Houses in Motion

Posted on February 27, 2012 5:55 pm

I’m fine with Kevin Payne saying Dwayne De Rosario is the most accomplished athlete in Washington right now.  I can’t name a single player on the Senators, Bullets or Racist Nicknames.  Even if Slingin’ Sammy Baugh, Walter Johnson or Elvin Hayes were still around, it’s Payne’s job to talk up his players.  You would think “buy tickets to see the reigning MLS MVP” would also have worked, but at least these days they’re talking up a player who has accomplished something in the pros.

No, what concerns me is that Kevin, when asked to back away from “no one comes close,” conceded that De Rosario might have an equal in…Baltimore.

Dwayne has credentials that nobody else in this market has. The one guy I can maybe think of – in the greater market – that perhaps you could make an argument about is Ray Lewis.

Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post reacted, even more frighteningly, with:

Kevin Payne is a very wise and astute sports executive, who has dealt with the Washington media for years and years and doesn’t say things by accident.

Let’s definitely allow for the possibility that I’m reading way too much into this, but yikes.  And yes, in some sports the Potomac and Chesapeake metropolitan areas are seen as one market.  However, Payne chose an NFL example, the one sport where oh my God Washington and Baltimore are separate markets now and forever.  Did Payne mean to try to break down the Washington-Baltimore divide at its strongest point?  Or was it a coincidence that the state of that region’s half-dozen or so teams is so tepid that the Ravens were literally the nearest example?

In fairness, the distance from Washington to Baltimore compares very very roughly with the distance from Boston to Foxboro (which is why Gillette Stadium is totally perfect for the Revolution and there are no calls to build a stadium closer to the metropolis from anyone at all anywhere) or Carson to Santa Ana (which would be such a toweringly stupid idea that only Chivas USA would even consider it.  They might as well move the team to the South Pacific and call it Chivas de Guadalcanal.  Come to think of it, the Rising Sun would work well with the existing jersey design).  So Payne might simply have been using a generally accepted frame of reference.

But hearing references to Baltimore from DC United brass, let alone Payne himself, is reminiscent of Argentine generals chatting about the Malvinas Islands.  He may be trying to lay the groundwork for a seamless transition to Baltimore…or he might simply be trying to terrify DC fans into supporting the team at the stadium and the council meeting.

Am I reading too much into this?  Probably, but Steinberg quotes local city councilman and 1990′s comedy goldmine Marion Barry blaming DC United for their stadium woes:

D.C. United has changed ownership, and the ownership there has not come forth with any proposals.

The attentive reader will note that the rest of Steinberg’s blog entry deals with the attempts to get the Racist Nicknames to return to within district limits.  This is all taking place in the ominous lack of follow-up regarding a lease extension for RFK Stadium.

DC United fans certainly deserve better – it’s not their fault that their fellow citizens fell in love with the idea of a terrible baseball team and continue to pine for a terrible football team.

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Speaking of MLS 1.0 teams who have been trying to build their own homes – congratulations to the Earthquakes and their fans.  I’ve had low hopes for Lew Wolff, to be honest, because I’ve been assuming he was more focused on the San Jose A’s (San JosA’s?) than the Quakes.  But there seems to be clear sailing ahead to groundbreaking for the International House of SanQuakes.

(I’m sorry.)

The learned Jay Hipps is taking a cautious line…as, frankly, anyone supporting the Quakes might.  When Jay talks about “periods of elated rapture mixed liberally with heartbreaking setbacks,” if anything he understates things.  It wasn’t specifically relevant to stadium building, but in 2001, the Quakes were allowed to celebrate their first MLS Cup for roughly two weeks before rumors of contraction soured the mood completely.  And while Alexi Lalas negotiating with Tony Amanpour remains a comedy highlight, the end result was amusing only to fans in southeast Texas.

I had to have a little smile about the local neighborhood association complaining that a soccer stadium would lower their quality of life – not like the airport, the railroad and the freeway.  The Galaxy went through the same thing in 2003, as some Carson residents vehemently complained that the proposed soccer stadium would lower the property value of…wait for it…a trailer park.

A strong Earthquakes is good for the league, and good for my team.  It’s a shame to have the Pacific coast lined with strong teams, with one of the biggest sports markets a huge question mark.  And while no one should really think of the Bay Area as a single sports market – San Francisco to San Jose is farther than Washington to Baltimore, Google maps tells me – any strong northern California presence is welcome.  Long live the Earthquakes – I hope they’re around to lose to the Galaxy for a hundred years or more.

