Throwback Thursdays: August 10, 1997 Greg Maddux gets paid
On August 10, 1997, Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux signs an MLB-record 5 year $57.7mil contract.
Four Cy Youngs, 18 Gold Gloves, four-time MLB ERA leader, a lifetime WAR of 116.7 (via FanGraphs) stretched across 23 seasons and a first ballot Hall-of-Famer in 2014 to boot. Maddux is in the conversation as one of the game’s great pitchers and was definitely one of the most dominant (and consistent) pitchers of his era. He led all starting in pitchers in WAR in the 90’s (1990 to 1999 seasons) with 69.8 wins above replacement, finishing ahead of Hall of Fame caliber talents like Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine.
As arguably the best pitcher of the 90’s, it seems fitting that Maddux would be compensated as such. His $57.5mil contract signed in 1997 was huge, making Maddux the richest player in baseball. The crazy thing is that, in a matter of 20 years, Maddux’s contract would be considered average in 2017’s baseball landscape. Since the Braves locked up Maddux in 1997, contracts have ballooned to the point that Maddux’s doesn’t even register in the top 80 of contracts of all-time.
1. Giancarlo Stanton, $325,000,000 (2015-27)
2. Alex Rodriguez, $275,000,000 (2008-17)
3. Alex Rodriguez, $252,000,000 (2001-10)
4. Miguel Cabrera, $248,000,000 (2016-23)
5. Albert Pujols, $240,000,000 (2012-21)
… Robinson Cano, $240,000,000 (2014-23)
7. Joey Votto, $225,000,000 (2014-23)
8. David Price, $217,000,000 (2016-22)
9. Clayton Kershaw, $215,000,000 (2014-20)
10. Prince Fielder, $214,000,000 (2012-20)
72. Chipper Jones, $90,000,000 (2001-06)
. . . Barry Bonds, $90,000,000 (2002-06)
. . . Scott Rolen, $90,000,000 (2003-10)
. . . Torii Hunter, $90,000,000 (2008-12)
. . . Ichiro Suzuki, $90,000,000 (2008-12)
. . . Hunter Pence, $90,000,000 (2014-18)
. . . Jeff Samardzija, $90,000,000 (2016-20)
Via Baseball Prospectus’ “Highest Paid Players” piece: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/league-info/highest-paid-players/
For context, this past offseason, 37 year old left-handed starter Rich Hill signed a three-year $48 million contract with the Dodgers. While that’s now the going rate for a strong starting pitcher in today’s market, it just seems weird to think that Rich Hill signed at an AAV of $16 million compared to Maddux’s “record breaking” 1997 contract at $11.5 million.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for athletes making as much money as they can, and I actually think they get a bad rap for the most part. Players are labeled “greedy” for leaving the team that drafted them–with the MLB draft forcing them to cities that they did not choose to live in–for a contract that will set up their families for life. On the other end of the spectrum, it feels as though the billionaire owners get far less heat from fans. These same billionaire owners handout these lucrative contracts to Bobby Bonilla but can and will trade or release these “employees” on a whim.
With my limited funds and job experience, it’s tough for me to imagine the pressure that comes with being a high-paid athlete. I can only imagine that it would be as though they started to televise the action in the McDonalds kitchen and for some reason people are actually tuning in. My manager hears that I’m the best Big Mac slinger this side of the equator and offers me $4 million for my services. Suddenly I get taunts from customers anytime I don’t put enough pickles on the burgers, management is watching me like a hawk and looking to dissolve my contract with every dropped fry, all the while garbagemen, janitors and other blue collar workers are calling into radio stations complaining about the fry cook with the easy job and fat contract. As my performance slips due to carpal tunnel, I can’t leave my house without being a social pariah. Nobody even cares about the training and effort that I put into my craft or the fact that I’m playing injured. They just want my perfect burgers.
Quite honestly I’d rather to continue to live the life where I set the bar low, make an normal amount of money and fly under the radar.
In summation Greg Maddux was an incredible pitcher. Also, athletes’ careers are so short that they should worry about making their money when they can and trying to retire unscathed.
August 10 Birthdays
1970– Gino Torretta, quarterback (University of Miami, 5 year NFL career, Heisman Trophy 1992, College Football Hall of Fame)
1971– Sal Fasano, catcher (best mustache in the game, former Blue Jay)
1981– Taufik Hidayat, Indonesian Badminton Player
1989– Sam Gagner, Canadian ice hockey player (Entering 8th year in NHL)