The average salary per season paid to Major League Baseball players has topped the $3 million mark for the first time this year, with the Yankees again far and away leading as a team and three of their players -- Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Derek Jeter -- topping the individual list. The report filed by The Associated Press comes at a time when baseball is enjoying unparalleled success both at the box office and on the field. According to Commissioner Bud Selig, the sports' gross revenue is expected to grow to $6.5 billion this season with total attendance at all 30 big-league parks cracking the 80-million mark for the first time. Last season, baseball garnered almost $6.1 billion in gross revenue while 78.5 million tickets were sold. At the same time, the players earned an average of $2.82 million, a figure that was computed at the close of the 2007 season.
This year's Opening Day salary figure is $3.15 million, up 7.1 percent from last year's season-opening figure of $2.94 million. The Yankees, who signed five of their veteran players to long-term contracts worth in excess of $400 million in the offseason, come into the season with a payroll of $209.1 million. A-Rod will bring in an MLB-leading $28 million followed by Giambi ($23.4 million) and Jeter ($21.6 million). Boston's Manny Ramirez breaks the streak and is fourth at $18.9 million. Giambi and Ramirez are in the final guaranteed seasons of their multiyear contracts. The clubs have lucrative options in favor of the players if they choose to keep each of them next year. For the first time, the Tigers, who obtained Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera in a trade with Florida this offseason, are second in baseball at a total payroll of $138.7 million, $5.3 million higher than the defending World Series champion Red Sox ($133.4 million). The Mets were third overall and tops in the National League at $138.3 million. Six other clubs topped the $100 million mark: The White Sox ($121.2million), Angels ($119.2 million), Cubs ($118.6 million), Dodgers($118.5 million), Mariners ($118 million) and Braves at $102.4 million. Since the competitive balance tax threshold has risen to $155 million this year, only the Yankees are liable. Because they repeatedly have been over the threshold since the tax was permanently instituted in the 2002 Basic Agreement, the Bronx Bombers must pay 40 percent of the overage to MLB at the end of the season. The difference between the threshold and how much the Yankees are paying their players is currently $54.1 million. If that figure remains steady this season, they will thus owe an additional tax of $21.6 million to MLB -- an amount equal to what they must pay Jeter. Although the average player salary increased, the median salary remained at a record $1 million for the third consecutive season, The AP reported. Those figures include a record 434 players earning $1 million or more and 85 players reaching the $10 million plateau, up from 66 this past season. The minimum Major League salary is $390,000 this season.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.