Something stinks in the Major Soccer League when one team can follow all the rules and still wind up the loser.
Blast coach Kenny Cooper refused to make room on his roster for Paul Wright this week, after an arbitrator ruled he was Blast property, but that the Blast had to pay him $12,000 for time he did not work for the team in July and August.
The reason for the Blast's stance, Cooper said, was that someone had to be made an example. Someone had to stand up and make it known a contract is a contract, and should be honored.
So the Blast worked a deal to send Wright back to San Diego.
The sad part is, that's exactly what Wright -- who did not follow league rules and report to the Blast within four days of being picked up off waivers last summer -- wanted.
"When we asked him to come take the physical, he laughed," said Blast vice president Drew Forrester. "He said, 'Hey, come on, they tap me on the elbow, they tap me on the knee, they grab me and say cough. There's a thousand black guys in Baltimore, get one of them to take the physical for me.' And we told the arbitrator that."
The sad part is, San Diego, the Blast's longtime archrival, who put Wright on waivers because it didn't want to get stuck with his salary during ownership changes, but who paid him for working their camps in July and August while he refused to report here, gets what it wants, the fastest player in the MSL.
The sad part is, the Blast, which did everything right (no small accomplishment in the MSL), winds up having to give up a quality player for a future draft choice, whose value remains a mystery.
Some argue the Blast should have made room for Wright, that this is pro sports, not high school or college. But sometimes winning at any price is not worth it.
The Blast kept a spot open until Sept. 16, one day after training camp opened. On that day, management was finally convinced Wright would not come to Baltimore -- or that if he did, he would not give 100 percent -- and it signed Waad Hirmez, who couldn't wait to get here.
"Paul asked us twice, 'How would your owner like a $60,000 player just sitting on the bench?' " said Cooper.
It didn't need an answer.
The Blast wanted Paul Wright. It picked up his contract, all $60,000 of it. All it asked was that he report to Baltimore, take his physical and make some summer appearances.
Wright said no. He refused to honor his contract. The arbitrator may see it differently, but that's the way it is. And for doing that, Paul Wright has been rewarded.
"I guess we were the ones who got taught a lesson," said Blast owner Ed Hale. "It doesn't seem in our league that you are able to acquire a player without bad feelings or arbitration. It's ridiculous."
It is ridiculous. The MSL needs a better way of doing business. The way it is now, contracts mean nothing and non-professional behavior is not only tolerated, it is sanctioned.
* TOP OF THE GAME: Blast forward Domenic Mobilio has the early lead in the MSL's point race. A hat trick and an assist in Wichita Friday and a goal and assist last night against Tacoma makes him No. 1 with eight points.
* WITTMAN RECORD SETTER: Former Blast forward Tim Wittman scored his 200th goal Saturday, in San Diego's home opening 8-7 overtime loss to St. Louis. One of Wittman's two goals came on an assist from Wright.
* PRODUCING IN ST. LOUIS: The Storm showed the 11,896 fans who showed up for Friday's home opener that it will produce some offense: newcomers Ted Eck had a hat trick, Branko Segota a goal and an assist, Kevin Hundelt two assists and former NPSL stars Mirko Castillo and George Pastor each scored once. Meanwhile, Preki contributed one goal and two assists. But, Cleveland won the game, 8-7 in overtime.