Goodbye Julien and Danny. And I Hate the Expansion Draft.
Did I mention I hate the Expansion Draft?
Benjamin Kowalsky
Nov 24th 2010

It’s hard to say goodbye to any players, but to say goodbye to two because of the Expansion Draft is an outrage up with which I shall not put. Well, not silently at any rate. Colorado lost two players just before the Expansion Draft (and you’ll see why I think it was because of the Expansion Draft in a moment): Julien Baudet and Danny Earls. I am upset at both of these moves as a fan. And while we get Pete Vagenas from Seattle in return, and our Manager gets to have some say in where the players are going, this doesn’t make it suck any less.

Obviously, fans of the Colorado Rapids are going to be more upset about the veteran Baudet over the rookie Earls for various reasons. Julien was proven quality both on and off the pitch while Danny remained a relative unknown.

After a couple of rookie mistakes, which I think came from being perhaps played out of position (Danny struck me as more of a winger than anything else), Danny Earls found himself on the bench more often than not. I always thought that we hadn’t seen the best out of him yet, and at only 21 years old, I felt like there were going to be some good years that Danny would have with Colorado. Sadly, that was not to be. Danny is a good young player who deserves a second chance, and I’d hoped that he’d get that chance with Colorado next season. But, he gets the fresh start that he deserves in Seattle now. I hope Seattle fans are patient with him, I think he’ll reward them for that patience.

Julien Baudet is another story entirely. I credit the improvement to Colorado’s defense (especially the marked individual growth of Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne) to his influence and experience. Gary had clearly had his eye on Baudet for a while, and perhaps just for this reason. Baudet had toughness, passion, and an absolute willingness to do whatever was necessary to help his team—even throwing his own body on the line more time than I think he’d like to remember.

I remember hearing from Drew before the season started, that Baudet never stopped talking on the pitch. He just kept the communication channel open the whole time. This communication completely changed the dynamic for the defense, who in previous years always seemed to be on different pages. Everybody stood up and put himself on the line. Towards the end of the season, you could see the defense getting better and better. People just seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Like Marvell’s sliding clearance in Columbus, or Drew’s clearance off the touchline in the dying minutes of Toronto. All of that starts with good communication. And I believe that communication came courtesy of Julien Baudet.

It’s hard to say how much Colorado will miss Julien Baudet. On the one hand, it would appear that he gave all he had to give, and his influence had already created a back line that he unfortunately no longer had a starting spot on. If anyone deserved a starting spot, it would be Julien Baudet, but there was just nowhere to put him and not change the winning lineup we had for our playoff run.

And then came the choice, in the Expansion Draft, to protect or not protect Baudet or Earls. Neither of them would be protected. So that means we could have lost one of Colorado’s most promising rookies and our Beast for nothing. Considering the value of Baudet alone, that would not have sat well with me. And I think any Manager would have picked up Baudet in a heartbeat. I can’t think of another player I’d like to have leading my defense if he were available.

So would you rather give up Baudet for nothing? And have absolutely no say over where he goes? Or would you realize that the value of the player makes for the opportunity to get value back for him? That was, I think, the logic behind the Seattle trade. Gary must have had his eye on Pete Vagenas, and saw that the move was possible. Realizing he was going to lose Julien anyway if he left him unprotected in the draft (which he was going to do), he sent him to Seattle.

This is not something I can be angry at the Front Office for. Nor am I angry with Manager Gary Smith. After winning a Cup, it’s hard to argue with his roster moves.

I am angry with this league and how it treats players, managers, and fans at a very basic level. But I am angry specifically with regard to the Expansion Draft. I am appalled at the format, that a club can only “protect” 11 players. This is unlike drafts in other leagues (like the NFL) where people volunteer a certain set number of players to be placed in the draft.

Managers go out seeking players who will not only contribute immediately on the field (Starters), but players who at some point may contribute on the field (Hot Prospects), or contribute in the locker room (Glue Guys), or to add depth to their squad (Super-Subs). To say that you can only protect Starters is misunderstanding the very basics of managing a soccer club. No manager would ever waste their club’s money on players who they knew were complete junk. With rosters being so small (only 26 players as of right now) it’s ludicrous to think that Managers would go and try to load up their bench with trash so that they can avoid losing starters in the Draft.

Draft time isn’t pleasant for the players. It’s entirely disrespectful of their value and basically treats them as indentured servants. You thought you were having a good year with this club? Thought the Manager was really bringing you along, and that you really felt you were improving? Sorry kid, you’re being shipped off to another club to a manager you don’t know and who probably wasn’t even looking at you until your name popped up on a list of players he had all of two days to pick through. Now you’ve got to start all over again with a coach who doesn’t know you that well, and a team that you have to get to know. I’m sure it works out in cases where guys just may not have jived with their locker rooms back home, but in cases where the locker room was close? Yeah. Terrible for the players. And what if they have families? What if they got their kids into a school that they like and are doing well in? Nope. Gotta move all that. Not because of a trade situation (which I have problems with in and of itself, not THAT players are traded but HOW they are traded) but because of a stupid rule that says you were “unprotected”.

I’ve heard one fan describe the Expansion Draft as exciting. “Aren’t you excited, Ben?”

I’m about as excited as I would be if I were a woman waiting in line to get a Pap Smear.

Fans, for the most part, should not be ‘excited’ about the Draft. Yes, I want to find out how things turn out. But I am horrified at the procedure itself. You basically have to sit there while someone takes a look over some players to whom you may have grown attached, and then makes their choice based on very limited knowledge. And for the most part, we aren’t. We know how much time and effort goes in to putting together the right roster, and we appreciate that effort. We get to know the players and we welcome new players into our hearts and our lives. And then, just because some new club gets to be a part of MLS…. They get to take them from us.

So it is for these reasons and more that I say: END THE DRAFT.

To close out, I just want to send out a heartfelt “Thank you” to both Julien Baudet and Danny Earls for helping to make the Rapids into a Championship Club. Both of them contributed to the fight in so many different ways, and I hope Seattle knows what kind of value these guys are going to add to their roster.

Welcome also, to Pete Vagenas. More will be written about that here in the off-season as I see how things go with him. But as of right now, he’s a player who can hold the ball up and plays patiently and deliberately, which fits right in with the Rapids overall philosophy of soccer.

Mountain Roads. Take me home.

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