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Buy Me Some Peanuts And Cracker Jack … And Lower Payroll While You're At It

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
They probably won't be asking the federal government for any bailout money, but the weak economy has many Major League Baseball teams in a cost-cutting mood.

Nearly half the league heads into the 2009 baseball season with reduced payrolls, according to a USA Today survey. Fourteen teams total are lowering salaries and 10 will slash at least $10 million off the books.

Among the standout cost-cutters are the deep-pocketed New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The Yankees, despite committing $423.5 million in long term contracts to CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixiera this off-season, reduced their payroll by $8 million (though they still dwarf the league with $201.4 million in annual salaries). The Red Sox, meanwhile, lowered their payroll by $12 million to $121.7 million.

But there were some buyers. The Chicago Cubs are doling out $16.5 million more to their players, raising their overall payroll to $134.8 million. The world champion Philadelphia Phillies are the only other big market team adding more than $3 million in salaries.

If there were postseason awards for payroll reduction, the San Diego Padres would take home the championship that's eluded them on the field since their inception in 1969. They cut nearly $20 million in salaries and their $43.8 million payroll eclipses only the Florida Marlins.

Despite many teams tightening their purse strings, average salaries actually rose 4 percent to 3.26 million.