Sox Payroll Tenth in Majors, Third in Division

The Sox began the 1999 season with a payroll of $59,553,500: third highest in the division, fifth in the AL and tenth in the majors. As the accompanying table shows, this is typical for the Sox. The Yankees and Orioles always spend more; this year, so did the Indians and Rangers, as well as the Braves, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Mets and Cubs.

 Year  Rank in MLB  Rank in AL  Rank in Division
 1999  10th  5th  3rd
 1998  6th  4th  3rd
 1997  15th  9th  4th
 1996  11th  7th  3rd
 1995  8th  6th  4th

Baltimore and Arizona seem determined to refute the conventional wisdom that high-salaried teams will dominate the pennant races. The Diamondbacks spent more than $23 million to upgrade their rotation with Randy Johnson, Todd Stottlemyre and Andy Benes – slightly less than Matt Williams, Jay Bell, Steve Finley and Bernard Gilkey will receive to drag down the offense. Meanwhile, $30 million of the Orioles’ money goes to Scott Erickson, Brady Anderson, Juan Guzman, B.J. Surhoff, Mike Bordick and the decaying shell of Cal Ripken, all of whom will be retired before the Orioles play another meaningful game in October.

Despite media laments that “small markets can’t compete,” Cleveland and Arizona are both among MLB’s 10 smallest markets. (Greater Boston is larger than Cleveland and Phoenix combined.) The Milwaukee Brewers, who play in MLB’s smallest market, pay higher salaries than the large-market White Sox, Tigers or Phillies.

Star players keep finding new ways to enrich themselves at contract time. Kevin Brown’s notorious seven-year, $105 million deal with the Dodgers is actually worth even more: the Dodgers “threw in” 12 private jet trips per season for his family, a perk worth another $600,000/year. Brown also received eight Dodger season tickets, but he may wish to renegotiate. Mike Piazza and Randy Johnson received stadium luxury boxes from their clubs, with Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo also throwing in in a pair of season tickets to his Phoenix Suns.

Now that all players receive single rooms on road trips, superstars are upgrading to suites. Kevin Brown, Greg Maddux, Barry Bonds, and Mike Piazza are among the elite for whom one room’s not enough.

A few of the Sox have special terms, too. Pedro Martinez' original deal with the Sox allowed him to demand a trade if the Sox hadn’t made the playoffs by the time he had pitched 90 games with Boston. The Sox paid him $50,000 last summer to buy out that clause, then made the playoffs anyhow.

Nomar Garciaparra doesn’t have a no-trade clause, but one term of his contract could put the Sox in the real-estate business. If he’s traded and subsequently sells his Boston residence for less than its appraised value, the Red Sox must pay him the difference. If he can't sell it within six months, the Sox must buy it from him at the appraised value.

Bret Saberhagen's 1998 contract contained a $250,000 bonus for being named Comeback Player of the Year. He was.

Finally, if the thought of Roger Clemens in pinstripes isn’t torture enough, consider this: the Yankees got baseball’s biggest bargain. Because the Rocket received a signing bonus of $9,750,000 from Toronto, his actual 1999 salary is only $5 million.

Copyright © 1999 Doug Pappas. All rights reserved.
Originally published in the May 1999 issue of Boston Baseball.

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