Yankees' payroll again off the charts

Monday, February 17, 2003

TAMPA, Fla. -- Even before the start of the season, the New York Yankees are smashing barriers.

New York set a record with a $138 million payroll last year, according to the final tabulation by the commissioner's office, and is on the verge of becoming the first team to top $150 million.

The Yankees' 2003 payroll stands at $149.2 million for 22 signed players likely to be on the opening-day roster plus injured pitcher Jon Lieber, according to contract information obtained by The Associated Press.

The Yankees currently are just one of two teams projected by the commissioner's office to be paying the new luxury tax this year. The other is the New York Mets.

How do the little guys compete?

"It would be like you driving a Yugo, and me racing in a Ferrari," said Adam Piatt, an outfielder on the Oakland Athletics, who have made the playoffs three straight years despite a small budget.

The Yankees' payroll is likely to top $150 million by March 11, the deadline to sign players on rosters. Still unsigned are second baseman Alfonso Soriano, who made $630,000 last year and hit 39 homers, and designated hitter Nick Johnson.

New York's final 2002 payroll was $138.4 million, according to the commissioner's office, up from $114.5 million in 2001, when the Yankees finished between Los Angeles ($115.5 million) and Boston ($114.3 million).

Red Sox were second

Boston was second in 2002 at $116.6 million, according to baseball's final figures, followed by Arizona ($109.5 million), Texas ($108.9 million), Los Angeles ($103.1 million) and the Mets ($102.9 million).

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, jealous of the Yankees' wealth, referred to them as the "evil empire" during the offseason, saying they can outspend all others.

"Things like that are out of our control," Boston manager Grady Little said. "What we try to control out on the field is to make ourselves the best we can be."

World Series champion Anaheim finished 16th in payroll last year at $62.4 million -- the first World Series champion not in the top half since the 1991 Minnesota Twins won with a payroll of $23.7 million.

NL champion San Francisco was ninth at $82.6 million.

"What a club with a mid to smaller payroll has to do is to get very good performances out of its less-experienced players," Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said. "Clubs like the Yankees can and will outspend their mistakes."

In contrast to recent years, only four of the 10-biggest spenders made the playoffs, with the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Giants joined by Atlanta ($94.7 million). In addition to Anaheim, other relatively modest spenders in the postseason included St. Louis (12th at $73.8 million), Minnesota (26th at $41.8 million) and Oakland (27th at $41 million).

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