Who’s the highest paid paid player in baseball? Alex Rodriguez. Duh. In terms of average annual salary, he’s held the title since 2000 (though in certain years, like 2004, other players’ escalators might have put them ahead). He supplanted Mike Hampton, who had signed an eight-year, $123 million contract just two days prior. If you think that’s a quick change of the guard, well, then you’re not familiar with the situation in 1989.
In one of my favorite articles in recent memory, Larry at Wezen Ball chronicles the highest paid player in baseball, starting with Nolan Ryan in 1979, when he signed a three-year, $3.5 million contract. If you have a few minutes to kill, I absolutely recommend you browse the list. There are quite a few amusing sequences, especially the aforementioned 1989 situation.
In the span of less than a month, five different players held the title of baseball’s highest pay player (again, in terms of average annual salary). First it was Kirby Puckett with a three-year, $9 million contract on November 22. Rickey Henderson quickly followed with a four-year, $12 million contract, putting him on even ground with Puckett. Mark Langston, however, topped them both three days after Henderson when he signed a five-year, $16 million deal. Ten days after Langston, Mark Davis signed a four-year, $13 million contract with the Royals that paid him $3.25 million per season, or $50,000 more than Langston.
The craziest part? Four more players held the title before the end of the 1990 season, including Don Mattingly for a little over two months. The title changed hands frequently until 1993, when Cecil Fielder signed a five-year, $36 million contract with the Tigers (the Yanks would benefit from the tail end of that one). From there no player made more per year than Fielder (or Bonds, depending on how you view it) until Ken Griffey Jr. in 1996. The title then changed hands frequently again until 2000, when A-Rod took the title and kept it.
Seriously, check out the post. And then, when you’re done, check out Joe Posnanski’s post about the first X million player. Who was the first $10 million player? The first $15 million? Joe’s got all the answers.
When you’re done with that, come back for our open thread. I hear we’re serving punch and pie inside.