The season baseball owners hate has begun: salary arbitration season.

A total of 153 players filed Tuesday to have their wages determined by an impartial third party. Owners say that the system, begun in 1974, contributes greatly to the inflation of the salary structure, since mediocre players raise their pay by jetstreaming behind the stars.Five players agreed to contracts in the hours before Tuesday's deadline, including Cleveland catcher Joel Skinner, who got a three-year deal worth $2 million.

The other four settled on one-year deals. Pitcher Scott Bankhead and Seattle agreed to $755,000, the same salary he made last season, while pitcher Bill Wegman and Milwaukee agreed to $440,000, a raise of $150,000.

Utilityman Keith Miller and the New York Mets agreed to $260,000, a raise of $137,500, while pitcher Steve Ontiveros and Philadelphia agreed to $180,000, the same salary he earned last season.

The 153 players who filed joined six players who became free agents and returned to their teams by accepting arbitration offers Dec. 19: Tom Brunansky of Boston; Max Venable of California; Dan Petry of Detroit; and Mickey Hatcher, Juan Samuel and Fernando Valenzuela of Los Angeles.

The 159 players in arbitration is two short of the record set last year. The overwhelming majority will settle before their cases reach arbitrators. Last year, only 24 cases were heard and players won 14.

Players and clubs will exchange figures on Friday, and arbitrators will hear cases during the first three weeks of February.