NEW YORK -- Led by Texas shortstop Alex Rodriguez at $22 million, baseball salaries topped $2 billion for the first time this year.
The New York Yankees led all clubs with a record payroll of nearly $126 million -- $92 million more than last-place Tampa Bay.
The figures are the result of a study by The Associated Press of contracts for 849 players on opening-day rosters and disabled lists.
Players will earn $2.023 billion, up from $1.934 billion last season. Owners, however, did slow the increase during a troubled offseason in which baseball unsuccessfully tried to eliminate two teams.
The average salary of $2,383,235 was up 5.2 percent from last year. That was less than half of the 13.9 percent increase of 2001 and the smallest percentage jump since 1998.
While the average salary has increased 126-fold from 1967, when it was $19,000, the Consumer Price Index has gone up only five-fold since then. And while baseball players average $13,000 a day during the season, the average annual household income in the United States is $57,045, according to latest figures from Census Bureau. That's about four days' average pay for someone who wields a bat and wears a glove.
Still, baseball's average is almost half the NBA's $4.2 million last season, according to figures compiled by the league. The NHL's average was $1.43 million last season and the NFL's average was $1.1 million, according to their unions.
With high-revenue teams adding stars, the gap between rich and poor increased for the seventh straight season since the 1994-95 strike.
The Yankees were No. 1 for the fourth straight season and sixth time in seven years at $125.9 million. Boston was second at $108.4 million, followed by Texas at $105.3 million and Arizona, which ended the Yankees' run of three straight World Series titles, at $102.8 million.
The Devil Rays were last at $34.4 million, and just above were Montreal ($38.7 million), Oakland ($39.7 million) and Minnesota ($40.2 million).
"I don't concern myself with money. I concern myself with what goes on between the lines," said Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon, whose club is 24th at $42.3 million. "I prepare my team to play on a daily basis. Let the experts tell you if we can compete or not."
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has proposed slowing salary growth with a luxury tax on high-payroll teams and a vast increase in the sharing of locally generated revenues, proposals the union had been cool to accepting.
Union head Donald Fehr said the failed attempt to eliminate the Twins and Expos slowed the growth in salaries but the players had not yet estimated by how much.
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