The Cardinal Nation blog

Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Fixing the USAToday Salary Database


For years, many, many baseball watchers have relied on the USAToday MLB Salary Database to make comparisons across organizations and in year-to-year analysis, possible due to contract details posted all the way back to 1988.

As with any powerful tool, a thorough understanding of what you have and what you don’t is very important. As some Cardinals watchers know, the database assigns the salaries of all players on opening day rosters to their current team, no matter which club is actually paying the freight.

In the past, this created an odd year-to-year skew when players like Larry Walker and Roger Cedeno were acquired. Though the Cardinals were not responsible for most of the two’s salaries, the database assigned their entire commitment to St. Louis.

In 2010, this will likely again arise due to Julio Lugo’s $9 million salary being paid by Boston. We will need to check later, but I expect the Cardinals’ reported 2010 payroll to appear to be inflated by $9 million as a result.

When the database was first presented for 2009 this past spring, there was a discrepancy in the reporting of Troy Glaus’ individual salary (pictured). It was understated by about $11 million, which artificially dropped the Cardinals total payroll to $77 million.

While Glaus’ individual line item was quickly corrected, the folks from USAToday apparently forgot to update the Cardinals’ team total. As a result, St. Louis’ supposed $77,605,109 payroll placed them 17th of the 32 MLB teams.

I knew about this problem, but had incorrectly assumed it had been fixed months ago. Not so.

I was reading a Baseball Prospectus article just this week about player injuries and there was that $77 million payroll figure for St. Louis! I knew right away without even looking from where the author had picked up that total. No telling how many others have been using this incorrect data to draw potentially faulty conclusions.

I decided I would take it upon myself to right this wrong.

Fortunately, in Arizona just ten days ago, I had met Steve Gardner, a fine writer from USAToday, an all-around good guy and a Cardinals fan from way back. I contacted Steve on Monday, explaining the problem, and by Tuesday, the database had been updated with the correct total.

The Cardinals are now properly ranked 13th with a 2009 opening day payroll of $88,528,409. Of course, this was a consistent point in time that preceded the big trades of the summer for Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday.

Thanks to Steve and USAToday!

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