A year ago, Dale Mitchell was billed as the Blast's biggest signing since 1983, when Stan "The Magician" Stamenkovic brought his championship act to Baltimore. At least one preseason preview called Mitchell "Out of this world."
A year later, the All-Star forward still resembles "The Magician," but only because he has suddenly vanished from the Blast picture.
The Blast announced yesterday that not only wasn't it retaining goalkeeper Scott Manning, as was reported in The Evening Sun Monday, but it also was releasing Mitchell, the fourth-leading scorer in MSL history.
According to Blast general manager John Borozzi, the decision was a monetary one.
"Dale has an unusual contract that we picked up from Kansas City [in a trade for former captain Carl Valentine]," Borozzi told The Sun. "It commences on July 1, and we were paying him $72,000 when all the time we knew that for the league to go on, the maximum individual salary would be $60,000. Also, there is LTC still a remote possibility that all players in the league could be free agents [when the collective bargaining agreement between players and owners is finalized]."
As for Manning, who will not be retained after Monday's signing of former Tacoma goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro, his agent said the four-time All-Star will sit tight until the shaky status of the MSL is firmed up.
"There's no need to talk to other teams when we don't know for sure that there is even going to be a season," said Ron Blavatt, Manning's agent. "Scott is under contract until the end of August and I think they are trying to be as fair as they can about giving him a chance to play elsewhere. It's just so difficult with the league going through this turmoil the past few weeks."
MSL commissioner Earl Foreman will hold a conference call among league owners this coming Monday, at which time the fate of the Dallas franchise -- and of the league itself -- will be decided.