Friday, February 12, 2010

Hartman exits KC without deserved fanfare...thus is the way of MLS

My youngest son whirled around the stairs to come look at the computer monitor that announced the Wizards had signed a new goalie from the Danish League...yes, the Danish League. Being a savvy fan already at the age of 7, Jordan said, "But we have Kevin Hartman".

Well, according to Down the Byline, we don't have Kevin Hartman any more. The new goalie was signed as a replacement for Hartman. So, three solid years of service by Kevin Hartman ends without even a whimper. Apparently he wanted more than the $150K the Wizards paid him last year? The word isn't exactly out on the details- which seldom make sense in MLS anyways. A few minutes later Jordan returned sad-faced with his circa 2007 Wizards jersey on sulking about the idea of Hartman not playing for the Wizards this year.

You see my young son Jordan knows something about Kevin Hartman. Over the past three seasons the Wizards squeaked in to the playoffs twice (07 and 08) in large part due to the play of veteran goalkeeper Kevin Hartman. Despite being unduly snubbed by the all-star popularity contest the past few seasons, Hartman’s statistics were very respectable in his three seasons in KC. Even last year, a relatively poor one for the club, he had a 1.40 GAA in his 13th MLS campaign. Most impressively, however, in his three years in KC, he played every regular season game- 90 total.

Yes, his stats are sound, but they don’t tell the whole story of his time in KC. Obviously there are all sorts of variables that lead to the outcome of 90 minute matches; however a good case can be made for Kevin Hartman being the reason Kansas City didn't lose 5 games more than they did in each of the last two seasons.

To appreciate Hartman’s value to Kansas City it must be noted that he spent his time playing in KC with only one consistent piece in front of him, Jimmy Conrad, over three full seasons. His other defenders have been changing almost every game and were laden with converted midfielders and rookie fullbacks. Quite frankly, the Wizards have been a very unsettled team over Hartman's tenure with them, but his professionalism and consistency kept them in most matches.

When Hartman came to Kansas City last season his credentials were obvious- he led the league in most all time goalkeeping categories. First in shut outs and wins and in the upper ranks of all the major goalkeeping categories. He had a solid season in 2007, yet most would probably say he was in decline. During the off season however, Hartman dropped 20 pounds and put together a 2008 campaign that was most impressive. It’s doubtful many people will look back on Hartman’s career and pick the 2008 season as one of his best, especially having won goalkeeper of the year in 1999 and two MLS titles with L.A. in 2002 and 2005, but from a contribution to his team perspective, Hartman did some remarkable thing that year at a stage of his career when you would not expect such an impact from him. His 2009 campaign was statistically on par with 2008 with an even shakier defense in front of him most of the season. Ending the 2009 season Hartman was still a very productive goalie, certainly one of the most reliable and experienced.

As for his career, Hartman eclipsed 300 games played in MLS. No one has done that. He is second in all time minutes played. It’s true that Hartman isn’t Buffon or Dida, but it would be easy enough to argue he has put together the best goalkeeping career in MLS history. Kevin Hartman is an amazing story when you consider he had to prove himself at every level before ascending. He essentially played for three high school teams and two different colleges. He had to start his career with the Galaxy behind the legendary Campos, win back his job in L.A. from Matt Reis, and then re-establish himself in KC after 10 seasons on a different team. In every place he has proved to be strong enough to be a major factor in his team’s success. These last couple of years in KC have been no different for Kevin Hartman, and the Wizards got him for a mere $150,000. Talk about a deal.

So, my son doesn't get the move and either do I. We give up one of the greatest MLS goalies to ever play in apparent exchange for a 2nd tier Danish goalkeeper? Did Hartman really want that much more money? Why is my son wearing his circa 2007 Wizards jersey, you ask? Because it has Kevin Hartman's signature in the middle of the back.

What do I tell Jordan when he asks where Claudio Lopez went?


Woody Woodward said...

Boring, but I did read the whole thing. Congrats to Jordon for being sport savvy.

Hough said...

Hartman can't be gone, whose is going to react to the FC Dallas fans when they come in town?

Reepicheep said...

Woody, go back to whatever girly chick-flick you were sobbing about...

Brian, I was thinking the exact same thing. One of my greatest MLS memories was sitting in the FC Dallas fan section at Arrowhead when Kevin Hartman so wonderfully greated them!!!

Perry said...

News like that can be crushing for a kid. Thankfully he has the Lord.

Malcolm said...

Tony, Tony, Tony. Don't be so hard on your brother Woody. By the way he was watching a trilogy of Beaches, The Body Guard, and Steel Magnolias.

Anonymous said...

very nice read - my family is really going to miss coming to the games to see kevin. - not excited about this upcoming season at all and this just adds to it.