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While focus is on the field, Orioles can cash in on postseason bonuses

Orioles right-hander Darren O'Day is the club's players association representative.
Orioles right-hander Darren O'Day is the club's players association representative. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun)

Hall of Famer Jim Palmer knows exactly how much his bonus was for helping pitch the Orioles to a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1966 World Series.

To the penny.

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"It was $11,683.40," Palmer recalled last week. "It doesn't seem like a lot of money, but compared to salaries then — I made $7,500 — it was more than I made all year, so it was somewhat significant."

As the Orioles compete in the American League Championship Series, players say they're far more focused more on winning than any extra money they'll make for advancing in the postseason. But the share of postseason revenue that players split can be significant.

Members of the 2012 World Series champion San Francisco Giants who received full shares took home a record $370,872. Each full share for last year's champion Boston Red Sox was worth $307,322.

Even trips to the ALCS can be worth more than $100,000 per man.

The pool of bonus money available to all teams that reach the playoffs is generated from gate receipts. Last year's total was formed from 50 percent of the gate receipts from the wild-card games; 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first three games of the division series; 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first four games of the league championship series; and 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first four games of the World Series.

Teams get a portion of that total based on how far they advance, and then each team decides individually how to divvy up its shares, with most voting to include non-uniform personnel who assist the club. Teams can also award partial shares.

When the Orioles reached the AL Division Series in 2012, they were awarded $2.1 million. They divided that into 54 full shares, 5.85 partial shares and 25 cash awards — including even members of the minor league coaching staff in the winnings — making each share worth $34,825.

"It's like the icing on the cake," said reliever Darren O'Day, who is also the Orioles' players association representative. "For the guys who are in their first three years and haven't made it to arbitration yet, it's a significant amount of money. It certainly does help a little bit."

It isn't clear how the 2014 Orioles will split up their playoff shares. A team meeting was held shortly before the playoffs began to discuss it.

In general terms, O'Day said, shares are given to "anybody in the clubhouse who's helped the team. The guys that clean the shoes, help us out with day-to-day things, cook the food, minor league coaches, players who've been here for a couple of days."

The size of the postseason bonuses have increased as time has gone on, but the tradition of sharing earnings with non-players is a longstanding one.

When the Orioles won the 1970 World Series, the team gave a partial share to its batboy, a 16-year-old from Parkton named Jay Mazzone who lost all 10 fingers in a fire when he was 2.

"It was really unexpected," Mazzone, 61, recalled last week. "It was just an honor for those guys to feel that I was enough a part of the team and one of the guys, so to speak, that they would include me. When they told me they had voted me a share, I was taken back a little. It was very gratifying."

Mazzone had put money aside from his first three years as a batboy to save up for his dream car. With the $1,500 bonus he received from the Orioles, he went ahead and bought a midnight-green 1969 Firebird.

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"It was beautiful," he said.

Palmer said there was some "heated" discussion regarding Mazzone, who was the visiting batboy in 1966 before moving over to the home team the following season. He stayed there until graduating Northern High School in 1971.

"The guys didn't want to give him a full share, but because it was democratic, everybody voted and the majority won," Palmer said. "But he was there all year, same as the clubhouse guys. I actually thought it was a chance to reward guys who had been there all year. It was kind of like having a feast."

Palmer said he and his wife Joan, who was expecting their first child in November of 1966, had put money down on a modest house in Timonium shortly before that year's World Series.

"I bought a house for $26,250. We couldn't afford the $28,000 house," Palmer said. "[Winning the World Series] allowed me to buy a television, buy a couch, buy some furniture."

The postseason bonus is something that players will discuss, but it's not something that consumes them at this time of year, Orioles reliever Brad Brach said.

"It's one of those things guys talk about, but it's definitely not the focus on my mind right now," said Brach, who has spent parts of four seasons in the major leagues during a seven-year professional career. "It's in the back [of my mind] and I'm just trying to help us win every game."

Brach — whose salary for this season is $509,500 — said friends and family have asked him about how much he stands to make.

"You don't know how much it is, but you know it's going to be a pretty decent amount," he said. You just want to get to the next round."

Last year's World Series runner-up, the St. Louis Cardinals, split a pool of more than $15 million into shares of $228,300.

The teams that lost in last year's League Championship Series each received a little more than $7.5 million. The Detroit Tigers split that money into shares of $129,278; the Los Angeles Dodgers awarded more full shares, reducing the value of each to $108,037.

So, even if the Orioles lose to the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS, players stand to make six figures in bonuses.

Brach said he hasn't started planning any exotic vacations or purchasing any big-ticket items with his wife, Jenae.

"Nothing too extravagant," he said.

Some players pay more attention to the money than others. Brady Anderson said he doesn't recall how much his postseason share was when the Orioles made it to the ALCS in 1996 and 1997.

"I didn't care one bit about the [playoff] share," said Anderson, now the team's vice president of baseball operations. "Especially if you're an everyday player, it's so far down the list of what you're thinking of. There's so much focus and attention [on winning]. People are motivated by different things. I'm sure some guys are counting the money."

Whatever the final sum of the Orioles' playoff share is, O'Day said it won't be worth more than the club's ultimate goal.

"If you go back and ask guys if they'd trade their World Series share for a ring if they lost, they would," he said.

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Last year's postseason bonus money

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World Series Champions

Boston Red Sox (Share of Players' Pool: $22,566,228.05; value of each of full share: $307,322.68); The Red Sox awarded 58 full shares, a total of 14.895 partial shares and 21 cash awards.

National League Champions

St. Louis Cardinals (Share of Players' Pool: $15,044,152.03; value of each of full share: $228,300.17); The Cardinals awarded 56 full shares, a total of 9.798 partial shares and two cash awards.

League Championship Series Runners-Up

Detroit Tigers (Share of Players' Pool: $7,522,076.02; value of each of full share: $129,278.22); The Tigers awarded 48 full shares, a total of 10.015 partial shares and five cash awards.

Los Angeles Dodgers (Share of Players' Pool: $7,522,076.02; value of each of full share: $108,037.06); The Dodgers awarded 58 full shares, a total of 11.5 partial shares and eight cash awards.

Division Series Runners-Up

Atlanta Braves (Share of Players' Pool: $2,037,228.92; value of each of full share: $34,012.30); The Braves awarded 52 full shares, a total of 7.25 partial shares and nine cash awards.

Oakland Athletics (Share of Players' Pool: $2,037,228.92; value of each of full share: $37,316.25); The A's awarded 48 full shares, a total of 6.143 partial shares and 20 cash awards.

Pittsburgh Pirates (Share of Players' Pool: $2,037,228.92; value of each of full share: $35,558.58); The Pirates awarded 49 full shares, a total of 8.25 partial shares and three cash awards.

Tampa Bay Rays (Share of Players' Pool: $2,037,228.92; value of each of full share: $35,280.10); The Rays awarded 46 full shares, a total of 11.11 partial shares and seven cash awards.

Wild-Card Runners-Up

Cincinnati Reds (Share of Players' Pool: $940,259.50; value of each of full share: $15,284.85); The Reds awarded 48 full shares, a total of 12.24 partial shares and 12 cash awards.

Cleveland Indians (Share of Players' Pool: $940,259.50; value of each of full share: $15,107.00); The Indians awarded 47 full shares and a total of 15.24 partial shares.

— Source: Major League Baseball

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