Baltimore Blast midfielder Tim Wittman said yesterday that the team has discussed the possibility of trading him before the start of next season.
"I've been on the telephone talking [with Blast officials] about this thing," said Wittman, a 10-year Blast veteran. "There's been talk that Tim Wittman is going somewhere else. I know the reasons don't have anything to do with soccer. If I've played poorly, I'd like to know about it."
Wittman said he had a run-in with Blast owner Ed Hale during a team meeting at Hale's office in March, but Wittman wouldn't say that the confrontation was the reason he might be traded.
The team meeting, attended by Hale, the players, head coach Kenny Cooper, assistant Jim Pollihan, general manager John Borozzi and trainer Marty McGinty, was called in an attempt to find solutions to the Blast's problems as the team faded to the bottom of the MSL Eastern Division standings.
Hale said yesterday that he would not hold the disagreement with Wittman against him.
"I'm going to keep him if he can help the team," said Hale, who often expressed dissatisfaction last season over Wittman's missing 19 games with numerous injuries. "I'm not ruling him out as a possible player for the team."
No one at the meeting would comment on the record about the specifics of the Hale-Wittman feud, but two people who were at the meeting said Wittman stormed out, cursing at Hale in response to Hale's criticism that Wittman was thinking too much about scoring points.
Under the right-of-first-refusal agreement with the MSL Players Association, the Blast has until tomorrow to offer Wittman a contract for the 1991-92 season. If the Blast does not offer Wittman a contract, he becomes a free agent and can sign with any team. Borozzi would not comment yesterday on whether the team will offer Wittman a contract.
Wittman could be traded even if Baltimore signs him. Also, there will an expansion draft in the next few weeks to stock the newest member of the league, the Pittsburgh Spirit. But it is doubtful whether the Blast would leave Wittman unprotected and lose him without getting a player of his caliber in return.
Wittman (198 goals, 106 assists for 304 points) needs 25 points to surpass Stan Stamenkovic (130 goals, 199 assists for 329 points) as the Blast's all-time leading scorer. He has played in more games (365) and seasons (10) than any other Blast player, has been named to the Eastern Division All-Star team three times and was voted to the Blast's All-Decade team last year by the fans.
However, numerous knee, ankle and back injuries during the past two seasons prompted Hale to say recently, "I just wish Timmy Wittman could play one full season for me."
Wittman, who grew up near Herring Run Park in Northeast Baltimore, graduated from Calvert Hall and began playing for the Blast when he was 18, said yesterday: "Injuries are a part of the game. I love Baltimore and I love the fans. This is where I grew up and where I want my career to end. I have everything to play for here. I have my family, my relatives and my business here.
"I hope things can be worked out. I want to do everything upfront. They can pay me for what I'm worth. Just keep me and give me a chance in preseason. That's all I ask every year. If I don't pass the physical, they can cut me."
Wittman underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Monday to repair cartilage damage.
It was the second time in four months that arthroscopic surgery had been performed on the left knee and the fifth time Wittman had had knee surgery (four arthroscopic operations and one major knee operation in 1982) in his career.