Up and up and up it goes. Higher than a bird. Higher than a plane. Higher than the International Space Station. Possibly even higher than Charlie Sheen.
No, not the national debt. We're talking about the payroll of those Los Angeles Dodgers, obviously.
Unless something unforeseen happens, the Dodgers are about to make Zack Greinke the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in the history of right-handedness, and the second-highest-paid pitcher of all time, behind only the still-left-handed CC Sabathia.
And what does that mean? Only the Dodgers' accountants know for sure. But here is the mathematical portion of this equation, as best we can compute it:
" Zack Greinke is about to earn approximately $147 million through 2018.
" Adrian Gonzalez is owed $127 million through 2018.
" Carl Crawford is due $102.5 million through 2017.
" Matt Kemp has $108 million coming through 2019.
" Andre Ethier is owed $85 million through 2017.
Whew. Got that?
That comes to more than a half-billion dollars (about $569.5 million, in case your hard drive just blew up before it computed it). For five players. Five.
And guess what? They're not done.
Next up, the Dodgers plan -- or at least hope -- to sign yet another free-agent starter, with high-ticket items like Anibal Sanchez and Korean left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin at the top of the current shopping list. It's a good bet that whichever guy they sign, he'll be making slightly more money than Stephen Fife.
But hang on. After that, they still won't be done.
For their next trick, they can turn their checkbook's attention to making sure their very own homegrown Cy Young, Clayton Kershaw, gets his chunk of the Guggenheim Baseball Partners fortune. He's now only two years away from free agency. So pencil him in for another 150 million bucks or so.
And that means that when his deal is done, the Dodgers figure to be pushing three-quarters of a billion dollars owed to just seven players. Seven.
Wow. Is there someplace we can apply to be adopted by the Guggenheim folks?
So by the time the Kershaw contract hits the books, the Dodgers will be paying five different players more than $20 million a year. Even the Yankees have "only" three. How can that be?
Meanwhile, depending on how the Greinke contract is structured, the Dodgers' payroll for 2013 figures to be somewhere between $210 million and $220 million. And that, too, would boggle even the Steinbrenner family's minds.
The all-time record for any team's Opening Day payroll is $209 million, held by the 2008 Yankees. At this point, the chances of that record still standing, come April, appear to be right up there with the chances of Snooki joining the cast of "Downton Abbey."
Then again, said one baseball official last week as we were contemplating the heights to which this team's payroll might ascend, "wait 'til you see the TV deal."
Oh. Right. Thanks for reminding us. Last we checked in on the Dodgers' TV negotiations, they were negotiating a package with Fox that was said to be worth between $6 billion and $7 billion over the next 25 years.
When we crunched those numbers on our calculator app, it told us that would average out to at least $240 million in TV rights fees per year. Yep. We said per year. And no matter how you break that down, it comes to a lot of Dodger Dogs.
And a lot of Dodgers superstars.
So remember that, OK?, as this team's payroll continues to soar into the stratosphere -- and whatever "spheres" are beyond that. (The luxury-tax-o-sphere?)
Remember that because it's a reminder of something important: The only reason the Dodgers are spending all this dough is because they've got it -- and because they've got a lot more of it coming.
These aren't Frank McCourt's Dodgers anymore. Or the O'Malley family's Dodgers. Or any federal bankruptcy court's Dodgers. This is now one of the all-time sports behemoths. And apparently, it plans to flex its behemoth-ness whenever the time -- and the latest available free-agent icon -- is right.
As Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said in a piece we wrote on this team last month: "Everything is totally different now. Now we can think bold thoughts. Now we can do bold things. …
"Obviously," Colletti went on, "we've got to be wise with our choices. We can't be reckless. But now we're encouraged to think big, to think global -- if we see a toothpick, to think redwood tree."
Well, we think they just spotted another redwood, sprouting in the Chavez Ravine Forest.
And its name is Zack Greinke.