseball this year at $23.3 million, Santana acted the part when he threw the first no-hitter in the Mets' history on June 1. Unfortunately, that followed not pitching all of last season due to injury, and then shutting down his 2012 season in August due to back inflammation. Santana also earns $500,000 endorsing brands such as Rawlings, New Balance and various deals in his native Venezuela.
Ichiro Suzuki is certainly in the twilight of his remarkable career, and while he won't land any more contracts like the $17 million he's bringing in this year, he is still among the richest baseball players due to his incredibly loyal following back home in Japan that results in incredibly friendly advertisers. Suzuki's $7 million in estimated endorsements is among the highest in baseball, though he's rumored to have turned down tens of millions of dollars in other deals in the past.
Sometimes, you get rich by being at the right place at the right time. For Vernon Wells, that place was the Toronto Blue Jays in 2006. Underperformance and injuries derailed his superstar trajectory, but that didn't change the fact that Wells had already been handsomely paid for hitting a baseball pretty well at one time. He will now make more than $24 million this year from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim plus $250,000 in endorsements.
Joe Mauer is good at baseball. He is also good for baseball, as the hometown player who hits it big and signs a long-term contract with his small market, childhood team. The Minnesota Twins' catcher is also just so gosh darn likable, which apparently appeals to those with dry scalps. Head & Shoulders signed Mauer as part of an essential doubling of his total endorsements this year to $4 million, adding to his salary of $23 million to catch baseballs.
Derek Jeter is 38 years old, which is the Major League Baseball equivalent of entering your 14-year-old dog in a best of show competition. Yet, the Yankee shortstop has put together another exceptional season both on and off the field. His contract with the Yankees pays "just" $15.7 million this year, though he is far and away the most successful endorser in baseball. He's bringing in upward of $12 million this year from names such as Gillette, Ford and his own
Maybe not the biggest shocker you'll read all day. Yes, A-Rod is once again the richest player in baseball. His $31 million 2012 salary is part of the largest contract in baseball history, totaling $275 million. What might be a bit surprising is that despite being one of the most recognizable names in the sport (once dating Madonna) and in its biggest market, Rodriguez draws only $2.5 million in endorsements, led by Nike, Rawlings and Topps.