A new team and a $55-million contract certainly make Albert Belle richer. But don’t look for him to be any nicer.
The Chicago White Sox made Belle baseball’s highest-paid player Tuesday, giving the prized free agent a five-year contract.
The White Sox get a slugger who generated big numbers for the Cleveland Indians, along with a lot of commotion.
“I’ll continue to be Albert Belle,” he said. “I’m not going to change my personality because someone wants me to change. My No. 1 priority is to produce.”
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, urged by star Frank Thomas to sign Belle, outbid the Indians and Florida Marlins with a package said to include $50 million in salary and a $5-million signing bonus.
“It’s not about the most money,” Belle said. “I’m sure I could have shopped around and got more money.”
Belle, suspended five times during eight often tempestuous seasons with the Indians, led them in 1995 to their first AL pennant in 41 years and a second consecutive AL Central title in 1996.
Reinsdorf, a leading critic of baseball’s current labor system, voted against the proposed labor deal last month. If the new deal had been in effect, adding Belle would have forced the White Sox to pay a luxury tax next year.
“It is perfectly fiscally responsible for us to give him this money,” Reinsdorf said. “We have to compete under the system that exists. We have an obligation to our fans to try to win.
“It doesn’t mean I have to like the system. This is not about money; this is about winning.”
Cleveland General Manager John Hart looked at it differently.
“For Jerry Reinsdorf, who’s been a proponent of all the things he’s been a proponent of, to walk up to the podium and bust the market, I think that says something there,” Hart said.
“But they have Albert Belle, and I’m sure he feels good about it. What this means to the industry, that’s for Jerry to live with.”
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--Babe Ruth’s salary of $70,000--a then unheard of sum--came in his peak season as a player in 1927, in which he had 60 home runs. That would translate to a present-day salary of $16 million. The projection was devised in 1995 by Larry Hadley, a University of Dayton economics professor.
To make the present-day projection, Hadley used something called “regression analysis,” which has nothing to do with Marge Schott.
--Hadley also figured that the 1938 Yankees would have a present-day payroll of $49.9 million, followed by the 1954 Cleveland Indians at $49.5 million. The 1996 Yankee had a record $61.5-million payroll.
OTHER SPORTS MONEY LEADERS IN 1996
* Hockey--Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins ($11.321 million)
* Football--Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys ($6.25 million)
* Basketball--Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls ($30 million)
* Golf--Tom Lehman ($1.789 million)
* Tennis (as of Nov. 10)--Men: Yevgeny Kafelnikov ($2.235 million); Women: Steffi Graf ($2.127 million)
* Soccer--Alan Shearer, $15 million pounds ($23.3 million U.S.) transfer fee from Blackburn to Newcastle)
MILESTONE BASEBALL CONTRACTS
* Nov. 19, 1979--Nolan Ryan, Houston, $1 million a year for 4 seasons
* Feb. 7, 1982--George Foster, N.Y. Mets, $2.04 million a year for 5 seasons
* Nov. 22, 1989--Kirby Puckett, Minnesota, $3 million a year for 3 seasons
* June 27, 1990--Jose Canseco, Oakland, $4.7 million a year for 5 seasons
* Feb. 8, 1991--Roger Clemens, Boston, $5,380,250 a year for 4 seasons
* March 2, 1992--Ryne Sandberg, Cubs, $7.1 million a year for 4 seasons
* Jan. 31, 1996--Ken Griffey, Jr., Seattle, $8.5 million a year for 4 seasons
* Nov. 19, 1996--Albert Belle, White Sox, $11 million a year for 5 seasons