So a number of players and thus a number of blogs have picked up on an article written on soccer365.com recently, the name of that article/post was "Worse than Wal-Mart" In the article the author tries to portray the situation of KC Wizards keeper and all around good guy Kevin Hartman and how player movement is treated with a fictional situation at Wal-Mart. First I find great humor in this, the author chose Wal-Mart because of their reputation with many about being this horrible employer who are evil in every aspect. He doesn't deny it, in fact he fully admits it and then weaves a fictional tale about it.
I think from the very start you can tell that the author is clearly in the camp of the players and at the end of last week a number of articles were written with what I would call "controlled content" provided by someone to make the position of the players look like the one fans should rally behind. Heck I found this article because RSL's Chris Wingert posted it on facebook:
and while I respect that the players have a right to voice their opinions, it was funny how so many of them at the end of the week started talking again after weeks of silence.
So off to the article I went, and it starts with this paragraph: "Until very recently, one would hardly have expected Kevin Hartman to serve as the poster boy for pretty much everything that is wrong with how Major League Soccer treats its players. Yet that is exactly what Hartman has become."
I am not sure if the author really meant that when you consider that Kevin Hartman has made over $450,000 in the last 3 years. Not something that 95% of Walmart players would be able to relate to, or something the vast majority of MLS players would be able to related to.
More after the jump:
The author goes on for 5 paragraphs before he mentions what is the real issue in KC, the fact that Hartman is 35 years old and while they are right that he holds a number of records in MLS, the reality is that KC won 8 matches last year and perhaps a new coach wants to go in a new direction and part of that might not be keeping one of the top paid keepers in the league. Heck the team left him unprotected last fall in the expansion draft and one has to believe they either want him to sign for a lower salary or would be willing to move him if another team wanted him.
The author is correct that the Wizards would still own the rights to Hartman even if they didn't resign him, as far as if he stayed in MLS. Hartman could chose to try his luck overseas, but an 35 year old keeper probably isn't on the list of things most overseas teams are looking for, he could try to get a job with a 2nd division team but I don't expect many teams to be willing to pick up his current salary. The harsh reality is that no team has made an offer for him, in fact it seems that few teams are looking to change their keepers this off season, which sucks for Hartman but does that make the league the bad guy?
So to make the league look bad, which is clearly the intent of the author, they make up some situations about an employee of Wal-Mart who might want to move from one city to another. Nice stories but far from realistic, the first example of a worker from New York who wants to move to Dallas but continue working for the company is great and he is right the Dallas store wouldn't have to pay compensation to the other store. Of course what if the worker wanted to go but the store in Dallas had no openings and no desire to add this employee to their staff? Would the store be forced to take him, of course not. If the employee was one with a unique set of skills that demanded one of the top salaries in the store, it would actually be very likely that such a move would require permission of their corporate HQ, and they could very easily say no. Sorry but this example has very little if anything in common with the situation that Hartman finds himself in.
The next example is what if the employee quit and then moved to a new city and decided they wanted to go back to work for Wal-Mart in the new city, the new store wouldn't need permission from the old store or WalMart HQ before hiring the person. Correct in part but wrong in part as well, they wouldn't need permission but they would contact the other store to get additional information, but for a store manager, or other high paying position it is very likely that the hire would have to be approved by their HQ.
The author ends with a statement that he must believe to be true, "perhaps MLS brass would do well to ask themselves if treating their most important employees worse than Wal-Mart is conducive to healthy labor relations, not to mention a positive public image."
I think it is funny, actually it is sad that this article was ever written about Kevin Hartman. Maybe if you had written it about Stuart Holden who was grossly underpaid before leaving the league, but if you are trying to convince to feel bad for Kevin Hartman and to think that the league and KC are bad people for not wanting to keep a player whose skill level is on the decline for the cost of over $165,000 a year, you have failed.
If you are trying to make fans feel some level of compassion for the many legit complaints that players have, you have failed by using a highly paid player who despite being a hard worker and holder of a lot of MLS records, fails the basic "what have you done for me lately" test.
If you are trying to say that a coach/GM/President of a team shouldn't be allowed to terminate a player at the end of their contract, well I would say welcome to the real world. I don't have a guaranteed contract and neither do the vast majority of MLS fans, nobody is saying Kevin Hartman can't continue to play. A lot of teams are simply saying they don't want him and his very large salary. The thought that you are trying to put out there that KC is refusing to take offers for him, is without proof and the thought that somehow Kevin Hartman deserves to be signed by someone is incredibly arrogant. Maybe you should be looking at why nobody wants Kevin Hartman, or maybe you are right and he should simply move on to Wal-Mart, or some other company out there. Good luck finding someone to pay him almost $200,000 a year to play soccer once or twice a week.
I have over the past few weeks looked at a number of real issues with the league, but I continue to think that "Free Agency" is the least likely issue to be dealt with as long as the league continues to be the owner of player contracts. I would never try to make a case for the league being the good guy in every situation, but I would suggest that the players making over $150,000 a year stop bitching and moaning about things. I have a lot more compassion for the many players making under $40,000 a year. I have a lot more compassion for the players who have gone out and busted their butts for years just trying to make it to be a starter for a team, for many it has meant giving up things and enduring hardships, I have much less compassion for a guy at the end of his career trying to cash in a few more years to pad his bank accounts.
I have made it clear that in this next CBA should raise the minimum and the maximum a player can make, I think a number of quality of life issues should be addressed, but I have also said that until some league structure things change that guaranteed contracts and free agency are not things this very young and still very unprofitable league can afford to do.
OFF MY SOPABOX