Who wants to be a millionaire?
Average baseball salary breaks $2 million mark
Updated: Wednesday April 04, 2001 7:17 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Baseball broke a big barrier on Opening Day, with the average salary pushing past $2 million for the first time.
Nearly half the players in the major leagues -- 425 of 854 -- will make $1 million or more, according to a study by The Associated Press.
The average salary increased 13.9 percent to $2,264,403, according to the AP study, which reviewed the contracts of all major leaguers on Opening-Day rosters and disabled lists.
Since 1967, the average salary has increased 118-fold from $19,000 while the Consumer Price Index has merely quadrupled. Opening-Day salaries totaled $1.934 billion.
Texas shortstop Alex Rodriguez led the way with a $22 million salary, including a prorated share of his $10 million signing bonus. Rodriguez, beginning a record $252 million, 10-year contract, alone is responsible for adding $25,761 to the average salary.
The World Series champion New York Yankees opened with the top payroll for the third straight year, at $109,791,893.
Boston was just behind at $109,558,908, followed by Los Angeles at $108,980,952.
At the other end, Minnesota is last at $24.4 million. Oakland, regarded as baseball's best young team, is 29th at $33.8 million.
The median salary -- the point which has an equal number of players above and below -- rose to $975,000 from $750,000 at the start of last season and $500,000 two years ago.
"It's unbelievable. It's mind-boggling to me. I'm glad I stuck around," said Lee Stevens, a 33-year-old first baseman with Montreal who will make $4 million this season.
"Baseball's very popular right now. The economics of the game are growing. Where it will end, nobody knows. It depends on how much the owners are willing to spend."
Still, it's less than the NBA's estimated average of $3.53 million this season. The NFL average last year was $1.2 million and the estimated NHL average this season is $1.4 million.
Contrasting with the millionaires in sports, the median household income last year in the United States was $40,816, according to the Census Bureau, and the average was $54,842.
With a $21 million base salary, Rodriguez earns $114,754 per day this season.
"I'm almost embarrassed and ashamed of this contract," Rodriguez said after reporting to spring training. "Now, there's this '252' tag over my head."
Because the Yankees and Red Sox have more players on the disabled list, the Dodgers have the highest average salary at $3,757,964, to $3,541,674 for the Yankees and $3,423,716 for the Red Sox.
Boston would leap past the Yankees into the No. 1 spot as soon as David Cone is activated from the disabled list. The pitcher's base salary increases from $1 million to $2 million as soon as he is on the active roster.
Baseball owners, many looking for major changes after their labor contract with players expires Oct. 31, can take heart from one thing: the rate of increase slowed for the third straight season, down from 5.6 percent last year and 19.3 percent two years ago.
The average salary broke the $100,000 barrier in 1979 and topped $1 million in 1992.
While the average tops $2 million, it was on Feb. 7, 1982, that outfielder George Foster became the first player to sign a contract averaging $2 million, a $10.2 million, five-year deal with the New York Mets.
At the top of the scale, the number of players making $9 million or more has risen from 10 in 1999 to 20 last year and 35 this season.
There were 39 players making the minimum $200,000, down from 46 last year and 68 two years ago.
Figures for the study were obtained by the AP from player and management sources and include base salaries plus prorated shares of signing bonuses or guaranteed income not attributed to a specific year. Portions of salaries deferred without interest are discounted to present-day value.