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.”