Friday, June 24, 2011

MoneyHoney, Part 2: The Battle of Attrition

I've heard fans of struggling teams in Major League Soccer accuse or excuse team play on thriftiness. I've heard Crew fans toss that out this year more then a few times. And rightly so. The team shed many top players with top salaries last year. But were the decisions the team made actually thrifty ones?

All of the teams in MLS are asking the same question. Money questions in this league or any league are always going to be asked. An injury to a Designated Player here, a breakout league minimum salary rookie there. It's a difficult balance. But it doesn't have to be. Not for a league like Major League Soccer anyway.

Salaries in the MLS are not out of control as they might be in the NFL or NBA. Swing and miss on a player and the harm done isn't as devastating. For the Crew the lightning rod example is Andres Mendoza. His DP guaranteed salary is near $600k. That's a hefty sum for a team in the MLS like the Crew. I had to ask myself... Is any player in the league worth this much?

The answer to that question is, No.

In fact, there isn't a player in the league worth more then $210,000. At least not based on performance.

It can be the Castrol Player Rank, PowerStats101 or even my own player rank. It doesn't matter. No player is worth, based on performance, anywhere near what Mendoza makes. Players like him make what they do because that salary is what it takes to get a player like him to play in a town like Columbus. Same goes for a player like Henry. He has been magnificent this year. Best offensive player in the league by a long shot. But in no way is he worth the 5.6 million to get him to play in NY. That's more then some teams as a whole. Good for the league, yes. Watching Henry play against MLS talent is a thing to behold and should be appreciated. It's not in his individual talent that winners are made though. Pay all you want to Henry... You still have a Sutton in goal. It's balance that teams need.

It's not easy. For a lot of teams it is a battle against attrition. Case in point could be the Columbus Crew. The team made some bold decisions this year. Picking up rookies in the draft and paying the modest salaries. Balchan is a perfect example. He is paid a modest salary of 59k. But he has logged 1255 minutes this year (1350 being the max possible). Columbus is 3rd in the East, doing well. My estimated value on him is near $160k. Well over double what he makes now. Thrifty to a T. The Crew have a few other examples like Balchan. Heinemann, even though he hasn't scored, is one. His league minimum wage presence on the pitch for a winning team is enough. He has opened up things for Mendoza. Don't believe me? Check the Chivas game and the one against Houston. The only two times the Crew has had more then 1 goal during the run of play this season. James and Burns are other good examples of getting the most out of players.

Columbus isn't the best example of thriftiness though. San Jose and Dallas are the best at it this year. The only two teams on the positive side in terms of getting the most out of under paid players based on performance. Columbus clocks in around 10th. A lot of that due to our controversial friend, Mendoza. But to be fair, Dilly Duka has a lot to do with it as well. Injuries have kept this talented player off the pitch.

So how do all the teams stack up this year in terms of player performance and salary? Here is the list.

+239,911.25 : San Jose
+217,235.15 : FC Dallas
-026,259.45 : Chivas USA
-064,181.55 : Seattle
-126,720.58 : Portland
-129,487.31 : Chicago
-168,033.66 : Los Angeles
-177,943.76 : Colorado
-280,203.82 : Philadelphia
-323,530.49 : Columbus
-406,675.12 : Real Salt Lake
-497,496.95 : Toronto FC
-513,671.71 : Vancouver
-527,199.11 : New York
-576,779.20 : Houston
-593,696.51 : D.C.
-677,921.59 : Sporting KC
-727,345.60 : New England

I capped the DP's to what their salary counts towards the team cap. There are hundreds of other things to take into consideration when valuing player worth. That's just a list showing how teams are doing in terms of paying players based on what they are doing on the field only.

The biggest take away from this is that team management across the board are paying the wrong players too much. It is indeed a battle of attrition. Maybe the best players will get taken by European leagues. But it doesn't make sense to pay a lot of these players what they are making. Reward players like Balchan. Keep them in Columbus. Let deeper pockets take the others.

Tons of opportunity for informed teams to succeed here.

Nobody said it was easy. It wasn't easy for the Crew to cut loose some popular players. But in the end has it hurt the team and its standing? Difficult questions to answer right now. But so far, not too bad.

No comments: