Roger Clemens announced this past weekend that he would return from his ‘retirement’ to play one more season with the New York Yankees. His announcement ended months of speculation about which team he would play for; the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox were the only other teams in the running for his services. My condolences to fans of those teams!
Clemens, who is generally considered to be one of the greatest pitchers of all time, will turn 45 in August, an age when most professional athletes have retired (golfers excluded). He just signed a prorated $28 million contract to pitch one more season with the New York Yankees.
Assuming Clemens begins pitching around June 1st, that will equate to:
- Approximately 18-20 starts over 4 months
- He should earn about $1 million per start, according to Sports Illustrated writer John Heyman.
- Clemens will likely earn $18-20 million for a partial season.
- Assuming $1 million per start and Clemens pitches around 110 pitches per outing, that equates to about $9,100 per pitch thrown (or a couple months salary for many people!).
For comparison, the entire Tampa Bay Devil Rays team will earn just over $24 million this year. (All 2007 MLB team salaries are on that link)
Committing to a $28 million contract for one player is a lot of money even for the Yankees, who have been known to throw money around like confetti. Especially when you consider the player is soon to be 45 and is a possible injury risk. However, this year started off very poorly for the Yankees and several of their pitchers have spent numerous days on the disabled list due to various injuries. The injury factor, a fierce rivalry with the Boston Red Sox, a Boss that does not allow failure, and Clemens’ reputation as one of the best pitchers in the history of the game all contributed to this record contract.
Does it make economic sense? The Yankees team salary entering this season was $190,000,000. Yes, that is correct, $190 million! When you add what Clemens will earn this season, about $18-20 million, and add the luxury tax that will be assessed on top of his salary (approximately $7.5 million dollars), the Yankees will spend almost $220 million in player salaries alone. Add operations costs and now you’re talking serious dough!
How can that be profitable? Signing Clemens alone is not necessarily profitable, but the Yankees are not hurting for money. George Steinbrenner, the billionaire owner of the Yankees, also owns YES Network, Yankees Entertainment and Sports, which shows all the Yankees and New Jersey Nets games, among other programming. There are millions to be made in advertising. The Yankees also sell out every home game and are a huge draw when they are the visiting team. Merchandising also brings millions of dollars to the table.
But $20 million for 20 games? The Yankees franchise has an image to uphold and they value winning more then anything else. They expect to win every year and they will pay what it takes to make that happen. Clemens is a world class pitcher and this is a one time opportunity. Another factor that aided in Clemens being able to command a $28 million contract was the possibility of him signing with the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees will do whatever possible to keep Clemens away from their biggest rivals.
Other Factors: Clemens still has many very good friends among the Yankees team, including his best friend in baseball, Andy Pettitte. Clemens has said many times he wants a Yankees cap on his plaque when he enters the Hall of Fame. He was part of 2 World Championship teams and won one of his record 7 Cy Young Awards while a member of the New York Yankees. He would love nothing more than to win one more World Championship with them and further solidify his place in baseball history.
Is $20 million dollars for half a year’s work worth it? For the Yankees, yes.
It’s not bad work if you can get it.