One of my favorite scenes from the Cincinnati Bengals stint on HBO’s Hard Knocks a few seasons ago was the-artist-formerly-known-as-Chad-Johnson having a discussion with head coach Marvin Lewis about his finances. The moment exemplified so many aspects of how professional athletes handle their wealth. Despite having more money than the rest of us, the majority still have no clue exactly what to do with that income in terms of investments and such—just like the rest of us. But there is also the moment when Lewis instructs Chad to investment his money in "$200,000 blocks," to which Chad replies, “That’s nothing.” Oh.
The Business Courier exposed this cultural divide in more concrete terms, publishing a list of Cincinnati’s 10 highest-paid athletes in terms of yearly salary. (The print version expands to list the top 25.)
As one would assume, Reds and Bengals players fill all 25 spots, and unless you live under a sports-coverage rock, you already know who nabbed the top spot (by a wide, well-deserved margin). What is most interesting, however, is how the Reds dominate the list. Fifteen of the 25 players are on the Reds roster, including eight of the top 10 and 13 of the top 17.
True, baseball players usually earn bigger paychecks. Plus, there are more opportunities to garner “superstar” money in baseball than in football. Quarterbacks are generally the only NFLers to sign nine-figure deals (and are generally the only ones to come close), whereas the major leagues can make painfully rich men out of pitchers, infielders, and outfields alike. The fact that Bengals owner Mike Brown isn’t exactly known for being a big spender contributes to the lopsided list, as well. Nevertheless, things will likely be changing in the near future, with Bengals players A.J. Green and Geno Atkins guaranteed to land major contract extensions, and guys like Andy Dalton and Carlos Dunlap potentially close behind.
The numbers themselves, though, are also intriguing. At $19 million a year, Joey Votto has a $7.5-million gap between him and second place—which, somewhat surprisingly, belongs to pitcher Bronson Arroyo at $11.5 million. Although as the article notes, Votto ranks as only the 45th highest-paid athlete in the country (including endorsements) according to Sports Illustrated. I guess $225 million isn’t what it used to be.
The Bengals own the third spot with Michael Johnson, but only as a result of the franchise tag tender he signed this offseason. If the team is able to negotiate a multi-year deal before mid-July, Johnson is sure to drop a number of spots. Leon Hall is the other Bengal in the top 10, his annual $6.5 million landing him eighth.
Aside from Arroyo in the second spot, the other Reds in the top 10 make sense, with guys like Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto, and Shin-Soo Choo warranting more coin. But it’s the bottom 15 that provide some of the comedic effect, such as Sean Marshall (#12, $4.5 mil) earning roughly the same as Andrew Whitworth (#11, $4.6 mil), or injured pitcher Nick Masset (#16, $3.1 mil) raking in more than A.J. Green (#23, $2.16 mil).
Hey, at least Rey Maualuga didn’t make the cut.