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Original Issue

Pass the Calculator, Jose

Roger Clemens, now baseball's best-paid player, crunches the numbers for the previous holder of that distinction

I am Roger Clemens. You are Jose Canseco. The sun is quite warm today at the beach. We lie on our lounge chairs and stare at the boats that bob on the horizon. It is good that we are wearing our sunglasses. They cut down the glare. There are no clouds.

"Ahhhhhhhh," I say.

"Anhhhhhhh," you say.

I have signed a contract that will pay me $5,375,000 to throw baseballs in the coming season for the Boston Red Sox. My contract will pay me essentially the same amount of money every year for the next four years. You have signed a contract that will pay you $4.7 million to hit baseballs for the Oakland A's. Your contract will also pay the same money for the next four years. Between us we will make more than $40 million.

"Hot," I say.

"Very hot," you say.

I will earn $1,536 for every pitch I throw this year. This is if I throw 100 pitches in each of my 35 starts. If I am paid only for strikes, my salary will jump to $3,072 for every strike. (This is if 50% of the pitches are strikes. By this calculation, the balls would be counted as mistakes, thrown for free, even the intentional ones.) I suppose all of this would not be as impressive if I counted the eight warmup pitches at the start of every inning and if I counted the pitches in spring training and exhibitions and.... Oh, I'll stick with $1,536 for every regulation pitch. Ball or strike.

You will make $1,958 every time you swing the bat. That figure is based on your going to the plate 600 times and swinging an average of four times during each visit. I don't know. Maybe you will swing the bat more. Maybe less. Let's say four times. You won't receive the $1,958 on checked swings. Uh-uh. Broke your wrists. That's $1,958.

"Ooooooooh," I say.

"Ooooooooh," you say.

Another way. Suppose I have a good season. Suppose I win 20 games. That will be $268,750 per win. Suppose you hit 50 homers. That will be $94,000 for each homer. Suppose you hit only 40. That will be $117,500 for each homer. Then, if you hit only 30 homers...or 20...and I win only 15 games...or 10...or.... No, we will stay with the positive. I will go for $268,750 per win. You will go for $94,000 for each homer. Maybe we will do even better. Thirty wins. Sixty homers. Maybe the wins and homers will become bargains. Maybe.

How about minutes'? Suppose I work 90 minutes in each of my 35 starts. This is an arbitrary number. I figure the average game is three hours long. I am on the field half of the time. I know the number is high, because I probably won't finish even a third of my 35 starts, but what the heck. Ninety minutes.

Thirty-five starts. That will be $1,706 per minute. That also will be $28 per second. Suppose I get something in my eye. I wipe my eye. Ten seconds. I will make $280. Suppose I bend over, touch the rosin bag, bounce it a few times in my hand, throw it back on the ground. Thirty seconds. I will make $840. If I cough, if I am distracted by a horsefly, if I touch the bill of my cap...I will make a good 10 grand per game just by fidgeting.

Your numbers won't be as high. You will be playing a full 162 games if everything works out perfectly. You will be in rightfield. You will be hitting. You will be running the bases. Then again, how much of the time will you actually be involved in the action? I just thought of this. You spend most of your time just standing there. How many fly balls are hit to right-field? How many grounders? Even when you are at the plate, you are not swinging at half the pitches. You are just standing. Let's say you are part of the action for 10 minutes of every game. I think that is a good figure. Ten times 162. Divide that into your contract. That is $2,901 per minute of action. That is $48 per second. Not bad. Click. Action photo. The picture alone is worth $48. Click. That is another $48.

"Mmmmmmmmmm," I say.

"Mmmmmmmmmm," you say.

There are, no doubt, dozens of other ways to break down our contracts. I have a doctor who is trying to compute how much money I will earn for every breath I take and every move I make. (He's watching me.) You, I know, have a divorce lawyer in hot pursuit who is interested in how much one half of every move you make will earn. I am sure the wise-guy sports-writers right now are computing how much we will be worth per inch or per pound or per hiccup or per dugout interview. Those sportswriters never sleep. I know they will be figuring out how much each strikeout will be worth. Mine. And yours. I suppose they will also point out how many wicked fast cars we could buy, how many grand mansions, how many boats we could own out there on the water.

I say we should not dwell on the subject of money. I know you say the same thing. There are too many more-serious subjects to consider. The war in the Persian Gulf. The economy. The homeless. The environment. The violence in our streets. Acid rain. Disease. What's the big deal about a few ballplayers' making a lot of money? Who cares? I say we should talk about other things. I know you agree.

"Hot," I say.

"Very hot," you say.

"Maybe we should turn over. Don't want to get too much sun on one side."


It can be a comfort, though. This money.