The Union are (gasp!) trying to spend money ... Major League Soccer says 'not so fast, my friend'

The Union are (gasp!) trying to spend money ... Major League Soccer says 'not so fast, my friend'

U.S. National Team player Maurice Edu could be coming to the Union, unless MLS decides to not allow it.

Tuesday was a wild day for the Philadelphia Union, which, up until this point, had been damn near comatose this offseason.

Tuesday night, things got even wilder.

To explain briefly:

On Tuesday morning, the Union traded defender Jeff Parke to D.C. United for defender Ethan White and the top spot in Major League Soccer's "Allocation Order." A good trade in and of itself, at least in my opinion.

More interesting is the "Allocation Order" piece of the deal. The "Allocation Order" is a waiver wire of sorts. Any player in the United States National Team player pool looking to join MLS must go through the Allocation Order. If a player wants to come to MLS, the team at the top of the list has the first crack at him. If that team passes, the second team can sign him, and Team No. 1 stays atop the list. If you "use" your place to sign said player, then you go to the bottom of the list. Spots can be traded.

Got it?

Now sitting atop the list, it appeared the trade was less about Ethan White and more about acquiring the next "big" American looking to return to MLS, and immediately a name made the rounds: Maurice Edu.

Edu (not related to Freddy Adu, so relax) is a 27-year-old defensive midfielder who has played 45 times for his country, most recently in 2012. He is perhaps best known for scoring the goal that didn't count in the 2010 World Cup, thanks to idiot official Koman Coulibaly.

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Edu has played in Scotland for Rangers and is currently under contract with Stoke City of the English Premier League. He has been on loan to Bursaspor of Turkey.

All afternoon, reports pointed to an offer from the Union, and it seemed like a deal would be done in time for a big announcement at Thursday's MLS SuperDraft at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (where the Union have eight picks, including No. 2 overall).

The Union were about to make a splash (maybe not Michael Bradley level, but a splash nonetheless), fans were about to get a name they recognized, and the team was going to instantly improve. I like Edu. I would love to see him play here, and it would give the Union a solid experienced presence on and off the field. Plus, it would possibly allow them to shop Brian Carroll (also a defensive midfielder) and possibly turn him into another piece they need.

Great. Good. Go Union.

Then the league decided -- according to that Jeff Carlisle report -- that $1.2 million was just too much for Edu.

How can MLS block the deal? Remember that all MLS players are technically owned by the league, not the team they play for. The league is a single corporation and every owner is an investor (some more than others). Profits are shared (to a point) and salaries are paid by the league (also to a point). To fans of other American sports, this whole setup seems strange. But the "single-entity" structure is why MLS has survived and thrived far longer than other American soccer leagues, since one team can't spend wildly while others flounder.

Whew, too much jargon. OK, now, a few quick thoughts on the potential move, which could be either done or dead by the time you read this.

Is $1.2 million too much for Maurice Edu? Almost definitely. By any standard, that's a ton of money. It's way more than Edu makes in England, and it's 400% more than Kyle Beckerman -- probably the league's best defensive midfielder -- makes with Real Salt Lake. So, since the league pays his salary, they should be able to block the Union move, right?

Absolutely. Not.

Five years ago, MLS would have a leg to stand on in this discussion. But just last week, the league not only allowed Toronto to overpay (roughly $50 million!) for two players, the league HELPED Toronto pay the bill. Do I have any problem with Toronto's signings, or the league helping out? Not at all. Bradley and Defoe are exciting players who bring credibility and quality to MLS.

But when you let Toronto overpay for the players it wants, you can't turn around and tell a team like the Union that it can't "overpay" for who it wants.  MLS has always been criticized for making up the rules as it goes, and mocked for "favoring" certain teams over others. This only furthers the conspiracy theories (not to mention why Edu, a likely designated player, has to go through the Allocation Order at all ... but we won't even go there).

The Union, and most other teams in the league not located in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle or (apparently?) Toronto, will always have to overpay for "name" players. Always.

If the Kansas City Royals wanted to sign Mike Trout, he'd only consider it at a premium price. If the Milwaukee Bucks want LeBron, they better offer every penny the cap allows, plus the deed to the state and every luxury box at Lambeau Field.

In simpler terms: If you're the quiet dorky kid in school and you want to take the hottest cheerleader to the prom, then you better have a Corvette convertible to drive there, a beer-stocked lakehouse for the post-prom party, and a fistful of compliments for your date's shoes, hair and dress.

There are a lot of teams in this league that would love to have Maurice Edu, and most of them have much nicer training facilities (or training facilities at all), better talent already in-house or a trophy case full of silverware. The Union are in their fifth season and trying to get a foothold in a sports-mad city with four other major franchises. So if it costs a little more money to get your man, then so be it.

