Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why Steven Beitashour is a great signing

Steven Beitashour made all of $49,612.50 last season playing for San Jose. He is set to make a sight more than that in 2014 playing for the Whitecaps ("upwards of $200k", says MLS writer Ben Jata), and deservedly so.



Some people are questioning that amount, and in a salary cap league, all salaries should be judged on their value (though not necessarily on their replacement cost - the contract/trading system in MLS renders that difficult at best). So let's take a look at what the value of a good right back is in MLS. Or rather, in the Western Conference, because it's easier, quicker, and within my realm of knowledge.


Team
Player
Games
Minutes
G
A
Salary
CR
Marvell Wynne
28
2315
0
2
285,000.00
LA
Sean Franklin
33
2736
1
4
248,333.33
VW
YP Lee
32
2747
0
6
231,100.00
PT
Jack Jewsbury
26
2240
0
1
194,750.00
RSL
Tony Beltran
25
2230
0
1
166,800.00
FCD
Zach Loyd
25
2132
0
0
136,997.50
CHV
Mario de Luna
30
2637
1
0
120,000.00
SS
DeAndre Yedlin
31
2710
1
2
53,500.00
SJ
Beitashour
27
2426
1
3
49,612.50
-->
Notes:
  1. Salary is the guaranteed salary as published by the MLS Players Union. 
  2. I apologize for relying on goals and assists, but it's the most accessible data.
  3. Kellyn Acosta took over for Zach Loyd in Dallas, but Loyd had twice the starts on the season.
So a fairly wide range of salaries for starting right backs, but in general those are likely a higher wages than many people would guess at. Basic conclusion seems to be that a good starting right back in this league is going to cost you $150-250k, and the player acquisition mechanisms and restrictions mean you'll likely have to overpay (one way or another) to get one in the first place.


What jumps out at me when looking at that list is that the quality of fullbacks in this league is not that high. Is Beitashour one of the best right backs in MLS? Well, yes, but that's mostly because there isn't a ton of quality in the league. He's certainly very good at this level.

Beltran is the best of the group, and deserves a higher salary. Both Beltran and Beitashour are solid, very good players, nothing too spectacular, but smart, organized, athletic, etc. Franklin is a little flashier at times, but I rarely notice him when I watch LA - I wondered at his salary when I first noticed it last season, and LA was probably smart to let him go. Yedlin shows promise, and in a couple years I think he'll be the best right back in the league. Expect him to get a significant raise soon.

Lee was a joy to watch in 2012, but his drop-off in 2013 was significant. Jewsbury is not a natural right back, but is smart and effective, and knows his limitations. De Luna, we barely knew ye... Wynne has has phenomenal recovery speed, but $285k for a fullback with questionable ball skills is a really poor use of cap space. Kellyn Acosta will be one to watch in Dallas - he's just 18, and I think won the starting job from Loyd on merit.

Clearly Beitashour was being criminally underpaid. What's interesting is that apparently San Jose tried to renegotiate his salary up but he wouldn't. And now he's getting a huge pay raise. The Whitecaps will pay somewhere in that $150-200k range, and all of a sudden a ridiculous off-season doesn't look so bad.

UPDATE: If you haven't yet, go read Ben Massey's comprehensive look at Beitashour's career so far:

http://www.maple-leaf-forever.com/2014/01/29/those-steven-beitashour-statistics-in-full/

Monday, January 20, 2014

Whitecaps roster - 2014 salary cap edition


 Name                 
Salary counts
2013 cap hit
2014 cap hit
Signed
Sam Adekugbe
no
51,500.00
51,500.00
Bryce Alderson
no
80,000.00
80,000.00
Caleb Clarke
no
46,500.00
46,500.00
Russell Teibert
no
65,600.00
65,600.00
Omar Salgado
no
136,868.67
136,868.67
Kekuta Manneh
no
84,500.00
84,500.00
Jay DeMerit
yes
375,000.00
325,000.00
Jordan Harvey
yes
112,500.00
112,500.00
Eric Hurtado
yes
81,500.00
81,500.00
Gershon Koffie
yes
176,000.00
176,000.00
Matt Watson
yes
79,251.98
79,251.98
Aminu Abdallah
yes
46,500.00
46,500.00
Johnny Leveron
yes
71,187.50
71,187.50
Darren Mattocks
yes
212,000.00
212,000.00
Carlyle Mitchell
yes
46,500.00
60,000.00
Andy O'Brien
yes
230,012.04
230,012.04
David Ousted
yes
166,156.25
200,000.00
Kenny Miller
yes
387,000.00
195,000.00
Nigel Reo-Coker
yes
237,362.50
387,000.00
Total
2,175,951.52
Unsigned
Creative mid
yes
387,000.00
Starting RB
yes
150,000.00
Back-up RB
yes
60,000.00
Back-up GK
yes
70,000.00
Mehdi Ballouchy
yes
152,006.00
80,000.00
Andre Lewis
yes
80,000.00
Mamadou Diouf
yes
80,000.00
Total
907,000.00
Grand total
3,082,951.52
Christian Dean
no
100,000.00
Marco Carducci
no
35,000.00
Ben Fisk
no
60,000.00
Marco Bustos
no
46,500.00
Kianz Froese
no
46,500.00
Jackson Farmer
no
70,000.00


