Phillies' Cliff Lee Is Arkansas' Top Dollar Athlete

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 12:00 am  

From left, Cliff Lee of Benton, Joe Johnson of Little Rock, Torii Hunter of Pine Bluff, A.J. Burnett of North Little Rock and DeAngelo Williams of Wynne.

Cliff Lee didn’t perform as well on the field in 2012 as he would have hoped.

Lee, a Benton native now pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies, had just six victories in 15 games. It was his lowest win total since 2008, and Lee failed to add a third consecutive All-Star game appearance to his resume.

It was a difficult year for Lee, who was one year removed from the best season of his career.

Financially, though, Lee enjoyed the most lucrative of his nine-plus seasons in Major League Baseball. Lee earned $21.5 million — that’s nearly $3.6 million per win — and topped the list of highest-paid athletes with ties to the state of Arkansas.

Lee, who spent the 2000 season in college at the University of Arkansas, earned the high-paying contract with his output in previous years. He didn’t cash in on the mound, but certainly did so off the field with a salary that ranked him among the 10 highest-paid major league players for 2012.

Baseball was good to Arkansans this year: An Arkansas Business study of top athletic salaries for in-state professionals and athletes with in-state ties revealed. Lee topped our list, and three of the top five spots on our highest-paid Arkansans list went to big leaguers.

(Read the complete list of the highest-paid Arkansas athletes: download the PDF for free or buy a spreadsheet version.)

Torii Hunter, a Pine Bluff native who played the previous five seasons in the outfield for the Los Angeles Angels, earned $18.5 million in 2012. It was a $500,000 drop in salary for Hunter, who still made enough to rank No. 3 on the list of Arkansas athletes in the pros. Had the list been compiled last year Hunter, who was drafted out of high school, would have ranked No. 1.

Pitcher A.J. Burnett earned $16.5 million in 2012 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Burnett, who did not play college baseball, went 16-10 with the Pirates last season, his best win-loss record since going 18-10 in 2008. He ranked No. 4 on the list of highest-paid local athletes.

Basketball star Joe Johnson ranked No. 2 on the list. He pulled in $19.7 million in the 2011-12 season, his final season with the Atlanta Hawks. Johnson, who now plays for the Brooklyn Nets, made $18 million in the 2010-11 season. Johnson averaged 18.8 points per game last season and was named to the All-Star team.

Rounding out the top five was Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams. The Wynne native is earning $8.7 million in 2012, up $1 million from his 2011 salary.

Football Dominates



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