Oh, I guess the Quakes really were going to bring in a Designated Player sooner rather than later.
I'm guessing Lew Wolff was watching Mexico in the World Cup, hit John Doyle on speed dial, shouted "Get me this Giovani guy!", then hung up.
I sort of made light of the idea that a DP would be out of contract, but I should have realized that most MLS Designated Players are exactly that. On the other hand, it wasn't at all out of the question that a DP would take literally years to sign. Beckham, Blanco, Henry and Marquez took years of wooing - a more enlightened American sports league would call such dedicated legwork "tampering," but when it comes to promoting MLS, we all agree the ends justify the means, right?
And then there's the kind of Designated Player that is signed simply because what MLS calls Designated Player status, the rest of the world knows as A Proper Wage.
We can draw a pretty sharp distinction between Designated Players bought for marketing, and Designated Players bought for market value. Ideally, the marketing category would be overpaid for on-field performance, but pay for themselves many times over at the gate. The market value guys would be hard-working, effective guys who might not even sell as many tickets as Superdraft picks, but who make their teams into winners and contenders.
The market value DP is pretty much an innovation from this season. The Sounders now have two Designated Players who are a little over half as expensive as the guy they shipped to Chicago. I don't know how many fans bought season tickets just to see Mista or Boskovic, but I'll bet it was in the high single digits.
You have to think Geovanni was signed for his theoretical ability to contribute. While it's well known that San Jose has the highest concentration of Hull expatriates in the entire Western Hemisphere,* I don't think they're going to add another deck or two to Buck Shaw for the occasion.
The theory behind those guys is that they will help the on-field product, and that winning will sell tickets. Good luck with that - especially to you DC United. Usually I'd point and laugh, but I realize DCU is trying to build a stadium and stay in Washington. DC should just realize it's not a baseball town already.
Then there's what we think of when we think of Designated Players - the guys who are supposed to fill stadiums just by shining the light of their countenances on our little backwater. Actual ability is optional, although it would be nice. Most Designated Players fall into this category - Chicago signing Nery Castillo to fill their Blanco-shaped hole bunny-hops to mind. There's a reason they call him Freddy Adunibrow.
Well, they should.
And again, this is what people forget when they talk about Designated Players. The official rule came about for Beckham in 2007, but the concept of a player being paid off the salary cap all but predated the league itself. Jorge Campos was subsidized by Nike, the way Puma would subsidize Marta in WPS a decade later. I don't know the ins and outs of Carlos Valderrama's contract, but Doug Logan sure worked hard to keep him in the league when a coach or two wanted him off their particular team. Michael Lewis, then of Sports Illustrated, was so impressed with the soon-to-be-ex-commissioner's bold maneuver that he compared Logan to a famous leader who helped win World War II.
And then there were Carlos Hermosillo, Luis Hernandez, Lothar Matthaeus - the Logan Era's lack of transparency shouldn't lead people to conclude that these players were being paid anything less than what they could command on the free market. For over a decade, single entity has been decried as Communism, but if it has been, it's been much more Hu Jintao than Mao Tse-tung.
Oh, and then there was Freddy Adu. If he wasn't getting more than his stated salary in 2004, well, he should have. After all, he helped DC United win a championship! No, just kidding, it was because his endorsement power was all out of proportion to any other player in the league at the time.
So I tend to roll my eyes at the reactions to the spate of big name signings. It's not that Red Bull is now spending five million bucks on a player, it's that the franchise is finally admitting it. The past, unlike Generalissimo Franco, is still not dead.
*absolute total lie