Incorrect Report On Baseball Salaries Drives Country Into A Tizzy

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Everyone breathlessly re-published USA Today's annual salary survey, with the shocking news that the average salary is down 17 percent from 2009. In actuality, average salaries are up from last season. Whoopsie.

Seventeen percent! That's a ton, right? With the report that the average salary dropped from $3.26 million to $2.7 million, everyone got their panties in a bunch this morning. "The recession is hitting baseball!" "Teams are reining in spending!" "The wealth gap is widening!"


The news was trumpeted everywhere, with super-serious analysis on what this means for the sport.

But there was a problem. It was never true.

The average player salary as of opening day is $3.27 million, a slight rise from last season. So not only does that insane 17 percent figure go right out the window, but salaries haven't actually dropped at all.


USA Today ran the correction:

The average salary of players on opening-day rosters was incorrectly stated in the original version of this story. The average player salary is $3.27 million, a 1% increase from $3.26 million in 2009.


Someone's head is going to roll, since the original lede wasn't close to being backed up by the figures. One of the commenters on the story even pointed this out:

According to your own database, the total Opening Day payrolls for the 30 teams in 2009 was $2,655,395,194.

The total Opening Day payrolls for the 30 teams in 2010 is $2,717,764,865.

That is an increase of over $62M or 2.35% - not a 17% decrease....

USA Today hastily rewrote the story, with a much less sexy lede: that 14 clubs reduced payroll. I don't have to do much math to tell you that that means that most teams increased payroll.


And the original "17 percent" figure is the one that shows up in most reports.

So, sorry to everyone who was excited to see a bunch of millionaires taken down a few pegs. They're still getting richer.


USA TODAY salary survey: 14 MLB teams cut payroll [USA Today]