Dodger Blue, Cash Green: Spending Spree Makes LA New MLB Payroll King

They start a $68 million outfield. Their highest paid pitcher earns more than the entire staffs of the Marlins and the Astros. They boast ten players boasting ten-figure salaries. 

For the first time since 1998, when the Baltimore Orioles outspent the competition, the New York Yankees start the season not paying their players more than every other team in Major League Baseball. The free-spending Los Angeles Dodgers have dethroned the Yankees as the kings of excess. The Associated Press estimates Dodger player payroll at $235 million. Spotrac.com pegs it at $228 million. Either way, nobody comes within $30 million of them.

When does Occupy Chavez Ravine begin? 

In addition to the team-at-the-top change, it’s also the first time in ten years that a player not on the New York Yankees commands baseball’s top salary. The last time that happened Manny Ramirez earned his $22.5 million by helping the Boston Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years. Dodger pitcher Zach Greinke, set to earn $26 million this season, displaces the displaced Alex Rodriguez, who spends his year suspended from the game, as tops on the list. Greinke has never won more than 16 games in his ten seasons in the majors.

Somewhere Manny Mota looks jealously at all those zeros. Somewhere Ron Fairly cries, “That’s not fairly!” Somewhere Rick Monday wonders why he couldn’t have caught such Dodger green when he wore Dodger blue.

Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard of the Phillies fall just shy of Greinke’s earnings at $25 million, followed by Texas first baseman Prince Fielder, Seattle second baseman Robinson Cano, Philadelphia pitcher Cole Hamels, and Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira. According to Sportrac, 21 players earn more than $20 million. 

The average salary of a Major League Baseball player approaches $4 million, good for an eight-to-ten percent raise from 2013, according to the AP. The news organization points out that the average American’s salary reaches about $42,000, roughly one percent of what a major-league ballplayer earns. According to the Baseball Almanac, the average MLB salary reached about $45,000 in 1975. By 1985, that figure had expanded eightfold to about $372,000. In 1995, it eclipsed the seven-figure mark at $1.1 million.

Nearly $200 million separates baseball’s haves from its have-nots. Spotrac.com lists the Marlins as the lowest payroll in baseball at $36.1 million. The Associated Press nominates the Astros as baseball’s cheapskates at $45 million. According to Spotrac, half of the teams in Major League Baseball pay their players less than $100 million. Philadelphia, Boston, and Detroit join the Yankees and Dodgers as the most loose-pocketed teams. 

Fear not, Pirates fans. The cash can’t buy you a ring. Only once in the last decade has the highest paid team won the World Series. Alas, the lowest paid team didn’t extend their seasons deep into October in any of those years.

The bank accounts of the various clubs vary wildly. But on Opening Day, if only then, all baseball teams are equal.


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