We Paid Gary Sheffield 29 Million Dollars

As I was driving home today, I was suddenly struck by the question "what Dodgers were paid the highest salary relative to the league average?" (this happens to everyone, right?) So, I decided to look up the solution.

Baseball Reference has salary data going back to 1985, so I took every Dodger going back to that year, and expanded his salary out to 2006 dollars. The first three columns are pretty obvious, the fourth column in the average salary in that year, the fifth column is the players salary divided by the league average, and the final column is how much the player would be paid if he were paid the same amount versus the league average in 2006. The cutoff to make this list is 12 million dollars.

Player Year Salary Avg Salary Multiple 2006 Dollars
Gary Sheffield 1998 $14,936,667 1,441,406 10.36 $29,704,756
Kevin Brown 2000 $15,714,286 1,998,024 7.86 $22,545,121
Shawn Green 2004 $16,666,667 2,486,609 6.7 $19,213,207
Kevin Brown 2002 $15,714,286 2,383,235 6.59 $18,901,070
Kevin Brown 1999 $10,714,286 1,720,050 6.23 $17,855,860
Kevin Brown 2003 $15,714,286 2,555,476 6.15 $17,627,124
Shawn Green 2003 $15,666,667 2,555,476 6.13 $17,573,708
Kevin Brown 2001 $15,714,286 2,654,403 5.92 $16,970,178
Gary Sheffield 1999 $9,956,667 1,720,050 5.79 $16,593,253
Shawn Green 2002 $13,416,667 2,383,235 5.63 $16,137,505
Mike Piazza 1998 $8,000,000 1,441,406 5.55 $15,909,710
Orel Hershisher 1989 $2,766,667 512,084 5.4 $15,487,250
Raul Mondesi 1999 $9,000,000 1,720,050 5.23 $14,998,922
Mike Piazza 1997 $7,000,000 1,383,578 5.06 $14,502,838
Darren Dreifort 2004 $12,400,000 2,486,609 4.99 $14,294,626
Gary Sheffield 2000 $9,916,667 1,998,024 4.96 $14,227,338
Darren Dreifort 2003 $12,400,000 2,555,476 4.85 $13,909,403
Shawn Green 2000 $9,416,667 1,998,024 4.71 $13,509,993
Fernando Valenzuela 1988 $2,050,000 438,729 4.67 $13,394,180
Shawn Green 2001 $12,166,667 2,654,403 4.58 $13,139,032
Eddie Murray 1989 $2,331,062 512,084 4.55 $13,048,820
Fernando Valenzuela 1987 $1,852,000 412,454 4.49 $12,871,349
Todd Worrell 1995 $4,666,667 1,071,029 4.36 $12,490,050
Eddie Murray 1990 $2,513,703 578,930 4.34 $12,446,479
Darryl Strawberry 1991 $3,800,000 891,188 4.26 $12,222,861

Unsurprisingly, the late 90's trifecta of Gary Sheffield, Shawn Green and Kevin Brown dominate the list. Surprisingly (at least to me), Darryl Stawberry barely makes the 12 million dollar cutoff.

What's interesting is that any time the Dodgers start freely spending in the last 20 years, it quickly leads to their ruin. While Kevin Malone's shopping spree is the best example of this, the Dodgers efforts to keep the team together in 1989 also ended in a quick collapse. Lead by Orel Hershiser (15.5 million in 2006 dollars), Eddie Murray (13 million) and Fernando Valenzuela, (10.5 million), the 1989 Dodgers had a payroll of $21,495,565, or over 120 million in 2006 dollars. Three years later, the Dodgers plunged to the worst record in baseball. Even more intriguing, the only players from Dodger playoff teams that made it are Shawn Green, Todd Worrell, and Fernando Valenzuela (Kirk Gibson just missed the 12 million dollar cut off). The Dodgers simply do not function well when they are built around free agents, and I imagine this is true for any team except the Yankees.

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