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Meche gave up $12 million because he ‘didn’t feel like I deserved it’

Jan 27, 2011, 2:33 AM EDT

Gil Meche

The baseball world was stunned last week when Kansas City Royals pitcher Gil Meche announced he would retire from baseball, and in so doing surrender the $12 million he would have made in 2011, the final year of his contract.

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times caught up with Meche in a telephone interview, and the resulting story reveals Meche as a strong-willed man who puts personal reputation ahead of wealth, and who marches to his own beat.

That in itself is hardly surprising. After all, I don’t know how many people would give up $12 million when all they would have to do to earn it is to sit on the disabled list for a season. Lenny Dykstra wouldn’t give it up, as Kepner points out. Neither would Mo Vaughn. Neither would I, for that matter.

But Meche couldn’t live with the idea of making money that he didn’t earn, even though baseball teams know full well the risks they take when handing out big contracts.

“When I signed my contract, my main goal was to earn it,” Meche said this week by phone from Lafayette, La. “Once I started to realize I wasn’t earning my money, I felt bad. I was making a crazy amount of money for not even pitching. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I deserved it. I didn’t want to have those feelings again.”

Meche made more than $50 million playing baseball, so giving up another $12 million hardly makes him a hero. But it’s hard not to admire him for standing by his principles. The right-hander, who is divorced, is living in an R.V. at a campground as he searches for a home to buy in his hometown of Lafayette, La. He says he’ll be spending a lot of time on airplanes visiting his children – two live in Phoenix, another in Texas. He told Kepner that he’s content with his decision.

“This isn’t about being a hero — that’s not even close to what it’s about,” Meche said this week. “It’s just me getting back to a point in my life where I’m comfortable. Making that amount of money from a team that’s already given me over $40 million for my life and for my kids, it just wasn’t the right thing to do.”

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  1. kiwicricket - Jan 27, 2011 at 5:10 AM

    Rather it your pocket Gil, than the Royals owner.

  2. sknut - Jan 27, 2011 at 7:58 AM

    I appreciate this story. Its nice to see a guy with some perspective, I doubt I would do the same thing.

  3. bigtrav425 - Jan 27, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    that is a real man with morals my friends.Wish more guys could be like that in the business

  4. Ari Collins - Jan 27, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    Wow. I mean, I never had a negative perception of Meche; wasn’t his fault Moore wanted to overpay him. But that there is one upstanding guy.

  5. BC - Jan 27, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    Assuming this is on the up-and-up, I applaud him. Meche threw the p–s out of the ball when healthy. The key words being “when healthy”.
    PS. Hey Harkins – you HAD to bring up Mo Vaughn, huh? ;-)

    • Bob Harkins - Jan 27, 2011 at 5:56 PM

      He’s hard to miss!

  6. Joe - Jan 27, 2011 at 10:54 AM

    What’s up with Kepner going out of his way in this piece to slam McGwire for using steroids?

  7. xpensivewinos - Jan 27, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    Good guy.

    Another option is, he could have taken the money and donated it to various charities……

  8. Chris Fiorentino - Jan 27, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    I guess I am the only person who thinks Meche is a complete fool. In my opinion, these huge contracts are not paid on what you WILL do, they are paid on WHAT YOU HAVE DONE. When a guy like Ryan Howard gets $125 million over 5 years, it isn’t because he is expected to hit another 250 home runs over the next 5 years. It is because what he did his first four years was historic production that has never been done. Same with Pujols. He isn’t being paid for what he will do in years 7-8-9 of his next contract. He is being paid for what he already did. Jeter too. His 3 year contract isn’t for what he will do…it’s for what he has done. It’s the way the business of baseball works. If it didn’t work that way, then players would get paid yearly and have no long-term security…kinda like in football.

    People may not like to hear it put that way, but that’s just the way it is.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jan 27, 2011 at 12:03 PM

      Not all people see contracts the way you do. Besides, no one is a fool who listens to their conscience.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jan 27, 2011 at 12:17 PM

        Meche earned that money the minute he signed the contract. It’s not his fault he got injured…would he have gotten injured if he never pitched? No. So why should he be sore for the rest of his life and not be paid what he deserved for injuring himself while pitching? Just doesn’t make sense…and I bet in 10 years, when his arm hurts every morning, he will be kicking himself.

      • clydeserra - Jan 27, 2011 at 2:17 PM

        It is the Royals fault he is not able to play. I am with Chris on this one.

        Also, what is he doing to his fellow players who get injured? Are the expected to Meche it up and quit because they can’t play? How about for the year after TJ surgery? “You are not earning your money, fool give it back.”

