Thursday, November 29, 2007

Subjective judgment

All the Houston Dynamo fans who screamed at the injustice of Khano Smith's "headbutt" in the MLS final - take a moment to think back to Nate Jaqua's elbow in the Western Conference final. Both were fouls that I thought deserved a red. Not surprisingly, I didn't get any emails from Houston fans about how the refs missed the call on Jaqua - they were fine with that one.
Basically, that's the way I feel about the outcry over the DP grandfathering of players making DP money before the DP rule. It's funny to think that so many people grouse about how cheap MLS can be, but then want rules enforced to punish the clubs that were willing to spend money.
What I also find amusing is those who say that MLS should have just instituted the grandfathering rule permanantly from the start.
Well, the reality is that if the guys ran MLS had that much foresight, the league would be further along. Because they're not infallible prophets, they didn't make a decision without first seeing how the designated players would actually affect the league. Instead, what they did was give themselves a one-year window to see whether or not having a DP and a DP-like player would give teams too much of an advantage.
They soon discovered that in MLS, the whole is more important than the DP parts. No teams with DP players made it to the final. Teams are often better off with players who are slightly second-tier, at least as far as the national team level, because then they won't be missing as much time from their teams.
Yet for the league to say that DP players don't matter would be foolish. The fact is, MLS received more attention this year than any other in its existence because of players like Blanco, Beckham and Angel. If team owners had hesitated in going after those players because it might mean disrupting the chemistry a squad had because of perhaps being forced to give up stars they already had, the league, fans, and other players themselves would suffer for it. Increased exposure is good for everybody in MLS - well, except for perhaps the refs, because it just seems to make more people complain about them.
That doesn't mean that I was really in favor of the grandfathering extension. I was hoping the league would add another DP slot to everyone in the league. Chivas USA could have made good use of that. I understand, though, that it might be premature to add a DP when so many teams haven't even made use of the one they have.
Anyway, I asked Landon about it, and had to give credit that he immediately recognized his own impartiality.

"I’m probably biased. It’s hard to say, under one set of rules, you go get a player and then all of a sudden you can’t have that player unless you trade something away for him. I don’t think that’s a good thing to do to teams. The teams that went out and got players shouldn’t be punished. I think it was the right thing to do. I’m sure that other teams may not agree."

Also, I got confirmation from a Galaxy official that Landon does indeed have a no-trade clause in his contract. It's also likely that Landon isn't the only one in MLS with such a stipulation.


Anonymous said...

Khano Smith, not Avery John. Eesh.

Edward said...

Lighten up, we all know who it is, no need to get your panties up in a bunch. Eesh.

Nice read A.C.

diane said...

A.C., do you think that the teams that don't have grandfathered stars should have gotten something else out of the decision -- maybe an additional allotment -- for the sake of parity?

I was hoping they would just have raised the salary cap enough to make a decision that only applied to three teams unnecessary. That's the part that looks like the slippery slope the league says it has been trying to avoid.

Josh said...

I am a Dallas fan, so this effects our team too. I still think it's a bad decision. Johnson could leave the league, Ruiz is being renegoiated, so the only clear cut person this benefits is Donovan. I don't think LA should be forced to trade him, but I do think that the amount his salary should count against the cap should be altered. I agree teams that brought in better players shouldnt be punished, but they also dont deserve special accomodations for having these players. Let them stay on the teams, but at least make the legit as far as the salary cap is concerned. Oh well...such is life in a single entity league where rules are made on the fly...its the beauty of MLS no?

Neutral Fan said...

I speculate that that the league had no choice. You cannot change work place rules at void contracts that are written before a rule change.


A.C. said...

Yeah, yeah, Khano Smith. Right. I am not thinking about the league these days.

tsingletonvt said...

When Landon's contract was originally written was it an exception to existing salary cap rules? (yes) That is, at the time Landon's contract was originally written could all teams sign players above the cap? (not sure) If so, then extending the grandfather clause is fine, else it seems like repeated preferential treatment.

What will happen if (when?) LA acquires a second DP slot through trade and signs another high price player?

LA was given a year to avoid this situation and failed to do so. What if other teams did not acquire a DP last year because they knew teams with grandfathered players would have to give up a lot to trade for a DP slot OR risk losing a grandfathered player? This probably did not happen, but could have been a strategy.

MLS and Landon should have just followed the rules as if they apply to everybody. Instead they followed the previously established precedent of changing the rules to benefit themselves at the cost of integrity, fair play, and leadership.

If you are a ref and see that the league caters to Landon and other stars when making the rules would you be more apt to cater to them during a game? Maybe call things differently for the stars?

L.B. said...

I think it's crap that the grandfather extension was granted. I was hoping MLS had moved past the days when they changed the rules as they went along but I guess I was wrong.

Hopefully the debate about the grandfather thing went down like this:

Galaxy: We brought Beckham! Give us an extension.

League: Fine. But if you don't get your shit together next year, don't come crying back to us.

A.C. said...

When Landon signed his contract, all teams could have a player count only 300,000 against the salary cap. That's how Chivas USA was able to sign Paco Palencia for over a million.
Palencia would have been grandfathered along with Ruiz, Johnson and Donovan, if he had stayed in MLS, but he didn't.

tsingletonvt said...

Thanks for the update. I am not trying to be argumentative as I appreciate this blog and your work, but I am not sure I agree with your view of the financial reality of the MLS in 2005. The way you expressed finances at the time makes it sound like the original Designated Player rule was in effect in 2005 for every team. Maybe it was if a team owner was willing to press for it. My team's owner (Revs - Kraft) certainly would not push for it. At the time it certainly seemed like favoritism to me as I didn't realize this was available to all teams.

I looked around the net and found a Grant Wahl article from 2005 that discuss "some teams being more equal than others". I think it ws true in 2005, is true in 2007, and probably will be true for the next 5 to 10 years unfortunately.

tsingletonvt said...

Fixed the link:

A.C. said...

I used to call the old rule a wanna-be DP - because it worked in much the same way. The big difference is that the unlike the new DP rule, the entire league ownership voted on approval of the contract and also paid the salary of the player. The big difference with actual DP players is that the owners are free to pick players without league approval and also, they pay the entire extra salary cost themselves, instead of out of the league kitty.