Here are my estimates for the Whitecaps' salary cap situation, as it stands on January 20. For updates, check out new posts on Two Fat Bastards.
  1. The MLS salary cap for 2014 will be somewhere close to $3.097 million. 
  2. If I haven't heard or thought differently, I have carried 2013 salaries over to 2014. There are some exceptions. I am considering building in a 2-5% raise for everyone. 
  3. The table wouldn't fit further squad info that would explain why players are or aren't on the cap - suffice it to say that I think I'm pretty solid there. GA, homegrown, salary amounts, etc. 
  4. I've guessed at DeMerit's salary based on a few things - it's much higher than other estimates I've seen ($200k, etc). I'd be willing to wager that he hasn't taken much of a pay cut.
  5. Kenny Miller's amount is for a half-season as a DP. That could change quickly - so much depends on whether he'll be heading back to Scotland/Europe in the summer transfer window.
  6. I've generously given our unsigned midfield playmaker a DP salary. Here's hoping we find someone whose skills demand it.
  7. The amounts for the unsigned players are obviously estimates, but I've looked at a lot of salaries in the league for most positions, and I think I'm pretty solid there. We could pay more for a starting right back. If we pay more for a back-up keeper we're foolish.
  8. The Homegrown Generation Adidas situation is not clear at all right now. We have no idea if Teibert remains a homegrown, if players ever transition to normal from homegrown, and so far it's unclear how much salary teams are allowed to allocate to Homegrown GA players above the league minimum before it counts against the cap. Yay MLS. 
  9. I expect we'll see some signed players leave before the March 1 roster deadline - if I was a betting man, I would guess Abdallah won't be here, maybe Hurtado, maybe one CB.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Waiting for Godot - Samuel Beckett

The plan was to read Waiting For Godot, then read about it, and see how much made sense. I'm currently 50 pages through (it's 60 pages long), and I'm now convinced that it will much more valuable to me to have more background info.

So now the plan is to write down some thoughts/observations, then read about it, then finish it and finish my thoughts below. Here we go:

---



Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for Godot, see, but they don't know why, they don't know when he's coming, and they don't know why they're waiting. Nor do they seem to remember much about anything. It's all absurd dialogue, quick banter, etc.

Along come a couple of odd ducks, Pozzo treating Lucky like a slave/horse - they engage in some wackery, and then they go. They come back, leave, etc. Boy enters, announces Godot's delayed arrival. Ten pages left.

I'm clearly missing a bunch of allegorical stuff. It's about God, I get that. (This just reminded me of High Fidelity: The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Love in the Time of Cholera - they're about girls, right?)

Are Vladimir and Estragon stand-ins for Russia and Spain? Seems too obvious. Both historically Christian nation/states/societies, though.

Pozzo represents some culture - maybe the Romans, with the chariot and such (Lucky is pulling him). Not sure what Lucky is - subservient masses? And then Boy comes in to say Godot is coming - is he Christ? Fits with the Romans narrative. Maybe Lucky is the Jews? Okay, starting to fit a bit more, it seems. Of course, it could be nothing to do with any of that...

How is this going to end... last ten pages, here I come. But I'm not feeling at all compelled.

---

I'll be honest, if I didn't know that this was about God, I wouldn't have known or guessed any of this.

(And then I go and read that it's not about God. Ah fuck.)

---

Okay, good stuff from Vladimir, ostensibly about helping a fallen Pozzo:
Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed... at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us... Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us!

But then:
Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come... We are not saints, but we have kept our appointment. 

(Pozzo remains unhelped...)

Okay, this is getting quite good. Funny.

What's with the boots/feet thing? Life is suffering? And then the suicide attempts - Beckett via Camus, standing on the abyss, just not shaking his fist?

---

So, that's it. As my friend Emily reminded me, the clich├ęd bit about this is that it's "a play in which nothing happens, twice."

