Late Friday afternoon the Major League Soccer Players Union released the MLS 2009 SALARY INFORMATION LIST, a yearly ritual which is as eagerly anticipated by us fans as Superdraft day or Edson Buddle Hat Trick Day or any other annual event on the MLS calendar.
(Yes, I know that EBHTD came more than once last year, a circumstance which, if I'm not mistaken, is specifically mentioned in Revelations as a sign of the Apocalypse. And while David Beckham isn't normally listed as one of the Four Horsemen, there's a persistent rumor that Posh had a threeway with Famine and Pestilence a while back, which explains a lot I think. But I digress.)
Anyway, at the top of the pay scale is of course the aforementioned Mr. Spice, but at this point his pay packet is going to end up a bit light on the year and so it's impossible to take the given number - which was pretty close to fiction to begin with - anything like seriously, so we'll set that one aside.
So assuming that Goldenballs doesn't qualify, the top five paychecks in the league go to Blanco ($2.9 million), Angel ($1.79 million), Gimpy the Swede ($1.31 million), Donovan ($900k) and Barros-Schelotto ($775k).
One point that seems to need repeating every year: the "guaranteed salary" number is not the same as the "salary budget" (AKA "The Cap") amount. The "guaranteed salary" includes any signing bonus (but not performance bonuses) annualized over the life of the contract. As a result, you can't come up with an exact salary cap amount for a team simply by adding up the listed base salaries.
(Which is how a team like Toronto seemingly has 20 guys making a quarter of a million dollars each; signing bonuses are usually paid out of allocation money, which Mo has accumulated in a huge underground swimming pool where, like Scrooge McDuck, he sneaks down and does a few laps every morning).
It's wonderful that the MLSPU - I've been told by smart people that, in fact, the players association doesn't technically qualify as a "union" but I don't understand the argument beyond the fact that it seems to be about certain legal standing which they don't have because of the rulings of the judge in the lawsuit over single entity, but I'm way over my head here so I'm not sure why I would want to mention it and draw a bunch of crap from labor law experts (I swear, you can bring up almost any topic from migratory Antarctic waterfowl to nanotechnology and there are 18 World Class Experts on BigSoccer poised to post four paragraphs on what a clueless dolt you are) except that I'm a glutton for punishment and where the hell was I; oh yes, the salary list - posts this list since it gives a lot of MLS fans and MLS haters alike the opportunity to chortle over the meagerness of the salaries compared to other sports.
(Congratulations to you for making it through that paragraph without a band of native guides and a month's provisions. I don't know how you do it sometimes.)
Since this list is always the grist for 10,000 posts a year, allow me to jump in ahead of the heaping piles of scorn and say: "It ain't that bad".
I mean, what the hell else is a guy like Frankie Hejduk going to do to make $175,000 a year? Last I heard, smoking dope and surfing all day wasn't terribly lucrative. Same with the rest of these guys.
Fact is, to me at least, most of these guys are making a reasonably decent living.
I have always found it odd that everyone moans and groans about how airheaded clowns like Manny Ramirez make truly ludicrous amounts of money for hitting a baseball or marginally retarded freaks like Stephan Marbury make $27 million a year for doing whatever it is he does. Is there a barroom in America where right this very moment someone isn't calling professional athletes "pampered, overpaid prima donnas"?
So along comes MLS, where the players make a decent living - and many of them make a very decent living - and everyone complains that it's not enough. Of course there are inequities, particularly at the bottom of the scale, where a few solid contributors make $40k or something, but that tends to even out in the end. Half the businesses in America have people making under 50 grand who do 80% of the work. Who's complaining about that?
Of course these salaries are pretty paltry when compared with top professional athletes in other sports, or with football players in Europe, but is that really the point? (And of course, with the US Government now poised to swoop in and take pretty much everything you make over $250,000 a year on the theory that it's not fair that some people make so much money, maybe players will start begging teams NOT to give them raises. Strange times indeed,)
Bottom line, let's see a show of hands: how many of you would quit whatever it is you do for a living in return for a few years playing in MLS for 90 grand per?
Whether that represents a pay raise for you or a pay cut, who cares? You won't go hungry unless you're Chuck Blazer.
Anyone with their hand down is excused. Go register at "BigWeenie.com" or whatever and leave us alone.
An awful lot of the discussion seems to come down to embarrassment: fans of other American sports laugh at soccer because our guys aren't as obscenely overpaid as theirs are.
And that's really not much of an argument.