Yankees lower luxury tax bill for second straight year

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees did accomplish something
this year: They lowered their luxury tax for the second straight

The Yankees were hit with a tax bill of $23.88 million by Major
League Baseball in a notice sent to teams late Friday, pushing them
over the $100 million mark since the penalty for profligate
spending was introduced in 2003.

The only other club that must pay the competitive-balance tax,
as it is formally known, is the World Series champion
Boston Red Sox, who owe $6.06 million.

Checks are due at the commissioner's office by Jan. 31.

New York's bill is down from $26 million last year and a high of
$33.98 million in 2005. In all, the Yankees have run up taxes of
$121.6 million in five seasons with no World Series title to show
for it.

The Yankees' tax total would have dropped even lower had they
not signed Roger Clemens in midseason. The Rocket went 6-6 with a
4.18 ERA in 18 appearances, and he cost New York a $6.98 million
tax increase in addition to the $17,442,637 in salary he earned.

He left Game 3 of the Yankees' first-round playoff series
against Cleveland in the third inning because of an injured
hamstring. New York won the game but was eliminated by the Indians
the following night.

Boston will be paying tax for the fourth straight season but the
bill for the Red Sox has been only a fraction of what the Yankees
have paid. Boston's four-year total is $13.86 million, including
just $497,549 in 2006.

The only other team to pay tax was the Angels, who owed $927,059 for 2004.

New York's payroll was $207.7 million and Boston was second at
$163.1 million for luxury tax purposes, which uses the average
annual values of contracts for 40-man rosters and adds benefits.
Both teams pay at a 40 percent rate for the amount over the tax
threshold, which rises from $148 million this year to $155 million
next season.

New York figures to lower its payroll without Clemens next year
-- unless the Yankees acquire Johan Santana from Minnesota and sign
the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner to a big extension.