Using Archer’s clock, we’re under 1-1/2 days until the final CBA deadline arrives and I’ve pretty much given up hope of an agreement coming before the deadline. They’ve stopped talking and when they have talked recently, it’s ended in a “nasty” manner. Without actually knowing what the latest offers are from each side, I don’t feel like there’s much of a point speculating over the content of the offers.
This whole labor impasse along with my own club’s inability to secure its own long-term stadium solution has led me to really question things. But while United’s stadium follies have merely left me in a bad mood, the evolution of single-entity from a “drug” needed for the league to survive into a “drug” that some owners are addicted to is leaving me increasingly depressed about the future of the league.
The more and more that I read about the system, the more that I am coming to the conclusion that for some owners, single-entity has become about more than cost-control or maintaining a sense of parity. I think for some owners, single-entity has become a crutch they can use to prevent the players or the marketplace from ever punishing their clubs for underinvestment or incompetence. These owners want to spend the bare minimum and still be able to “contend” through keeping opponents chained to the mushy median while also preventing their players from rewarding the teams that spend more or that simply do a better job by leaving at the end of their contracts. That is unacceptable to me. Owners can only be protected from their own cheapness or incompetence for so long.
If it emerges that this seemingly militant stance on out-of-contract players is being led by a group of very rich, yet very unambitious owners (this means guys like Kroenke, Kraft, and Hunt) who want to ensure that they have to do the least amount of work and investment possible to put a competitive team on the field, I will be infuriated. A league whose central organizational tenets are based on protecting mediocrity and cheapness isn’t major league in any way, shape, or fashion and it isn’t a league I am going to bother supporting. It’s one thing to protect owners from spending too much in the form of a salary cap, it’s another to ensure that cheap owners can never face the basic market reactions that come with excessive thrift (Colorado, Dallas, NE) or excessive stupidity (NY, LA, DC). If it emerges that certain small-investment clubs are pushing hardest to maintain an unacceptable status quo with regards to player movement, then yes, I am probably done with the league in its current form.
If a league’s going to grow, it has to be allowed to grow, whether a Hunt family member likes it or not. There are ambitious owners in places like Seattle, NY, LA, Toronto and DC (I hope) that want to increase the investment they make on the players in this league. If this labor deal is being held up by a small group of owners unwilling to commit to having their clubs compete rather than just tag along, then this isn’t a sporting endeavor I want to be a part of. No business or effort of any kind can succeed if it’s basing critical decisions on the whims of its least competent and least ambitious owners.
So, after all that, does this make me one of the anti-MLS, anti-single entity people that I have criticized so much? No, it hasn’t. I still support single entity as a concept, but I also support the very slow evolution of the league away from some of the system’s restrictions. One of these restrictions is the currently onerous set of rules that prevent players from moving within MLS after a contract expires. Those rules are dumb, and serve little purpose other than to protect the cheaper owners from being punished by the marketplace. Does that mean the players must be granted full free agency immediately after their first contract expires? No. But if the owners are refusing to propose even an incremental solution to out-of-contract players than I want no part of supporting them or their league.