If every one of Sam Naccarato's opinions were attached to the point of a pin, Major Soccer League commissioner Earl Foreman and his board of directors would be in some serious pain.
Naccarato, 63, is the new vice president of the Tacoma Stars. He has spent the last two decades in minor-league baseball, where he turned the Oakland A's Triple-A farm team in Tacoma from a bankrupt marketing nightmare into a $5 million dream come true, earning several Executive of the Year awards along the way.
So Naccarato thinks he's earned the right to say what he thinks about the MSL and if he steps on toes, well, he's sorry, but someone has to do it.
A few of Naccarato's views:
* Regionalizing the MSL is the only way to make the league successful in terms of a money-making proposition.
* Foreman, who Naccarato says makes $175,000 in base salary, is overpaid.
* The league office is overstaffed, overpaid and underproductive.
* Shortening the schedule from 52 to 40 dates was a bad move.
* As far as he can see, the league has no solid plan for the future and is getting no real guidance from Foreman. If the commissioner can't come up with a new, imaginative operating plan, then he should step aside and let someone else do it.
And those are just a few of Naccarato's opinions. The man obviously likes making people walk on hot coals.
"If you drive out of your driveway every day and turn left into 900 head-on collisions, I'd think you'd turn right at least once to see if there's a better way," Naccarato said. "This league has been making the same mistakes over and over. I'm not saying any of this with malice. I just think we've done every single thing we can to kill ourselves. I think we've had enough of what makes the grass grow green.
"I think maybe getting this out in public may help."
He seems to be the only one. Foreman refused to comment, saying only, "Those are things I don't think are worthy of comment."
Around the league, reaction was mixed on Naccarato's overall statements, but when it came to Foreman, owners, general managers and coaches were united.
"Forgive my ignorance," said Wichita coach Roy Turner. "But I don't think there would be an MSL without Earl Foreman. I think Mr. Naccarato doesn't know enough about our league to make those kinds of comments."
Cleveland general manager Al Miller said, "Some people just can't keep their mouths shut. If this guy thinks selling soccer in this country is like selling baseball or anything else, he just doesn't know what he's talking about. Hell, selling those games and ours isn't even close."
In Baltimore, Blast owner Ed Hale said he believes Naccarato is "carrying on a campaign behind Earl's back to get his job. I think the man is ridiculous . . . If I was the Tacoma owner, I'd be looking for a new executive vice president."
And in San Diego, executive vice president and general manager Randy Bernstein, whose team has many of the same problems as Tacoma when it comes to long distance travel, says he, too, would love to see the league regionalized, but added, "It's not a new idea. The problem has always been how?"
Only Dallas managing partner and coach Gordon Jago sounded willing to withhold fire. While Jago had no patience with Naccarato's opinion on the job being done by Foreman, he did find a little something to smile about.
"I think the league meetings are going to be full of fireworks," Jago said. "There are two ways of looking at what he's saying. He's new, so he's looking at it with a fresh view. Or, he's new, so lTC he is as yet unaware of the problems we face. It's easy to say regionalize, but the biggest problems we have is expansion and our recent history."
Naccarato says he has no designs on Foreman's job, "It's a thankless task, and I don't want it," he said. He also said he would arrive in Baltimore in two weeks with many questions and a plan for the league's future.
It's a sure bet his peers will be waiting on pins and needles to hear it.
* THINGS ARE BAD WHEN: You have a week off, take a trip to England for an exhibition game and find out you've lost a position in the standings.
That's the fix the Blast is in. The Tacoma Stars, on a four-game winning streak, have taken over the fourth and final playoff spot while the Blast has been inactive. The good news is, when Baltimore returns to the Arena for its next MSL game Saturday, it will play Tacoma for a shot at trading places.
* THREE IS THE CHARM: Former Blast midfielder Richard Chinapoo scored his third hat trick of the season for Dallas in the Sidekicks' 6-5 victory over Cleveland, to earn the MSL's Offensive Player of the Week honors. Chinapoo's previous two hat tricks had come at the expense of the Blast. He now has 20 goals this season.
* A TACOMA STAR: For the second time in a month Tacoma goalkeeper Mike Dowler earned the MSL Defensive Player of the Week award. Dowler held Wichita to four goals, while his teammates scored five for the upset win. It is the fourth straight week a Star has earned either the offensive or defensive award.
* MSL-LANIA: Blast forward Jean Harbor was unable to leave for England with his teammates last weekend, because he has a Nigerian passport. Yesterday he got a visa from the British consulate and left last night to join his teammates for tomorrow night's game against Sheffield-Wednesday.
Cleveland's Hector Marinaro scored his 400th MSL point in a 6-5 loss at Dallas. Crunch rookie Tim Tanner has been promoted to the first line with Zoran Karic and has responded with eight points in five games . . . St. Louis All-Star Fernando Clavijo was with the U.S. National team in Miami during the Storm's 7-4 weekend loss to Cleveland. The National team also lost, 1-0, to the Commonwealth of Independent States (the former Soviet Union) . . . Dale Mitchell's 19-game point scoring streak in Tacoma come to an end Friday, but the Stars beat Wichita anyway.