Baseball's New King of Swat Is Hard Cash

The Money Game

Money isn't everything. But in modern-day baseball, it sure helps.

Forsaking old-fashioned hometown loyalty, today's free agents roam from city to city in search of multimillion-dollar contracts. This money chase is a boon to rich teams, but a huge challenge to clubs in smaller cities.

Just look at how money - baseball's new "king of swat" - performed in the National League this year. The Atlanta Braves began the season with an average player salary of $1,803,161, highest in the league. The result: 101 victories, the National League's best.

The Marlins, Florida's wonder team, invested $1,704,929 per player and ended with the league's second- highest number of wins, 92. So in the National League playoffs on Tuesday night, it was the two best-paid teams, Braves and Marlins, fighting it out for the right to go to the World Series.

The American League is even more free-spending, with the Yankees leading the way at $2,166,650 per player. Baltimore, Chicago, and Cleveland are close behind, all at $2 million-plus.

Again, it was no surprise when the final game in the American League showdown Wednesday was between the Cleveland Indians and the Baltimore Orioles. Nowhere in sight were teams like the Detroit Tigers, which pay their players a league low of $609,426.

The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan says the money chase makes it "a very scary baseball world." Even if teams of modest means develop great young players, rich clubs can snatch them away in their prime. It's a problem the grand old game needs to address.

* John Dillin roots for the Boston Red Sox, where average pay is $1,487,543.

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