Player salary growth lowest since '96

NEW YORK (AP) -- Baseball's average salary rose only a little bit this year, and players may be crying foul.

The average at the end of the 2003 season was $2,372,189, the players' association said in its annual study obtained by The Associated Press.

While the amount was a record, it was just 3.3 percent above last year's average of $2,295,649. The last rise that low was in 1996, when the average increased by just 0.8 percent in the aftermath of the 1994-95 strike.

The players' association has spent more than a year investigating whether there has been collusion among teams in their dealing with free agents, and a top union lawyer sent a memo to agents Dec. 8 asking assistance.

The union has not yet decided whether to file a collusion grievance over actions following the 2002 season and is looking closely at the current market.

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