AP study projects av­er­age MLB salary will beat US$4 mil­lion mark

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY RON­ALD BLUM

Even be­fore the first pitch of t he 2015 sea­son is thrown, an eye-pop­ping base­ball record will be set.

The av­er­age salary when open­ing-day rosters are fi­nal­ized Sun­day will break the US$4 mil­lion bench­mark for the first time, ac­cord­ing to a study of all ma­jor league con­tracts by The As­so­ci­ated Press. Dodgers pitcher Clay­ton Ker­shaw tops play­ers at US$31 mil­lion and Los An­ge­les projects to open the sea­son with a pay­roll at about US$270 mil­lion, eas­ily a record.

“We’re en­joy­ing a tremen­dously boun­ti­ful sea­son in base­ball,” said Toronto pitcher R.A. Dickey, the 2012 NL Cy Young Award win­ner with the New York Mets.

Fu­eled by the largest two-year growth in more than a decade, the av­er­age salary projects to be about US$4.25 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the AP study, with the fi­nal fig­ure depend­ing on how many play­ers are put on the dis­abled list be­fore the first pitch is thrown. That is up from US$3.95 mil­lion on the first day of last sea­son and US$3.65 mil­lion when 2013 be­gan.

“MLB’s rev­enues have grown in re­cent years, with the in­crease in na­tional and lo­cal broad­cast rights fees be­ing a pri­mary con­trib­u­tor,” said Dan Halem, MLB’s chief legal of­fi­cer. “It is ex­pected that player com­pen­sa­tion will in­crease as club rev­enues in­crease.”

Base­ball’s av­er­age was ap­prox­i­mately US$50,000 in 1976, the last year be­fore free agency. Back then, many play­ers took off­sea­son jobs to pay their bills.

Now al­most all of them do their heavy lift­ing in gyms, not ware­houses.

In a US$9 bil­lion in­dus­try pro­pelled by ball­park luxury suites and pre­mium tick­ets, re­gional sports net­works and stream­ing video, more than half the ma­jor lea­guers are mil­lion­aires.

The av­er­age broke the US$1 mil­lion mark in 1992, topped US$2 mil­lion in 2001 and reached US$3 mil­lion in 2008.

By com­par­i­son, the Con­sumer Price In­dex for Ur­ban Wage Earn­ers and Cler­i­cal Work­ers has risen slightly less than four­fold since the first class of free agents started ne­go­ti­a­tions in Novem­ber 1976. And the av­er­age U.S. wage in 2013, the lat­est fig­ure avail­able, was US$44,888, ac­cord­ing to the So­cial Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion, up 1.28 per­cent from 2012.

“It isn’t just the TV deals,” union head Tony Clark wrote in an email to the AP. “From the par­ity on the field to the fan sup­port & busi­ness off it (in­clud­ing the na­tional TV con­tracts), the in­dus­try has never been health­ier.”

Last year, the Dodgers opened at US$234 mil­lion and ended the New York Yan­kees’ 15-year streak as base­ball’s big­gest spenders. Still seek­ing their first World Se­ries ti­tle since 1988, Los An­ge­les is No. 1 by a huge mar­gin. The Yan­kees project to be sec­ond at about US$215 mil­lion, fol­lowed by Bos­ton at around US$185 mil­lion.

Detroit is fourth at roughly US$170 mil­lion — about US$100 mil­lion less than the Dodgers. Com­ing off its third World Se­ries ti­tle in five years, San Fran­cisco is fifth, about US$1 mil­lion be­hind the Tigers.

The low rollers are led by Miami (about US$65 mil­lion), with Hous­ton a few mil­lion dol­lars higher. The large-mar­ket Mets are right around US$100 mil­lion, a mark they haven’t reached since 2011.

“The in­dus­try is do­ing very well,” Yan­kees out­fielder Car­los Bel­tran said. “The own­ers are mak­ing a lot of money and the salaries for the play­ers are go­ing up.”

Fol­low­ing Ker­shaw are Detroit pitcher Justin Ver­lan­der (US$28 mil­lion), Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke (US$27 mil­lion) and in­jured An­gels out­fielder Josh Hamil­ton ( US$25.4 mil­lion). Hamil­ton has a lengthy his­tory of drug and al­co­hol abuse, and has been suspended in the past.

The AP’s fig­ures in­clude salaries and pro­rated shares of sign­ing bonuses and other guar­an­teed in­come for play­ers on ac­tive rosters, dis­abled lists and the re­stricted list. For some play­ers, parts of de­ferred money are dis­counted to re­flect cur­rent val­ues.

Pay­roll num­bers fac­tor in ad­just­ments for cash trans­ac­tions in trades, sign­ing bonuses that are the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the club agree­ing to the con­tract, op­tion buy­outs, and ter­mi­na­tion pay for re­leased play­ers. San Diego is re­ceiv­ing US$18 mil­lion from the Dodgers to cover most of Matt Kemp’s salary, and the Mar­lins are get­ting about US$12.68 mil­lion from Los An­ge­les as part of the seven-player trade that sent Dan Haren to Miami.

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