Gil Meche, who was a pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, retired this week and gave up a $12 million contract for 2011. His reason: he says that he wasn't earning his money. Meche has returned to his hometown of Lafayette where he has no particular plans other than to see his children as much as possible.
The Royals signed Meche to a five-year, $55 million free-agent contract before the 2007 season, when he made the American League All-Star team. He pitched well again the next season, but by mid-2009, his body started to crumble. He made nine starts last season without a victory.
Meche had this to say about his decision to retire: "When I signed my contract, my main goal was to earn it. 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."
Meche's decision plays against type - the modern athlete out for every last dollar. There have been, over the years, athletes who took less money to play for one team over another, Cliff Lee being the latest when he agreed to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies. And yes, Ryne Sandberg retired from the Chicago Cubs in 1994, forgoing nearly $16 million.
Meche told the Royals' general manager, Dayton Moore, that he did not want any of the paycheck due him. No settlement, no buyout, no strings. The Royals had been roundly criticized for signing Meche in the first place - he was 55-44 with a 4.65 earned run average in six seasons for the Mariners - and Meche believed they had already paid him enough.
Meche, who is 6 feet 3 inches, was taller than most classmates as a boy, and threw a lot harder - 92 miles an hour by his junior season. But when illness sapped his strength as a senior at Acadiana High School in Lafayette, Meche figured professional scouts would turn away. He planned to attend LSU until the Mariners surprised him with an $820,000 bonus offer. Meche accepted it, bought a GMC Yukon and, he said, paid for a lot of his teammates' meals.
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