I would love to see this performed. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are doing it on Broadway right now - I imagine it would be amazing, and friends have said as much.

Monday, January 13, 2014

We won! or why fans identify so closely with their teams

A friend of mine (we'll call him "Darren" for the purposes of this piece) wrote this:
I'm a big sports fan, but I try not to refer to the teams I support as 'we'. In this context, I'm a consumer, not a creator. This Mitchell and Webb piece is a wonderful illustration of this idea.



Haha, quite funny, etc. (Especially the bit about Spurs as a rival for the title. C'mon, you're havin' a laugh.)

I've been giving this a lot of thought. I share some of the aversion to the use of we, but often find myself slipping into it. And here's why:

[Insert good bit that opens "Darren" up to the idea of seeing himself as more than just a credit card.]

...and the high cost of hockey tickets and the dead audience at Canucks games may engender a sense of feeling like a wallet, true. I have no desire to consume a Canucks game again. But I can compare it with my experience and cheap price for tickets to the Whitecaps, or even catching the Whitecaps Reserves for free at Thunderbird Stadium.  Are we ever merely consumers, paying for services rendered? Surely not when I attend games for free. What about if I pay $1 to see a game? Or money for parking? At what point do I become just a consumer?

(This ignores, of course, the library-like atmosphere at some Premier League games, and the ultra-high cost of season tickets for, say, Arsenal, but that's not my experience as a soccer fan.)

I assume "Darren" meant it in a broad sense of the word consume, as in to take it in rather than actively participate. Technically true for many fans, but not for those of us that choose to participate in the more active forms of support. When I go to a soccer game, I am more than a consumer. We chant, we sing, we stand and applaud, we swear at the ref in rhyming couplets... We participate. And I'm not even talking about being part of the spectacle of tifo and flag-waving and such that is often seen as an integral part of some game experiences.

This (at times) turns into the 12th man aspect. Crowds influencing games, etc. There's a lot to be said about the value of home field advantage, the benefits of having an active, loud crowd, etc. There has been a lot written about this elsewhere, and I'm not about to repeat it all. Suffice it to say that it's a thing, with measurable thingness.

And how's this for measurable thingness: Unimpressed with the effort shown by the team who were losing 4-0, ultras (hardcore supporters) in Genoa demanded the shirts off the Genoa players' backs, mid-game. And they got them. Now let's pretend that Genoa didn't end up losing (which they were going to do no matter what.

I detest that, absolutely, but it sure is direct participation in a game.

I'd like to take it one step further, though, beyond trying to insist (backed up by fairly strong evidence) that fans influence the outcome of games, so therefore are part of the effort that leads to winning, and therefore can rightly say "We won." I'm going to write a bit about community.

Like everyone else, I belong to a lot of communities. I have a family, I have various friend-groups, am a Canadian citizen, a resident of Vancouver, a member of a political party and a social change movement, and so on.

When a community does something, I consider that we did it, as a group. We rent a house, we like to drink wine and beer, we used to be respected on the world stage, we are experiencing a craft beer revolution, we aim to make things better, and so on.

And we just missed out on the play-offs last year. The Whitecaps, that is.

Looks a bit weird when I write that. We. Like I kicked a ball in anger. Which of course I didn't.

(Now, I did buy game-worn gear - I have played in the actual shorts that star midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker wore in an actual game. But that doesn't count, does it?)

Some communities have strict definitions of who is and isn't a member. You likely aren't a member of my immediate family (Hi, Nina!). You may be a member of my soccer team, or a paid-up member of a political party. We may have raised a pint together.

But even for most communities with clear boundaries, there are always grey areas. Sylvie has aunties that aren't her actual aunts. New people sub in for my soccer teams sometimes. Citizenship is not always clear, nor are residency, race, sex, religion, etc.

I'm blathering on a bit in order to get to this: in true post-modern wankery fashion, I posit that group-membership is largely self-defined. Or at least it is often so ill-defined or impossible to define as to allow for self-inclusion. We can argue about this if you want.

Moving on...

There's a feeling one gets from being part of a group or community, a sense of belonging, of well-being, that the hard-hearted amongst you may deny has any meaning. Those people likely go to watch soccer in Vancouver, pay for their $25-50 ticket, buy overpriced beer, groan or cheer, and go home, satisfied they spent their money well on solid entertainment. The product on the field, and all that. And I'm sure those people enjoy soccer a lot. Like I enjoy a tv show that I pay Netflix to see (David Tennant is a very good Doctor, by the way). Thanks, Netflix, for engaging in a financial transaction with me.

