Rest of baseball catching up with big spenders

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“Without economic reformation, none of this happens,” baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said Wednesday. “It has been great for everybody _ big markets, medium, small, everybody _ because there’s a sense of fairness.”

The renamed Miami Marlins, in their new hip ballpark, boosted payroll by about $40 million, even after factoring in the more than $15 million they are getting from the Cubs along with Carlos Zambrano. Adding All-Stars Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle didn’t come cheap.

After winning its second straight AL pennant, Texas’ spending went up by about $27 million, about as much as Detroit’s. Kansas City and Tampa Bay had hikes almost as large.

“It’s gotten to like every fan when that season starts feels like their team’s got a chance,” Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “And that’s the way it should be.”

But for every nearly ever booster there was a slasher.

According to MLB figures, which include money in trades, cash paid released players and buyouts, the Mets went from $139.8 million at the start of last season to $96.4 million. The $43.4 million decrease is thought to be the largest in baseball history, topping when Texas cut by $38.7 million before the 2004 season.

While cutting payroll, the Mets’ owners waged a legal fight against the trustee for victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, who sought as much as $1 billion. The case was settled last month for up to $162 million.

Oakland, unhappy it hasn’t been able to get permission from MLB to build a ballpark in San Jose, has the lowest payroll at just under $53 million, according to the AP study. While Pittsburgh hiked up to $63 million after its MLB-record 19th straight losing season, the Pirates are getting $11.5 million of that back from the Yankees as part of the A.J. Burnett trade.

“The payroll thing is kind of an excuse honestly,” Pirates outfielder Nate McLouth said. “You don’t play dollar against dollar. You have to go out on the field and do it. You know teams with higher payrolls have players who have prolonged success as opposed to teams with lower payrolls, but honestly that doesn’t play into anything when we play or step on the field.”

Still, a high payroll usually means a better chance of reaching the playoffs.

The Yankees, who have reached the postseason in 16 of the last 17 years, reached $200 million not even including the money they are paying Pittsburgh to take Burnett off their hands. Or the $2.5 million owed Andy Pettitte once he’s added to their roster.

After the Yankees there’s a drop to the Phillies at $174 million and the Red Sox at $173 million, followed by the Angels at $155 million and the Tigers at $132 million.

“It seems like the landscape out there is getting a little bit flatter,” said Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ new president of baseball operations. “We’ll see how it all plays out.”

A-Rod was followed on the money list by the Angels’ Vernon Wells at $24.6 million, followed by Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia ($24.3 million), returning Mets ace Johan Santana ($23.15 million) and Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira ($23.13 million). Fielder’s deal with Detroit placed him in a tie for sixth with Minnesota’s Joe Mauer at $23 million.

The AP’s figures include salaries and prorated shares of signing bonuses and other guaranteed income. For some players, parts of deferred signing bonuses and salaries are discounted to reflect current values.

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