        Further, morality judgements? He may be a nice moral guy, but giving up money he is owed does not make him so.

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jan 27, 2011 at 2:23 PM

        He didn’t want to make money he can’t earn. If something happens with another player, what they do with their salary is their decision alone, just like it was for Gil. Just respect that and quit harping.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jan 27, 2011 at 2:31 PM

        It sets a very bad precedent for a player, who HAS A GUARANTEED CONTRACT, to retire from his team and give up salary because he was injured. I can GUARANTEE you that the MLBPA is none too pleased with Meche here. Not that he cares about them really, since he has retired from them and doesn’t need them anymore. He is a fool. You guys can look at him like a hero or a good moral guy. I look at him as someone who has screwed over his fellow players big time.

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jan 28, 2011 at 11:35 AM

        Not everything a player does sets a precedent. Every issue like this should be seen as isolated. It’s his money, as you said – he can do what he wants with it. It’s hardly our business as fans anyway. We’re taking this way too seriously.

    • Joe - Jan 27, 2011 at 12:21 PM

      If they were really paid on what the players have done, then Manny Ramirez would be making more than $2 million this year. It’s a combination of past performance and future expectations. That said, I agree that Meche fully earned the contract that he signed based on those factors.

      $12 million, or feeling good about yourself and spending time with your kids? Most of us would put the kids off for another few months. Then again, most of us haven’t banked $40 million in recent years.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jan 27, 2011 at 12:27 PM

        Joe, what I was really talking about was the multi-year deals signed during the middle of a player’s career…not the one-year contracts at the twilight of a player’s career.

    • Bochy's Head/Timmy's Bong - Jan 27, 2011 at 1:49 PM

      Oh, I get it, the Royals paid Meche $55M for those 55 wins he got prior to signing that contract, when… he… was.. playing for the Mariners??? WTF? (Altho’ given what we know about Dayton Moore, mayhaps Fiorentino’s most recent nutty theory is right!)

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jan 27, 2011 at 1:57 PM

        “mayhaps”? Seriously? You must have been watching Mother Abigail in The Stand recently or something. They paid him $55 million because they liked what he did in the past and hoped he would continue to do it. He didn’t because of a combination of being overrated and getting injured. Why should the player feel bad that he got hurt? Meche is a fool. No other way to say it. Now, had he never been injured, and just basically sucked the last 4 years…then yeah, I could almost see him retiring. But to retire because he is injured is just foolish.

      • fquaye149 - Jan 28, 2011 at 5:31 AM

        Right? It’s not as if when a team signs a pitcher to a 5 year deal they are utterly shocked if he gets hurt for a year. if there’s one thing we know it’s that pitchers never get hurt! So when Meche did, it truly was an anomaly that the Royals probably never anticipated. Right?

    • fquaye149 - Jan 28, 2011 at 5:28 AM

      Chris:

      I am with you 110%. Meche isn’t a bad person for thinking he didn’t deserve the money, but he’s absolutely wrong. People are going to praise him for doing this like it’s what people should do. Baloney. I don’t see what’s admirable about taking money you are OWED and putting it in the pocket of a multimillion dollar corporation. Money isn’t everything, no. But $12mm is a lot of money and a lot of good could be done with it. If he doesn’t “need” that money (although I think it’s hard to argue that someone–even someone who has already made $50mm+–doesn’t “need” $12mm) then there’s a lot of other things he can do with that money for the community, for his family, or even for the Royals that I guarantee the Royals organization won’t. If he thinks the team will use that money to improve, why not donate the money to the team under the condition that they use every penny to improve the team (which I guarantee you they won’t now). If he wants to assure ticket prices are affordable for fans, why not use that $12mm to allay ticket costs (which I guarantee you that $12mm will do nothing to help as it stands). Or why not help the community with it (which I guarantee that $12mm will do nothing to help except insofar as taxes)?

      Bear in mind, I am not saying Meche SHOULD do that or he is a bad person. He has every right to take that $12mm and buy a huge yacht and I wouldn’t call him greedy for it. But I bring these examples up as a counter to the idea that allowing a for-profit corporation to keep money THEY OWE YOU is somehow a noble thing.

    • iammaxa - Jan 28, 2011 at 9:14 AM

      ” … huge contracts are not paid on what you WILL do, they are paid on WHAT YOU HAVE DONE.

      So do you also have some explanation as to why baseball contracts are in this sense different from essentially all other contracts? Because I’d love to see you offer this account to an employer.

