The two highest team payrolls in the world belong to Major League Baseball: the New York Yankees at $228.8 million and the Los Angeles Dodgers with $216.6 million. These findings and more were revealed in the third annual ESPN The Magazine/SportingIntelligence Global Salary Survey, detailed more fully in conjunction with The Magazine's Money Issue, on sale June 14. The survey covered 278 teams in 14 leagues in seven sports in 14 countries.
The story hasn't changed much for the Yankees, who also had the second-highest payroll in the world on last year's list. But the Dodgers moved up from 56th last year after the record-breaking sale of the team from Frank McCourt to the Guggenheim Partners, led by Magic Johnson, for $2 billion.
Although Manchester City, of the English Premier League, paid the most on an average per-player basis at $8.06 million, the Dodgers rocketed up the list to No. 2 this year (from No. 69 last year) at $7.47 million per player after trading for Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford. The team also signed free agents Zack Grienke, for $147 million over six years, and Hyun-jin Ryu, who commanded a $25.7 million posting fee on top of his $36 million, six-year deal.
There's some doubt as to whether the Dodgers will be near the top of the list in future years, however. The club still has yet to submit its record-breaking $7 billion television contract with Time Warner Cable to MLB, reportedly because of confusion over the revenue-sharing implications that could cost the club $1 billion over the life of the deal. That could leave ownership strapped to cover the debt incurred when it purchased the team for a record-setting $2.15 billion, along with its recently inflated payroll.
While the Dodgers took on a considerable amount of salary over the past year, the Miami Marlins were doing the opposite. In addition to shipping Ramirez to the Dodgers, the Marlins unloaded Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio for seven low-budget players. Last year, the Marlins found themselves 29th on the list, a giant leap from 123rd the previous year. Now the club finds itself at No. 185 after a 75 percent drop in average salary per player.
With no hard salary cap or floor, Major League Baseball is, not surprisingly, one of the most disparate leagues in terms of average player salary between the top and bottom teams. While the Dodgers led the pack at No. 2 in the world, the Houston Astros pulled up the rear at No. 205. The difference in their average per-player pay: $6.7 million, a ratio of 9.14-to-1. The only leagues worldwide with a larger ratio are the Scottish Premier League (22.29-to-1), La Liga (16.23-to-1), and Serie A (13.56-to-1). The NHL, with its recently completed collective bargaining agreement, has the lowest ratio in the United States at 1:51-to-1, followed closely by the NFL at 1.57-to-1 and the NBA at 2.3-to-1.
Despite the disparity in pay, a look at last year's Global Salary Survey and the MLB teams that made it into the playoffs shows money won't necessarily buy your way into the postseason. Although the Yankees made it into the postseason with their league-leading payroll and per-player pay last year, the Philadelphia Phillies missed out despite having the second-highest payroll in MLB and the fifth-highest in the world. Philadelphia also had the second-highest average pay per player in MLB behind the Yankees.
Meanwhile, the Oakland Athletics made it into the playoffs with the league's lowest average per-player salary at just $1.8 million -- nowhere close to the $6.2 million per-player average of the Yankees or the $5.8 million the Phillies spent on average.
In fact, half of last year's playoff teams in MLB came from the bottom half of the league in terms of the average amount of money spent per player, including the Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and A's.
The Dodgers certainly seem to be learning the lesson the hard way, currently finding themselves in last place in the NL West and, as of Monday night, 7½ games back from Arizona Diamondbacks, who are spending $4.5 million less per player. Meanwhile, Oakland, with its 27th-ranked payroll and 28th-ranked average per-player salary, is neck and neck with the Texas Rangers atop the AL West.