For others, there's real meaning in that feeling. It doesn't matter that it comes at a financial cost. Feelings don't get to be sliced and diced and categorized.

Here's where I should pull up a bunch of quotes about all this. Something by Eduardo Galeano, perhaps, the most romantic writer soccer has ever known. Here's one:
“The ball laughs, radiant, in the air. He brings her down, puts her to sleep, showers her with compliments, dances with her, and seeing such things never before seen his admirers pity their unborn grandchildren who will never see them.”

I've lived those moments. I watched Camilo do this:



And if you look carefully you can see me in the crowd shot after Eric Hassli does this: 


And here's the relevant bit: I've lived those moments with other fans, and even with the players. In soccer it's common for goals to be celebrated with the fans. There is no fourth wall in soccer. 




Multiply that by the 30 goals that teams might score at home, the others on the road celebrated with traveling fans, the near-goals, the heartbreaking losses, and you start to get a sense of what the fans mean to the players, how they're a part of the same community, with everyone willing the team to glorious victory, and sharing in the defeats.

An occasional game here and there doesn't do the same thing. Neither does watching on tv - no matter how many Arsenal games I watch, I still say "Arsenal won!" when reporting back to Nina about my Saturday mornings.

I'm not entirely comfortable with the use of we when talking about a sports team, but I've succumbed to it, and made my peace with it. It's not something that is at all rational (despite my above rationalization) - it's irrational, based on an emotional attachment. It's beyond attachment, even, to belonging. I belong to the Whitecaps community. I celebrate with them, I travel to away games with them, we watch Reserves matches in the rain together, we win and we lose together, all of us.

I'm going to finish this up, despite barely convincing myself. Mostly because I'm tired, but partly because this isn't something that can be fully explained. I'll let Dennis Denuto sum up my feelings on the matter: 





Friday, January 10, 2014

The Miracle of Castel di Sangro

Joe McGinniss - The Miracle of Castel di Sangro (soccer history/memoir)

I started this on Tuesday while Sylvie was playing with toy food. It's going to be a fun, quick read. Part fish-out-of-water, part travelogue, it's a pretty simple story so far, and the writing matches it.

Joe McGinniss is an American writer who was completely new to soccer. He has a bestseller that I almost read called The Selling of the President 1968, about the marketing of Nixon - a book I'm interested in reading.

After the World Cup was held in the US in 1994 he fell in love with the sport and decided to chase the story of a team from a tiny town in Italy that against all odds was promoted to the second tier/division of Italian soccer.

(For those new to this: soccer in most parts of the world works in a promotion/relegation pyramid - that is, the best teams move up to higher/better divisions and the worst teams move down at the end of each season.)

It's rather simple for any fan of the game - he actually explains (in just a sentence or two, luckily) how the game of soccer works. But so far it's fun, and I'm a sucker for a story about soccer in small towns in other countries.

I was thinking of what this book might mean, at the heart of it, but I feel like I'm pretentiously searching for something that isn't there. It's a travelogue/cultural immersion sort of book that the food world thrives on.



In the end, there is a seriousness to it that I enjoyed. The first half floats along, painting a picture of a slightly buffoonish fan, stumbling through a world he doesn't really understand, but the second half explores some more difficult issues - death, morality, obsession. And it's worth the trip to get there. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Beer in 2013

Beer in Vancouver in 2013:

Brewery: Brassneck, hands down. Stellar beer after stellar beer, produced in just a few months since they opened this Fall. Growler fill-ups available in 1.9L, 1L and 473mL sizes. Necessitates a weekly visit.

Beer: Driftwood Sartori 2013. Ridiculously good. Fresh, gorgeously hoppy, wonderfully balanced.

Go-to: Brassneck Passive Aggressive. I always fill up one bottle with PA, one with another. Driftwood Crooked Coast in the bottle.

Pleasant surprise: Brassneck Young B'stard. I loved seeing a mild bitter produced in Vancouver. 3.5%, not overly carbonated, and very, very smoothly delicious.

Disappointment: Central City ESB. It's muddy and too hoppy. Tastes like someone wanted to put a "westcoast" spin on a classic style.

Pub/drinking establishment: Hard to see past the usuals here, Alibi Room and St. Augustine's. But special mention should go to the new tasting lounges at Brassneck and 33 Acres.

Non-BC beer: Anchor Liberty Ale. I have no idea how mass-produced Anchor beers are, but this is a stellar beer that seems to be widely distributed. I always enjoyed their Steam, but this is a big step up.