Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Semi-Pro Dilemma: Gateway or Stranglehold?

In Cali where the teams are as incestuous as the Ptolemaic line of Egyptian Pharaohs it may not matter but in the real world it's gonna have an impact. An impact not unlike a neutron bomb--it'll kill all the teams but leave the players alive. Kinda of like the current D1 and up classification rules (which we can only hope will see some serious revision in '09.)
Here's the deal: The changes made at the top of the PSP food chain are intended to be versatile and perform a number of roles. The reduced rosters are economical and exclusive in the hopes of helping teams reduce costs and firmly establish the pro players as the elite of the sport. The reduced races and match times are economical and logistically economical in furthering the cost reduction effort and allowing the PSP to utilize the former NXL field and refs more efficiently with the addition of a semi-pro division. Semi-pro provides a place for previously disenfranchised (by the classification rules) players a place to play as well as being the gateway to pro status.
Gateway to what? Huh? The plan is to restrict player movement into the pro ranks by limiting the pool of eligible players to those with at least a year of semi-pro experience. The notion is this will help validate the status of the pro ranked player to only those truly deserving--whatever that means. And keep out the three week riff-raff. You know, the guys who get picked up for whatever reason, make a few practices, go to an event but don't stick. They are dragging the whole pro mystique down--and they are more or less out of luck if they want to keep playing tourney ball.
The problem arises when you start thinking about how this will actually play out. You see, the PSP wants the pros to be elite. They also want the pro division to reflect as much of the country as possible as well. They'd also like stability and continuity. (And a much healthier bank account but who wouldn't?)
How stable is an 8 man roster? How many injuries or sudden emergencies does it take to cripple a team's ability to compete? How does a pro team with 8 players replace lost players or players who have lost it? Particularly during the season. Easy. They raid the semi-pro bracket or they install a sister or farm team in the semi-pro bracket. Of course that presumes either a regionally local semi-pro team you can steal players from (one that won't be too bothered in the process) or else finding a player you now have to bring in from outside--with all the associated expenses. If you've got a semi-pro farm team you're fine but how is being pushed into operating two teams more economical than last year's roster limit? Damage goes from a comfortable 11 man roster to contemplating adding another team. I can practically smell the savings.
Longer term what happens with the normal player attrition to relatively isolated pro teams? Where does X-Factor get new players if there is no semi-pro team in Texas? You may be saving a few bucks today but in the future an X-Factor would cease to be a Texas team or even a team period. Pay now or pay later (with interest.) Or perhaps the semi-pro teams are intended to replace the worn out pro teams who would end up in that position because the current plan pushed them into breaking up and disappearing. [Fact is the league wants stability and elite status pros so they don't want to kill teams off after their utility ends, but ... ]
In any event the only new pros going to anybody's team come from the semi-pro ranks which creates a bottleneck not only in the upward movement of talent, it also creates a bottleneck in the development of that talent and none, zero, nada, zip concern has been given to the future distribution of that talent. It isn't a gateway to pro level play, it's a choke hold on pro paintball, period.
Wait, let's see about making the bottleneck even worse by having 16 pro teams and only 8 semi-pro. (Which is a distinct if uncertain possibility.) Every problem that exists with the original plan is multiplied by a pro heavy ratio of teams and if any of the pro teams also control any of the remaining semi-pro teams the league will have simply exchanged one concern over unequal advantage into a different concern over unequal advantage. (As it stands now regardless of roster size dollars remains the great divider just as it does in other pro sports where the Yankees can afford [maybe] to pay three guys more than the entire rosters of most of the other pro baseball teams.) And it will also create an unnatural scarcity among pro players that will push pro teams to buy talent instead of develop talent. In any event the nature of the pro game has certain inherent costs given what the league is attempting to establish that cannot be avoided.
This is not just a team issue. It is a league issue because the league's decisions have been the driving force behind the present (and future) circumstances. So far the most creative answers involve playing less paintball -- and in the long run that isn't going to be good for anybody.

UPDATE: For the short attention span crowd see if this makes sense. The PSP intends to limit player eligibility to play on a pro team to players with at least one year semi-pro experience. So new pro players can only come from an existing semi-pro roster as soon as this plan is implemented. Say, the beginning of 2010 season? With short pro rosters there is no way to stock or develop back-ups and in fact there is no way to even prepare for emergencies or injuries. This year if your roster takes a hit you play short until you can replace that player. Either way it's gonna be a new guy unless you have a farm team or sister team. Last year the pros had rosters capable of holding a couple of extra players. This year it's add a second team or go raiding. Next year it's have a second team--is that really an economical move over a slightly larger roster? -- or steal a semi-pro player from an established semi-pro team. Longer term, in a 12 team league there are 96 pro players. In a 12 team semi-pro division there are between 96 - 110 players. If 4 of the pro teams have sister semi-pro teams that means the total pool of possible replacement pro players for the remaining 8 pro teams is 64 - 80. That's all. Then think about what happens to a Midwest or Texas or Florida or New England pro team that has no regional semi-pro team nearby. It means anytime those pro teams need new players they can only replace losses from the semi-pros and pretty soon large chunks of rosters are from all over assuming you can pull players away from their previous team. And since the number of players available to fill pro spots is artificially restricted it puts a premium on those players. In the end this plan will force teams to start second teams or pay players from out of their area or disband. None of which sounds like it's going to improve the bottom line of the pro teams.


Mark790.06 said...

For the record, I got the whole Ptolomei-thing. As for the other stuff......huh?

Baca Loco said...

Damn it, Mark. Okay, just in case I'll add a (hopefully) clarifying update.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I wish I could give that post 5 dynamite's, Your blog is amazing

Mark790.06 said...

No, I got that too. I was just being a smart arse. Speaking of arse, and on the subject of the Grand Unified Theory (read: NWO): The previous incarnation of the MS was NPPL style 7-man. The MS did away with that and became essentially xball. The MS already made the biggest change to their format, yet WE have to......It's like THEY walked across the bar, but WE have to come up with the opening line.

Baca Loco said...

Thanks. I appreciate the kind words.

Of course you did and yes you were/are. :-)
Only 'cus it suited everybodies interests.