Baseball's Eye-Popping Payroll

Alex Rodriguez headshot, as Texas Rangers shortstop, 10-10-02 AP

At $22 million this year, Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez makes more money than any other baseball player. He makes more money than the entire Tampa Bay Devil Rays team, too.

Pity the poor Devil Rays. Their skimpy payroll is even smaller than the gap between the top-spending New York Yankees and runner-up New York Mets.

A study of 2003 baseball salaries by The Associated Press turned up those and other eye-popping revelations, including:

  • Baseball's average salary shot past $2.5 million for the first time on opening day this week.

  • The Yankees spend nearly $150 million.

  • The Mets are No. 2 at $116.9 million.

  • Los Angeles, Atlanta and Texas also topped $100 million.

  • The Devil Rays, in comparison, are practically living on skid row with a 25-man roster costing $19.6 million.

    Rodriguez, the youngest player to hit 300 homers, leads all players in salary for the third straight year.

    When it comes to teams, the Yankees are in a world of their own.

    They've had the fattest payroll in the major leagues the last four seasons - and it got even fatter after their first-round loss to Anaheim in the American League playoffs. That's when they went shopping for more talent, landing Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui and Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras.

    "Regardless of who we signed or how much money we make, we have to go out and play," said the highest-paid Yankee of them all at $15.6 million, shortstop Derek Jeter, out at least a month with an injured shoulder. "Our goal is to win regardless of what our payroll is."

    The Yankees' deep pockets just might serve as an impetus for other teams to get 'em where it counts - on the field.

    "It's actually nice to have a competitor like the Yankees because it will be all the more satisfying when we beat them," Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said.

    The Mets hope the addition of pitcher Tom Glavine, shelled in his first start Monday, proves to be a stroke of genius come October.

    "You always want to spend or invest prudently, and we think we have," owner Fred Wilpon said. "But there are no guarantees in life. I really believe that we have a postseason team. That's what this team was built for, and now we'll see."

    Overall, the average salary rose 7.2 percent to $2,555,476, behind the NBA ($4.54 million) but ahead of the NHL ($1.64 million) and the NFL ($1.25 million).

    In a sign of baseball's economic slowdown, the number of players making $1 million or more dropped to 385 from 413 last year and 425 in 2000. Baseball owners have cited the weak economy and the luxury tax as reasons some teams lowered payroll.

    The AP's study also showed:

  • Behind Rodriguez on the highest-paid list were Toronto's Carlos Delgado ($18.7 million), Boston's Manny Ramirez ($17.2 million), the Mets' Mo Vaughn ($17.2 million) and the Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa ($16.9 million).

  • Anaheim followed its first World Series title by boosting its payroll to $79 million, keeping all its key players. The Angels began 2002 at $61.7 million.

  • Philadelphia, which moves into a new ballpark in 2004, made a big payroll jump (from $58 million to $70.8 million), as did division champions Minnesota and Oakland.

  • Cleveland dropped from $78.9 million at the start of last season to $48.8 million; Toronto, Arizona, Boston and Milwaukee also had big decreases.


    By Ronald Blum
    • John Esterbrook

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