In the United States, baseball is one of the most popular sports to take part in and watch. In the past 15-20 years, professional baseball has changed drastically. Gone are the days of loyalty to the team that first signed you and here are the days of $100 million contracts being handed out to players after one solid season. Without a salary cap in the sport, there will be teams that have payrolls above $200 million, while other teams are paying their entire roster less than what the most expensive contracts pay out for some teams.
Just like with any professional sport in the United States, there have been countless terrible contracts handed out to players that turned out to be a major bust. From Vernon Wells and Mike Hampton to Mo Vaughn and Bobby Bonilla, front offices have had a lot to think about when they think about giving the “hot bat” or “lights out” pitcher a dream contract.
Over the course of baseball history, there have been many key moments when it comes to contracts. In 1980, Nolan Ryan became the first baseball player to sign a contract worth $1 million a year when he signed with the Houston Astros. In 1997, Albert Belle became the first player in MLB history to warrant a contract worth more than $10 million a season when he signed with the Chicago White Sox. Since Belle’s contract, $10 million a year contracts have been steadily growing and those that have joined that group of players have now seen their median salary increase from $11.8 million in 2000 to $14.7 million in 2011.
What players have earned the most money in their big league career and who has earned their pay the most?
25 Mike Mussina - $144,533,619
24 Pedro Martinez - $146,259,585
23 Carlos Delgado - $146,299,000
22 Roy Halladay - $148,991,666
21 Adrian Beltre - $149,140,000
20 Roger Clemens - $150,601,000
19 Ken Griffey Jr. - $151,703,682
18 Greg Maddux - $153,845,000
17 Albert Pujols - $155,040,436
16 Alfonso Soriano - $157,960,000
15 Ichiro Suzuki- $159,131,483
14 Torii Hunter - $160,555,000
13 Todd Helton - $161,490,000
12 Johan Santana - $161,497,269
11 Mark Teixeira - $166,775,000
10 Gary Sheffield - $168,008,550
9 Chipper Jones - $168,552,133
8 C.C. Sabathia - $169,357,142
7 Mariano Rivera - $169,441,825
6 Randy Johnson - $175,550,019
5 Carlos Beltran - $175,952,782
4 Barry Bonds - $188,245,322
3 Manny Ramirez - $206,827,769
2 Derek Jeter - $265,159,364
1 Alex Rodriguez - $356,285,104
The six highest single season salary totals in baseball history went to Rodriguez. He began his career with the Seattle Mariners before signing the biggest contract in baseball history with the Texas Rangers in 2001. He has more than 650 home runs in his career, is 61 hits away from 3,000 for his career and has a lifetime average of .299. He has since come under fire because of his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal and was suspended for the entire 2014 season.
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