Average baseball salary drops

NEW YORK – Major League Baseball salaries went down in 2004 for the first time in a decade and only the third time since record-keeping began nearly 40 years ago.

The average dropped 2.5 percent this year to $2,313,535, according to final figures released on Tuesday by the Major League Baseball Players Association. The average had been $2,372,189 in 2003.

Since the union started keeping track in 1967, the only previous decreases had been an $86 drop in 1987, when owners were found to have conspired to hold down salaries among free agents, and a 4 percent decline in 1995, following a 7 1/2-month strike that wiped out the World Series for the first time since 1904.

The players’ association has spent the last two years trying to determine whether to file a new collusion grievance but has not taken any action. Union head Donald Fehr said he hadn’t determined what to attribute the drop to.

‘Obviously, we’ve been looking at things closely the last couple of years and we’ll have to see how things play out,’ he said. ‘It’s too early to tell.’

There was no spending drop for the New York Yankees, who established a record with a $6.38 million average, more than $1.4 million above the previous mark they set two years ago.

World Series champion Boston was second at $3.71 million – the $2.67 million gap between New York and the Red Sox was greater than the averages for 20 of the 30 major league teams.

Anaheim was third at $3.64 million, followed by the Chicago Cubs ($3.5 million), the New York Mets ($3.34 million), Los Angeles ($3.29 million) and Atlanta ($3.27 million). St. Louis, which won the NL pennant, was ninth at $3.19 million.

Pittsburgh had the lowest average, $917,126, just below Milwaukee ($1.04 million) and Tampa Bay ($1.1 million).

The survey was based on the 927 players on Aug. 31 rosters. Final management calculations, usually slightly different, are not yet available.

First basemen were the highest-paid players at an average of $6.8 million, followed by outfielders ($4.5 million), third basemen ($3.8 million), starting pitchers ($3.7 million), catchers and shortstops ($3.5 million), second basemen ($2.9 million), designated hitters ($2.6 million) and relief pitchers ($1.4 million).

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