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Average salary up 18 percent
BOSTON -- Baseball's average salary broke the $2 million barrier for the first time this season, and the New York Yankees led the major leagues with an average of nearly $4 million.
The final average salary of a major league player in 2001 was $2,138,896, according to final figures released Wednesday by the Major League Baseball Players Association.
That was up 12.8 percent from last year's average of $1,895,630 -- the lowest rate of increase since 1998. Still, baseball passed the $2 million mark just nine years after reaching the $1 million. Twenty-five years ago, in the last season before free agency, the average was $51,501.
The Yankees, who won their fourth straight American League pennant but failed to win the World Series for the first time since 1997, paid an average of $3,930,334 to the 31 players on their Aug. 31 roster and disabled list.
Seven of the eight playoff teams were among the top 12 in average salary. The exception was the Oakland Athletics, 23rd among the 30 teams at $1,310,084.
Minnesota and Montreal, the teams most likely targeted for elimination by commissioner Bud Selig, had the two lowest averages for the second straight season: $1,128,470 for the Twins and $926,333 for the Expos.
The Yankees had the highest average for the third consecutive year and the seventh time in eight seasons. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who rallied to beat the Yankees in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series, were ninth at $2,701,205.
Los Angeles, which finished third in the NL West, was second at $3,755,511, followed by Boston ($3,565,027), which wound up 13 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the AL East.
AL Central champion Cleveland was fourth at $3,256,852 and the New York Mets, third in the NL East at 82-80, were next at $2,998,090. Atlanta, which won the NL East, was fifth at $2,956,695.
Among other playoff teams, Seattle was eighth at $2,769,003, St. Louis was 11th at $2,556,629 and Houston was 12th at $2,442,357.
Tampa Bay had the biggest drop, from 15th place to 28th at $1,130,330.
The biggest rise was six spots, with the Astros moving up from 18th and Kansas City going from 28th to 22nd at $1,314,246.
The 12 biggest spenders all had winning records, but only four others did: Oakland (102-60), Philadelphia (86-76), Minnesota (85-77) and the Chicago White Sox (83-79).
Designated hitters were the highest-paid players, averaging $5,650,019. They were followed by first basemen ($4,622,617), outfielders ($4,473,863), shortstops ($3,399,184), third basemen ($3,381,638), starting pitchers ($3,228,719), catchers ($3,196,350), second basemen ($3,070,815) and relief pitchers ($1,510,904).
Players with two to three years of major league service who were not eligible for arbitration averaged $482,360, while those in that service class who were eligible averaged $1,179,271.