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This has nothing to do with nothing, but Grant Wahl had this Jason Kreis, apparently during a press conference announcing Utah’s legalization of wine made from sour grapes:

“I’m in favor of making things more black and white,” Kreis says. “It’s a little puzzling even for me to figure out how the Galaxy is affording all these players. At some point I can only worry about so many things. But I’ve always been in favor of making all the rules more black and white and putting everybody on the same page.”

Well, a good starting point would be a list of player salaries arranged both in alphabetical order and by club.  If only such a thing existed, we could see exactly where the Galaxy stood as far as the salary cap last year.

In theory, the general public, including Coach Kreis, would know that last season the Galaxy paid Gregg Berhalter and Frankie Hejduk $96,000 each, Jovan Kirovski $84,000, Chris Birchall $144,000, and Donovan Ricketts $170,000 (base, not guaranteed).  (I’m not counting Dasan Robinson here, because I don’t know whether his retirement frees up the Galaxy’s books, or Toronto.)

The Galaxy so far have brought in (assuming they all make the roster) Andrew Boyens at $60,000, Pat Noonan at $48,000, and Kyle Nakazawa at $44,000.

Which leaves – before we’ve counted a single allocation penny – the Galaxy had at a bare minimum $438,000 to split between Buddle and Marcelo Sarvas.  Neither of whom, you will have noted are Designated Players.  So while we’ll have to wait until summer to officially learn their 2012 salaries, we can put a ceiling at $670,000 between the two of them.  Just for further perspective, the Galaxy could have offered Sarvas $200,000, and still have given Buddle a near six-figure increase over his 2010 salary.

Or, Kreis could have read this Ives Galarcep article from a couple of weeks ago.

I’m curious as to who Kreis thinks this will inspire.  He’s a coach who has won a championship with gritty, rag-tag underdogs, and I’m not.  So I’m going to assume he knows how to fire up a locker room and a fan base.  But to me, the subtext here is “We can’t compete with the Galaxy, it’s not fair.”  And it’s even worse when the response is, “Oh, yes it is.”

Maybe it’s an attempt to sandbag the Galaxy into believing their own press releases and overlooking their competition…something not entirely unheard of from LA, I suppose.  But whether it’s gamesmanship or pouting, it ill suits a franchise like Salt Lake.  The on-field product is by no means measurably worse than the Galaxy, and “The Team is the Star” is a very uplifting and positive message.  ”So what, we’ll beat ‘em anyway” is what I’d rather hear if I were a Royals fan.

Okay, so I’m a fan of the Empire, and not the Rebels, and I’m biased in favor of space stations that can destroy planets (although I wish we’d do something about our thermal exhaust ports).  But given that I still think Kreis is in a shallow pool to replace Klinsmann when that time comes, I expect to be actively supporting a team he coaches at some point down the line.  You don’t hear this sort of thing from Sigi Schmid…oh.  Well, maybe he really was joking.

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I put this all the way down here because I’m ashamed to say it, let alone link it – and I maintain that “Portlandia” looks irritating even by Saturday Night Live spin-off standards…but that chant was funny as hell, and the Timbers Army sold it beautifully.  Consider the reluctance of my approval as a token of its sincerity.  God, you guys have fun up there.

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Well, now that this post has spun out of control, let’s talk expansion really quick.  I mentioned Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA, and it’s useful to remember that historically, MLS expansion has been pretty random.  Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and Philadelphia now seem like obvious, well-planned expansions that couldn’t fail…because they were.  Historically speaking, though, MLS going from town to town anointing front-runner status as liberally as CNN election news is the norm.  San Antonio was all but named; Cleveland was literally officially announced.  New York City to Orlando to Minneapolis is exactly what you’d expect from MLS – another instance of the league following the NFL model, which pit cities and fanbases, both existing and potential, against each other at every turn.  At least MLS isn’t blackmailing existing teams into providing new sweetheart stadium deals yet, although you know they would literally kill to do so.

So the best way to look at the current expansion chatter is with bemused disinterest – tough if you live in one of the cities mentioned, but you’ll be better off.  The best thing we as MLS fans can do is OH MY GOD PLEASE YES BRING BACK THE KICKS!

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