      • fquaye149 - Jan 28, 2011 at 11:28 AM

        How often do you see companies publicly offer huge multi-year multi-million dollar deals? The public nature of baseball’s salary system helps demand set the price equally through past-performance, future speculation, and name recognition. I doubt anyone’s arguing that “Fans are going to show up to Best Buy to buy thousands of Canon printers if they hire Bill in Accouting away from Hewlett-Packard” in any forum anywhere.

  9. Reflex - Jan 27, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    First off, congrats to Gil. He was a good guy here in Seattle, and its nice to see the big contract did not change him. I always respect someone who lives up to their ethics.

    Secondly, congrats to Chris for living up to everything I’ve ever expected of him. And if Ibanez retires this spring and saves the Phils the money which they can then spend on some other pressing need, I will be thrilled to see Chris live up to his beliefs again and praise Raul’s ethics.

    And finally, no GM ever signs a player based on past performance. They pay them for future performance. Any GM who pays someone based on past performance should be fired immediatly. Past performance is simply a reference point for future expectations. It is not what they are paying for, however. The player was already paid for that performance…in the past. As pointed out by others, if past performance was the metric, Manny, Thome, Vlad and many others would have enormous contracts this year. Obviously thats not the case.

    • clydeserra - Jan 27, 2011 at 2:46 PM

      Future performance based on expectation built by past performance.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jan 27, 2011 at 2:48 PM

        Exactly…but Clyde, you won’t get some of these guys to read what I write and actually comprehend it. They just see my name, look for a couple words, and rip me. It’s all cool. I’m used to it from some of the fools on this board.

      • Bochy's Head/Timmy's Bong - Jan 27, 2011 at 3:54 PM

        Fiorentino: “In my opinion, these huge contracts are not paid on what you WILL do, they are paid on WHAT YOU HAVE DONE.”
        clydeserra: “Future performance based on expectation built by past performance.”

        There is a vast, gaping world of difference between those two statements. Words matter, Chris. You might want to pay more attention to them.

      • Reflex - Jan 27, 2011 at 4:21 PM

        Exactly.

        Plus, there is more to life than money. And before you say that there isn’t, all I can say is I’ve been well off and poor, and yeah, there is much more to life. I look back at the crappy jobs and often those were some of the happiest times of my life. Not saying I wish to be poor, but I totally respect someone like Meche who is already rich, but dosen’t mind giving some of it up for a clear conscience. I’m exactly the same way, and I’ve given back when I felt I didn’t earn my pay as well.

  10. Chris Fiorentino - Jan 27, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    I wouldn’t praise Ibanez for retiring. I would call him a fool too. You can disagree, that is your right. But I think that Meche is a fool for doing this. He was INJURED!!! It’s not like his skill just diminished. He was INJURED. Why? Because he played baseball. He will probably be in pain of some form for the rest of his life now because of baseball. You guys can twist it any way you want, but the facts are that Meche got hurt and retired instead of making the $12 million that he should be receiving because he was INJURED. That makes him a good guy? Not in my eyes. Makes him a fool to me. And like I said previously, I bet the MLBPA is not too happy with him.

    I guess a guy like Ken Griffey Jr, who made $60 million +++ for playing essentially half a season a year for 5 years should have retired instead? That would have been the “ethical ” and “moral” thing to do?

    And regarding your comment on GMs not paying players on past performances, do you really think A-Rod, Crawford and Werth will be earning their money in 6 years? Nope. They got those later years because of what they will do before then. That was my point. Meche was paid the 5 years to get him to come to KC over other teams and what he is doing is crapping on his fellow union members by retiring injured.

    You guys can take what I am saying and twist it around as much as you want. But I stand by my feeling that Meche is a fool and he is hurting his fellow players in the union by doing what he did.

  11. fquaye149 - Jan 28, 2011 at 5:43 AM

    Everyone’s barking up the wrong tree with this “are FA’s paid for past performance or present performance” slap and tickle argument. FA’s are paid for one reason and one reason only–that is the bare minimum amount of money and years a team needs (or feels they need) to pay in order to get the player to pay for their team. The demand in the market sets the price. Part of that demand is based on what the player has done. Part of it is the expectation for what the player will do. However, the price is paid at the time of the contract in order to get the player there. No team likes to do mega-multi year deals. When Charley Finley and the rest of the owners were trying to keep FA prices down at the advent of free agency, Finley’s idea was to allow everyone to be free agents every single year. That’s the ideal situation to the owners. Why? Because in multi-year deals you are paying them those last few years in order to have them for the first few years.

    The Royals did not sign Meche to a five year deal because they expected him to be great in his last year or two. They did it because they expected him to be great in his first few years, hoped he might continue to be effective in his last couple years, dreamed and prayed he might be great all the years, but most importantly–because they needed to offer him those last two or three years to get him to play in Kansas City.

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