Hypothetically, what if Edu proves to be a dominant force in the midfield and gets on the radar for this summer's World Cup team? What if he gets a spot on the roster and scores a big goal in Brazil before returning to Philadelphia and leading the Union to the playoffs. Aren't those jersey sales alone worth $1.2 million?

If you're commissioner Don Garber, you're either interested in taking the next step as a league and bringing in any player who can help, or you're interested in letting a few teams grow while the others remain "small-market."

Yes, the league pays the players. And no, I don't think the league should dump its single-entity structure. But it's time to let teams sink or swim on their own signings. Trust me, there will be plenty of fans ready to yell at John Hackworth and Nick Sakiewicz if Edu is a $1.2 million flop. It would likely cost one or both of them their jobs.

But if MLS blocks this deal, then there will still be plenty of Union fans ready to yell. Except they'll direct their anger at Garber, who, it just so happens, will stand behind a podium at Thursday's draft right here in Philadelphia.

Good luck with that one, Don.

Coming later today: A preview of Thursday's draft, with a few names to look out for. 

Follow Steve on Twitter @smoore1117.

Jake Thompson left searching for answers after latest rough start

Jake Thompson left searching for answers after latest rough start

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — On the whole, the Phillies have made steady progress in their rebuild this season.

Cameron Rupp has improved. Maikel Franco has had a nice year. Odubel Herrera, even with his recent inconsistency, has had more ups than downs. Cesar Hernandez has been on a good roll. Freddy Galvis has 36 extra-base hits, and Tommy Joseph has opened eyes with his power. In the bullpen, Hector Neris and Edubray Ramos have shown that they just might be future studs.
 
For a good chunk of the season, the young starting pitching has shown promise, as well.
 
But lately, that corner of the team has taken some hits. Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin were both ruled out for the remainder of the season last week with elbow and knee injuries, respectively, and hard-throwing Vince Velasquez has been tagged for 19 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings over his last three starts.
 
Jake Thompson’s first four major-league starts haven’t exactly inspired confidence, either. The 22-year-old right-hander was hit hard in a 9-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay). He gave up eight hits, including five for extra bases, and seven runs as his ERA swelled to 9.78. Only Mike Maddux (9.98) in 1986 had a higher ERA for the Phillies in his first four big-league starts.
 
“I’m not used to this,” Thompson said after the defeat. “I feel certain that I’m a lot better than my performance has indicated.”
 
Few pitchers come to the big leagues and dazzle right away. There is a learning curve and occasionally growing pains. But no one expected Thompson to have this much trouble out of the chute, not after what he did in his final 11 starts at Triple A Lehigh Valley.
 
Thompson went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
In four starts with the big club, he has given up 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He has walked 13 and struck out 13.
 
He was advertised as a control and command pitcher. He has yet to show that in the majors.
 
“A lot of it has to do with his age and, I think, the fact he’s in the big leagues for the first time trying to make a good impression,” manager Peter Mackanin said. “He probably feels like he needs to make perfect pitches every time. All he’s got to do is keep the ball down. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff. He relies on command and control and he hasn’t shown that. I attribute a lot of that to his youth and inexperience.”
 
So does Rupp, the catcher.
 
“How many guys do you see come to the big leagues at 22 years old and just flat out dominate every time they go out?” Rupp said. “Not very many. He's young. It was his first time in Triple A this year and he pitched really well and now he's got a chance in the big leagues. I'm sure he feels like there's pressure. When you come up and you pitch so well all year and then you finally get your opportunity, you want to impress. It puts a lot on you. And as a kid, you've got to be able to control it and it's tough. It's hard.

“Nobody wants to see anybody fail. It's hard to go through. It's something that's going to make him better when he does finally figure it out."
 
Two of the walks Thompson gave up Tuesday night became runs. He gave up back-to-back homers to Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau in the fifth inning as the White Sox turned it into a rout.
 
“Just too many pitches up in the strike zone,” Mackanin said. “Everything he threw was thigh high, waist high. He couldn’t get the ball down. It’s as simple as that.”
 
Thompson concurred with his manager.
 
“The issue is pretty evident,” he said. “I'm not throwing strikes and when I am throwing strikes, they're not good strikes. It’s a frustrating thing because it's a relatively easy thing to do. I don't really have the answer right now to fix it.”
 
The game moves fast at the big-league level and confidence can become bruised quickly. Thompson said his confidence was unshaken. Still, Phillies officials have to be careful that this difficult baptism to the majors does not snowball and become something that adversely impacts Thompson's growth.
 
“It’s something that you’re concerned about and I’m concerned about,” Mackanin said.
 
