Breaking the bank
A-Rod makes history with $252 million contract
By Desmond M. Wallace, CNNSI.com
For all of his clutch base hits, prodigious home runs and diving stabs in the hole, this week All-Star shortstop Alex Rodriguez may have done far more with the stroke of a pen than he has ever done with a bat or with a glove.
In signing a 10-year, $252 million free-agent contract with the Texas Rangers, Rodriguez not only became the highest-paid player in the history of baseball, literally doubling the previous total salary agreed to by new Rockies’ lefty Mike Hampton just 72 hours earlier, he single-handedly changed the financial face of all sports forever. After all, it was only about 10 years ago that the Dallas Cowboys -- NFL’s most valuable franchise -- sold for a then-unheard of $130 million. And interestingly, it was only two years ago that Rangers owner Tom Hicks bought the whole TEAM for $250 million.
Perhaps the Rangers are one of the few MLB clubs which could even have contemplated signing a single player to such a deal -- even if it is A-Rod. A look inside the numbers reveals how. Despite their $61.8 million payroll in 2000, Texas' team revenue ranks among the highest in the American League. In fact, in 1999 -- the latest league-wide revenue figures available -- the Rangers total revenue in-take was $109.3 million. With much of that $47 million difference apparently in play, the Rangers apparently saw the numbers it needed to pull the trigger on the Rodriguez deal.
Rodriguez's contract is hardly the first blockbuster baseball contract. Back in 1980, sports observers theorized that the world would come to an end when hard-throwing pitcher Nolan Ryan became the sport's first $1 million-a-year player. By 1992 the Red Sox’s Roger Clemens earned the Majors' first $5 million paycheck. Within five years, slugger Albert Belle pushed the sports salary envelope when he signed baseball's first eight-figure-a-year agreement, with the White Sox.
But given the inflated salaries of many sports stars, it would seem that if any player were to receive, say, a $25 million-a-year contract, Rodriguez just might be the one. By the ripe old age of 25, the now former Mariner has already recorded three 40-plus home-run seasons, including 41 in 148 games in 2000. In baseball history, only Ernie Banks has ever had more HR as a shortstop. And despite missing 85 games since 1996, Rodriguez still managed to average 115 RBI per season in that span.
Based on his batting statistics in 2000, Rodriguez’s new deal brings a fresh perspective to the term "money player." Were his contract in effect this past season, Rodriguez would not only have received more than $190,000 per RBI or even 45,000 per at-bat, the four-time All-Star’s $25.2 million-a-year would have translated to $8,867 per pitch thrown his way.