The Paul Wright case became a little more complex last night for the Baltimore Blast.
Wright still was the property of the Blast and was expected to fly to Baltimore today, the result of arbitrator George Nicolau's ruling Wednesday that the team must issue Wright a ticket to Baltimore if he was not traded.
However, it appears that Blast owner Ed Hale and coach Kenny Cooper don't want Wright on the 16-man roster.
Cooper said yesterday that he had virtually decided not to cut two players to make room for Wright and his $60,000 salary.
"We talked about adding Paul to our squad," said Cooper. "But to spend all that time putting the team together and then walk into the locker room and cut two players, just isn't right. I know all the stuff about this being a big business, but sometimes you have to draw the line."
The Blast has been trying for eight days to trade Wright to the San Diego Sockers for cash or some draft choices, but those talks have not brought results yet.
Sockers general manager Randy Bernstein said last night that the two teams couldn't agree on how much money or which draft choices Baltimore should be given for Wright. Bernstein said he and the Blast would resume talks this morning.
"My understanding is that Paul is still scheduled to go to Baltimore tomorrow [today]," said Bernstein. "I know he's not going to Wichita [where the Blast meets the Wings tonight] because it's too soon for him to play. I know Paul Wright is not ready to play."
But Bernstein indicated last night that there was a good chance Wright never would play in Baltimore this season and would wind up in a Sockers uniform.
Wright was claimed by Baltimore on waivers from San Diego late in June, and his contract began with the Blast on July 1.
But the Blast said it could not pay him until he reported to Baltimore for a physical and made appearances as other players on the team were required to do.
Wright said his San Diego contract didn't require him to make appearances in the off-season and that he didn't want to leave his mother, who was ill in San Diego.
When Wright didn't receive his pay for July and August, he refused to report to training camp Sept. 17 and was placed on the suspended list without pay. Cooper then put his 16-man roster together and didn't save a spot or money under the team salary cap of $550,000 for Wright.
Wright filed a grievance against the Blast, and Nicolau ruled Wednesday that the Blast must pay Wright $12,500 in back salary from July 1 to Sept. 15.
Nicolau also ruled that Wright was not a free agent and was still the property of the Blast.
San Diego coach Ron Newman said last night from Dallas, where his Sockers opened the season against the Sidekicks, that Nicolau's ruling weakens Baltimore's negotiating position with the Sockers.
"They can't be in a good position to negotiate now," said Newman. "They haven't saved any money under their salary cap for Paul, and we have. I took a chance by saving a spot for Paul and could have had egg on my face, but now it looks as if it will work out."
Newman said Baltimore, backed into a corner with Wright, soon would agree to the compensation in money and draft choices that San Diego is offering for Wright.
Newman said Tuesday night that Baltimore "wanted a lot of money and my house" for Wright.
That prompted Cooper to say yesterday, "What Ron Newman forgot to say is that he lives in a mobile home and we don't want it."
To which Newman responded last night: "When you work in the Major Soccer League, you better live in a mobile home and keep the wheels under the furniture at all times."
Opponent: Wichita Wings
Site: Kansas Coliseum, Wichita, 8:35
Radio: WCAO (600 AM)
Outlook: This is the Wings' opener. They finished last season in a third-place tie in the Eastern Division with Baltimore (21-31) and went to the playoffs because they had won the season series, 5-3. The Wings will have the same look as last season, with M Chico Borja, F Dale Ervine and F David Byrne doing most of the scoring. Baltimore lost its opener, 7-3, at home to Dallas. Blast M Rod Castro (sprained medial collateral ligament in left knee) will miss tonight's game. Blast rookie M Kevin Sloan, on loan from the Maryland Bays, is expected to play.