On Monday, an Associated Press report by Ronald Blum revealed that the average annual salary for major league baseball players rose from $2,930,000 to $2,996,000. Although the 2.4% increase in salary represents the smallest rise in player wages since 2004, the stage has now been set for next year being the first season in which the average major league baseball player will earn $3 million.
The figures for each team were calculated by taking the average annual salaries of the 926 players on major league rosters during the 2009 season before the rosters expanded in September.
For the 11th consecutive season, the Yankees had the highest average player salary at $7.66 million. By comparison, the highest average player salary in the National League belonged to the Cubs. The average Cub player made $4.63 million this past season.
Six of this year’s playoff teams finished in the top eight in player salaries. It would have been seven out of eight had the Tigers (fourth in average player salary at $4.43 million) defeated the Twins in the one-game playoff for the AL Central Division title. The only two playoff teams that were not in the top eight in average player salary were the Colorado Rockies (15th, $2.93 million) and the Minnesota Twins (17th, $2.66 million).
The Mets finished ninth in average player salary. Their $3.76 million average player salary was the highest for any team that finished with a losing record. This was only $300,000 less than the Phillies ($4.06 million), who took that extra money and cashed it in for their third straight division title and second consecutive National League pennant.
Only two teams had average annual player salaries under $1 million. Those teams were the Pittsburgh Pirates ($790,000) and the San Diego Padres ($959,000). Mets fans, take note. The Padres actually finished with a better record than the Mets, completing the 2009 season with a 75-87 mark.
The numbers don’t lie. The teams that spend the money make the most noise in the standings. The teams that remain thrifty make their offseason plans at the All-Star Break. However, it’s not just spending money that wins championships. It’s how that money is spent.
The Mets can’t just give their money away to players with injury histories or erratic careers (i.e. J.J. Putz and Oliver Perez). If they are going to acquire a player that falls into either category, they cannot pay for this player the way they would pay for an All-Star. The big contracts should only go to sure things; players that are locks to perform well whenever they’re on the field. If the Mets fail to realize this, frugal teams like the Padres might continue to have better records than our Metropolitans and our team might continue to be the only team in the top ten in average player salaries with a losing record.
Interesting note: With average player salaries about to surpass the $3 million plateau, it should be worth noting that the first player in baseball history to earn $3 million per season was Kirby Puckett. Almost twenty years ago to the day (November 22, 1989), Puckett signed a three-year, $9 million contract to stay with the Minnesota Twins. Over the course of the past twenty years, salaries have skyrocketed to the point that an average player now makes what a Hall-of-Famer made only 20 years ago. I can be an average left-handed reliever. Give me $3 million and I’m yours!