The World Series, which begins today, will determine 2009 on-field primacy, as two classic franchises, the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies, battle for the crown. But in a longer-lasting contest—money—the results are already in: The Daily Beast set out to determine the 10 biggest-earners in baseball, factoring in salaries, bonuses and endorsement income. And if wallet size translates into runs, the Yankees will win in a rout—five Yankees clock in among the top 10, and took the first four slots. The Phillies placed one player, Ryan Howard, who eked out the final spot on our list.
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For baseball players, financially, it’s both the best and worst of times. For the superstars, contracts have never been higher, paced by the person at the top of our list, Alex Rodriguez, and his $275 million deal. But the middle tier is getting squeezed. And the steroid scandal—including Rodriguez’s stunning admission earlier this year—has devastated the ability of many players to secure endorsement deals from image-conscious companies, which loathe a surprise.
“Baseball players are now very limited on a national level,” says Steve Rosner, co-founder of 16W Marketing, which represents squeaky clean Cal Ripken, Jr. “It’s all about finding the right guy.”
Another factor placing downward pressure on baseball-player endorsements: a culture that makes everyone a celebrity. “You have a proliferation of reality stars, chefs, etc.,” says Doug Shabelman, president of Burns Entertainment. “They’re now endorsing products that athletes would have been perfect for years ago.”
Cry not for the men paid millions to play a game. The minimum salary for a wet-eared rookie is $400,000, many hundred players make more than $1 million a year, and you needed almost $17 million in income just to crack our Top 10.
• Baseball’s All-Time Sexiest Wives and GirlfriendsHere were the rules of our game: We calculated money paid in 2009, encompassing salary, bonuses, and endorsement deals. The money had to come this year: Deferred income wasn’t counted (which removed several favorites for this list, Ichiro Suzuki, Manny Ramirez and Johan Santana), and only signing bonuses paid in 2009 were counted. Hopefully, our figures mirror their tax returns. Through public and proprietary sources, we saw the details of each player’s contract; our endorsement figures are estimates, based on numerous conversations with industry experts.
Did your favorite player make the cut? See our full list.