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Big pitcher, big money

world Updated: Dec 15, 2008 21:35 IST
V Krishna

You probably haven’t heard of C C Sabathia. Till last week, I hadn’t either.

In the middle of the biggest downturn in the United States since the Great Depression, the 28-year-old agreed to a contract that will pay him a cool $161 million over seven years. (That’s Rs 772.80 crore or Rs 110 crore a year.)

Carsten Charles Sabathia is a left-handed starting pitcher who spent his first seven-and-a-half years in Major League Baseball with the Cleveland Indians and was then traded (in July 2008) to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Sabathia, who is 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighs 311 pounds, has compiled an impressive record.

The New York Yankees, probably the most famous professional sports franchise in the United States, loved and loathed, wanted him badly enough to give him the biggest deal ever offered to a pitcher.

You see, the Yankees, who missed the playoffs this season, are desperate to again win the championship, grandiosely called the World Series.

Clearly, they are able and willing to spend.

Later in the week, they agreed to a five-year deal worth $82.5 million with another pitcher. And they are talking to a third.

The previous record for a pitcher was the $137.5-million six-year contract of J. Santana of the Mets, New York’s other baseball team. Sabathia’s deal is the fourth-largest ever in baseball. The Yankees also have the highest-paid player, batter Alex Rodriguez (you may have seen stories linking him to Madonna), who made $28 million in 2008.

Unlike the Yankees, who will move into a fancy new stadium with expensive seats next year, many New Yorkers are struggling.

Job losses have spread from financial services to other sectors.

In a sign of the times, the Sabathia story shared the front page of Thursday’s New York Daily News with one headlined “The Sinking City.”

That story detailed proposals by the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg for $1.4 billion in budget cuts because of a sharp drop in tax revenues.

PS: For those of you who are interested in these things, here’s how salaries — no endorsement fees — in some other team sports compare.

The highest-paid player in the National Football League (American football) in 2008 is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who made $27.7 million. Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics tops the National Basketball Association list with $24.75 million.

According to the website Offside, the highest-paid soccer star in the world is the Brazilian Kaka, who plays for AC Milan, at $12.1 million (9 milllion euros).

That means former NBA star Michael Jordan’s record for the highest salary in any team sport is intact. In the 1997-98 season, Jordan’s salary was $33.14 million.