Rule muddles Wittman's status : MSL requires all to be under contract

October 17, 1990|By Bill Free

The Tim Wittman injury saga continues.

Just when Baltimore Blast owner Ed Hale and coach Kenny Cooper thought they had everything figured out by saving a spot on the 18-man roster for Wittman, a Major Soccer League rule stops them.

The MSL rule reads: "Beginning on the first day of the regular season to the last day of the playoffs, each club must have 18 pro players under contract."

The first day of the regular season for the Blast is Saturday, and the team must submit a roster with 18 pro players by Friday.

Submitting a roster of 17 players with Wittman in the wings won't work, MSL deputy director of operations Jim Baker said yesterday.

So Hale said last night that he has asked MSL commissioner Earl Foreman to make a special ruling to allow the Blast to carry 17 players until Wittman is healthy.

Hale said: "I'm asking the commissioner for a ruling that will save a spot for Timmy. We need a strong veteran like Timmy to go along with our younger players."

Blast general manager John Borozzi said yesterday that Hale is pleading to Foreman on the basis that Wittman "is a 10-year veteran, is a hometown player and the timing of Timmy's back problems are very unusual."

Cooper said: "This is a first for the league. There's never been a situation like this where the timing has been all wrong for a player."

The problem is that Wittman is not under contract now, and, technically, he is not a pro player, because he isn't being paid after he failed two team physicals because of a degenerative disk.

Hale and Cooper had hoped to turn in a roster of 17 players Friday and then add Wittman to the roster when he passes the physical and is ready to play.

Baker has told Baltimore it can put Wittman on the roster Friday and disable him right away if it wants to do so.

That would mean Wittman would start getting paid under his contract Friday.

Hale and Borozzi said yesterday that there is too much risk for the team's salary cap of $630,000 in putting Wittman on the disabled list.

Borozzi said: "If the worst-case scenario happened and Tim doesn't come back and play after we disable him, we would have to pay him for the entire season."

Hale said: "Timmy's one of our highest-salaried players [approximately $52,000], and if we paid his salary and he didn't play, there's no way under the cap we could go out and get another player. This whole thing is not a matter of us not wanting to pay Timmy. Messing up the salary cap is what's at stake, and I've said before that we won't cheat on the cap."

Hale said he and Wittman want the same thing now.

"Timmy wants to play and get paid, and I want him to play and get paid," Hale said. "It's that simple."

Wittman said: "I want to go by the rules, and I know Ed Hale does, too. This whole thing is unbelievable. In my mind, I have no doubt that I can pass the physical and play for the Baltimore

Blast this year. I might even be able to pass the physical by the deadline Friday, but I would still take another week of therapy."

Foreman, reached at his Bethesda home last night, said: "I don't have enough information on the situation right now to comment."

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