Thursday, January 27, 2011
As the New York Times reports today, Gil Meche (pictured), until recently a pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, has breached his contract. He was due to be paid $12 million for the 2011 season, but he has a bum shoulder, and he has chosen to retire rather than to be paid what he called "a crazy amount of money for not even pitching." As the Times points out, Meche's decision is not entirely without precedent, but in most cases, injured players go through the motions of surgeries and rehab even when they have little hope of returning to the game. Baseball management does not expect them to retire -- career-ending injury is simply a risk assumed by management when it enters into guaranteed contracts with ball players.
Why did Meche do it? He says he did it because he didn't feel right taking more money from a team that had already given him over $40 million. The Royals had signed Meche in 2007 to a five- year, $55 million contract, and they were widely criticized for having done so. Meche seems to be very grateful to a team that believed in him when others did not. He wants to retain his dignity, free up some cash for the organization, and (this is inevitable) spend more time with his family.
It's a wonderful story. I wonder what other professional athletes think of this. After all, although the players are well paid, they are still the employees of fabulously wealthy professional sports franchise owners. Meche's decision could become a precedent that the Steinbrenners of the world could wield to exert pressure on their aging stars to go gently into the good night of minor league coaching or whatever.