Q. What is the salary range of the active Cardinal players? We always hear the high salaries but what is the lowest salary and who gets it? What is the average?
— C.S., of Belleville
A. Pity poor Kolten Wong and Dean Anna and John Lackey — although I suppose “pity” isn’t the word that the average Joe Schmoe in the bleachers would choose.
Regardless, Wong and Anna currently take up last place in the Redbird salary race with their take-home pay of $500,000 each. That figure is the absolute minimum that anyone on a Major League roster can earn as of 2014, according to mlbplayers.com, the website of the pro players’ union.
Lackey’s contract contains a special clause that will pay him the league minimum if he missed significant time with surgery for a pre-existing elbow injury in the first four years of the contract. Lackey missed the entire 2012 season after having Tommy John surgery.
For most of us, of course, it’s a salary we can only dream about. But Wong and Anna probably are longing for the day when they can pull in $19.5 million like Redbird pitching ace Adam Wainwright is going to bank this year, according to a list of 2015 salaries for the Cards’ 25-man roster compiled by ESPN.
And Wainwright is just one of four Cardinals who are in the $10 million-plus salary stratosphere. There’s also Matt Holliday at $17 million (give or take a few thousand), Jhonny Peralta at $15 million and All-Star catcher Yadier Molina at $15.2 million.
Then comes a parade of nine other Birds who will feather their nests with paychecks that range from $1.2 million to about $9.25 million. In descending order, they are Jaime Garcia, Jason Heyward, Matt Belisle, Jon Jay, Randy Choate, Mark Reynolds, Jordan Walden, Matt Carpenter and Peter Bourjos. The other Cardinals all make less than a million, although some players salaries haven’t been reported to the salary tracking website Cot’s Baseball Contracts or posted at baseball-reference.com.
Still, Wainwright’s salary isn’t even in MLB’s top 20. King of the hill is Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who will earn more than $32 million this season and it scheduled to earn more than $35 million in 2017, 2018 and 2020. Then there’s the Philadelphia Phillies, who must hand over $25 million to both Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard and another $22.5 million to Cole Hamels. Seventeen other MLB players also will top the $20 million mark.
At the moment, the Dodgers are the biggest spenders with a payroll expected to top $268 million. That’s even more than the usual perennial kingpin New York Yankees ($209.5 million) and the Phillies ($176 million), who, despite all the money, may not figure in the fight for a World Series crown. The Cardinals are in the middle of the pack ($107.5 million, which would make the average player salary a little over $4 million), while Miami, Houston and Tampa are deep in the cellar with payrolls of “only” in the $60 million to $66 million range.
If you add all 30 teams together, you’d wind up a little north of $3.3 billion for 750 players. In 2014, the average player salary was $3,386,212, according to mlbplayers.com. (But players do have to pay $70 a day in union dues during the season, so that eats into it a bit.)
Perhaps all this talk of seven- and eight-figure salaries has you longing for the time when players truly competed for the love of the game — because that’s about all they got. My talk about big money, for example, prompted News-Democrat Sports Editor Todd Eschman to remember once writing about the lowest-paid player he ever found in the history of baseball: one William Van Winkle “Chicken” Wolf.
If you’re wondering about the nickname, it reportedly was hung on him as a teenager while he and eventual big-league teammate Pete Browning were playing for Wolf’s hometown semi-pro Louisville Eclipse team. Their manager had warned the team to eat lightly before playing, but Wolf stuffed himself with stewed chicken one day just before going out and making several errors in that day’s game. Browning made the connection, and Wolf was forever known as “Chicken.”
Even so, he turned out to be a whale of a bargain, Eschman said. Despite a salary of just $9 per week for the Louisville Colonels in 1890, Wolf led the American Association in hits (197) and batting average (.363) in addition to scoring 100 runs and knocking in 98 more. It was easily the finest season in his 11-year career, which included a year with the St. Louis Brown Stockings (precursors to the Cardinals) in 1891. Of course, at that salary, Wolf had to find another line of work when he retired after the 1893 season. He wound up dying in 1903 at age 41 from injuries suffered while responding to a call with the Louisville Fire Department.
Q. Is there anywhere I could buy a General Electric vegetable peeler? I bought one years ago and it was great, but it gave up the ghost a while back and I can’t find another.
— T.W., of New Athens
A. Hey, I know how I’d feel if my Salad Shooter died. Unfortunately, GE quit bringing these handy appliances to light long ago, but you may be able to skin your veggies again if you (or someone you know) goes on the Internet and searches for “GE Peeling Wand.” I found several on eBay, for example, including a reported new one for as little as $12. If you need more help, get back to me.
Who once left comedian Richard Belzer bloodied and unconscious on his own TV show?
Answer to Sunday’s trivia: Northern bobwhites technically may have “bird brains” but they’re apparently sharp cookies in the world of nature, according to the Cornell University School of Ornithology. At night, coveys of bobwhites will roost on the ground in a close-packed circle. All the birds will have their heads facing outward and their tails pointing to the center, probably to conserve heat and aid in their detection of potential predators.