Concerned enough that Thompson might not make his next start?
 
Mackanin said he expected Thompson to stay in the rotation, but added that he would speak with general manager Matt Klentak on the topic.
 
“I don’t want to see him keep getting beat up and keep struggling like this,” Mackanin said. “We’ll talk about it and see what Matt wants to do.”

Best of MLB: Royals shut out Marlins for 9th straight win

Best of MLB: Royals shut out Marlins for 9th straight win

MIAMI -- Yordano Ventura escaped two threats while pitching six innings, and the Kansas City Royals extended their winning streak to nine games by beating the Miami Marlins 1-0 on Tuesday night.

Ventura (9-9), who reached 101 mph on the scoreboard radar gun, allowed six hits and one walk while striking out six. Royals starters have an ERA of 1.69 during the winning streak, Kansas City's longest since June 2014.

Three relievers closed out the win and extended the bullpen's streak of 32 consecutive shutout innings since Aug. 10. Kelvin Herrera pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save.

The Marlins had won three straight but were shut out despite totaling seven hits. They went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position (see full recap).

Nova, Pirates beat Astros to snap 4-game skid
PITTSBURGH -- Ivan Nova took a shutout into the ninth inning and finished with a six-hitter while Gregory Polanco hit two home runs to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 7-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

Nova (10-6) struck out six, walked one and threw 69 of his 98 pitches for strikes while improving to 3-0 in four starts since being acquired from the New York Yankees in an Aug. 1 trade.

It was the fourth complete game of the right-hander's seven-year career with the others coming in 2013.

His bid for his third career shutout ended when Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve led off the ninth with consecutive doubles.

After the Pirates scored four runs in the first inning, Polanco hit solo shots in the third and fifth off Joe Musgrove and Tony Sipp to extend the lead to 6-0 and raise his season total to a team-high 19 homers (see full recap).

Gausman, Jones help Orioles roll over Nationals
BALTIMORE -- Kevin Gausman scattered six hits over six shutout innings, Adam Jones went 4 for 5 and the Baltimore Orioles breezed past the Washington Nationals 8-1 on Tuesday night.

Chris Davis hit his 30th home run for the Orioles, who won two straight over Washington to conclude a 3-5 homestand.

Baltimore is 34-24 against the Nationals in a rivalry that began in 2006. The series shifts 38 miles south to Nationals Park on Wednesday for the first of two games.

Gausman (5-10) walked two, struck out two and permitted only one runner past second base. He's 5-1 at home and 0-9 on the road.

The 25-year-old Gausman outpitched Nationals rookie Reynaldo Lopez, a 22-year-old making his fifth major league start. Lopez (2-2) yielded six runs, four earned, and seven hits in 2 2/3 rocky innings (see full recap).

Instant Replay: White Sox 9, Phillies 1

Instant Replay: White Sox 9, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — Jake Thompson’s difficult big-league baptism continued in the Phillies’ 9-1 interleague loss to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night.
 
The rookie right-hander was tagged for seven runs in five innings. He allowed eight hits and walked four as his ERA in four starts since coming up from Triple A swelled to 9.78. Only Mike Maddux (9.98) in 1986 had a higher ERA for the Phillies in his first four big-league starts.
 
Offensively, the Phillies did little against White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon. They had just five hits for the game.
 
The Phillies have lost five of their last seven and are 58-68 on the season. They have been outscored 18-1 in their last two games.
 
Starting pitching report
Thompson, 22, has been a much different pitcher since coming to the majors than he was in his last 11 starts at Triple A Lehigh Valley. He went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
In four starts with the big club, he has given up 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He has walked 13 and struck out 13.
 
Two of the four walks that Thompson gave up in this game became runs.
 
Five of the eight hits he allowed were for extra bases, including a pair of homers.
 
Rodon, 23, was the third pick in the 2014 draft, four ahead of Aaron Nola. The lefty held the Phillies to three hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings. He walked one.
 
Bullpen report
David Hernandez was tagged for two runs.
 
At the plate
Freddy Galvis broke up the White Sox’s shutout bid with a solo homer off reliever Chris Beck in the seventh. Galvis has 13 homers.
 
Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau hit back-to-back homers against Thompson in the fifth inning to help the Sox pull away.
 
Abreu has homered in three straight games.
 
Minor matters
Pitcher Alec Asher, who serving an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a PED, has begun a minor-league rehabilitation assignment with the Phillies’ Gulf Coast League team. Asher is expected to be activated by the big club during the second week of September and he could make several starts down the stretch as the club watches the workload of several pitchers.
 
Up next
The two-game series concludes on Wednesday night. Jerad Eickhoff (8-12, 3.91) opposes right-hander James Shields (5-15, 5.98).