Ian O’Connor in tomorrow’s USA Today :

When George Steinbrenner’s Yankees are done landing Randy Johnson and, most likely, Carlos Beltran, their payroll will look as if it spent a few months in Victor Conte’s lab. Steinbrenner will have hurdled the $200 million barrier and started sprinting toward the big three-oh-oh, burning $27 million more on starting pitchers in 2005 than the Pirates are expected to spend on their entire roster.

That’s not counting the Yankees’ acquisition of Barry Zito in June, when Jaret Wright becomes their latest $20-million-plus middle reliever. “When you have a $220 million payroll, you can hide $18 million mistakes,” Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy said Monday by phone. “When you’re at $40 million, you have to be perfect.”

Though McClatchy obviously wasn’t claiming to be perfect (the won-loss record of his club is easy enough to check), the very fact that he signed Derek Bell (above) to a two year, $9.75 million contract in 2001 ought to disqualify him from any further discussion of fiscal sanity. Bell, by the way, earned roughly $360,000 for each base hit, an efficiency ratio that could be considered perfect when compared to that of Nick Esasky circa 1990.