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For richest players, it pays to wear Yankees' pinstripes

| Tuesday, April 3, 2007

NEW YORK -- The Yankees' pinstripes might as well be green.

Four of the top seven players on baseball's salary list play in the Bronx, led by Alex Rodriguez at a record $27.7 million, according to a survey of contract terms by The Associated Press.

Rodriguez is followed by Jason Giambi ($23.4 million) and Derek Jeter ($21.6 million), with Boston's Manny Ramirez fourth at $17 million.

"I love being the highest-paid player in the game. It's pretty cool," Rodriguez said when he arrived at spring training, explaining the money allows him to do more charitable work. "You get crushed, but you know what• It's pretty cool. I enjoy it."

Colorado's Todd Helton ($16.6 million) was fifth, and the Yankees' Andy Pettitte was tied for sixth with the Los Angeles Angels' Bartolo Colon at $16 million.

"We should make it. We're the ones doing the entertaining," said San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, 11th on the list at $15.5 million.

The Yankees' Opening Day payroll dropped slightly for the second straight season to $195.2 million from $198.7 million last year and a record $205.9 million in 2005.

Boston was next at $143.5 million -- and that doesn't include the $51.1 million fee the Red Sox paid the Seibu Lions for pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Yankees' figure also didn't include the $26 million they sent to the Hanshin Tigers for pitcher Kei Igawa.

The New York Mets were third at $117.9 million, followed by the Chicago White Sox ($109.7 million), the Angels ($109.3 million), the Los Angeles Dodgers ($108.7 million) and the Seattle Mariners ($106.5 million).

"Owners wouldn't pay it if they weren't making it," said Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina, whose $11.1 million salary ranks him just 50th.

Tampa Bay had the lowest payroll at $24.1 million, and Florida was 29th at $30.05 million, double last year's figure of just under $15 million. Nineteen of 31 players on the Marlins make the minimum $380,000.

Payroll figures don't include cash transactions, such as money the Yankees are receiving from Texas for Rodriguez and the White Sox are getting from Philadelphia for Jim Thome.

An influx of injured players kept baseball's average salary from breaking the $3 million barrier on Opening Day. The average was a record $2.94 million, up 2.7 percent from last year's opening average of $2.87 million. Although many large contracts were signed during the offseason, many were backloaded.

There were 32 more players on the disabled list this year than at the start of last season. That meant the addition of nearly three dozen extra players -- nearly all earning close to the minimum. Baseball's average broke the $1 million barrier in 1992 and the $2 million mark in 2001.

Sixty-six players made $10 million or more, and that $1 million club jumped from 409 to 425 -- matching the record set in 2001. That doesn't include Russ Ortiz, listed at the minimum with San Francisco, while Arizona, which released the pitcher last year, pays him $7,120,000.

The median salary matched the $1 million record set last year.

"There's no doubt that there are a dozen or more players who are overpaid, but that's the American way. Shouldn't we all be overpaid• Don't we all want to be overpaid?" said San Francisco's Jeff Kent, 70th at $9.8 million. "A lot of these guys don't make that average salary. They make the median, which is closer south than north. Agents are getting smarter, ballplayers are getting smarter, and the business is generating so much money that there needs to be give and take. I wish I was making $25 million, but I'm not. And the average salary is closer to my salary than the guys getting paid a lot more. But, so be it."

Figures for the study included salaries and prorated shares of signing bonuses and other guaranteed income for the 847 players on opening-day rosters and disabled lists, plus Mets reliever Guillermo Mota, serving a 50-game suspension following a positive steroids test. For some players, deferred money was discounted to present-day value.

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