Gil Meche, pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, has just walked away from the game of baseball and $12 million dollars. As strange as that sounds, it appears that Meche is a unique example of an honest and exceptional person. And in the sports world, his type is hard to come by.
Here’s the story: Meche suffered a shoulder injury last season which requires surgery. Instead of going through the rehab process, the 32 year old is calling it quits. All he needs to do is undergo the surgery, begin rehab, and report to spring training to earn his money. He doesn’t want to. “I just thought it [retiring] was the right thing to do,” Meche said.
Here’s Meche’s statement: “After a lot of thinking and prioritizing of issues in my life I have decided to retire from baseball. As a competitor my entire life this is the hardest decision that I’ve ever faced, but it’s not fair to me, my family or the Kansas City Royals that I attempt to pitch anymore. I came into this game as a starting pitcher and unfortunately my health, more accurately, my shoulder, has deteriorated to the point where surgery would be the only option and at this stage of my life I would prefer to call it a career rather than to attempt to pitch in relief for the final year of my contract. I can’t thank the Kansas City Royals and their fans enough for my four seasons there and if I have any regret, it’s that we weren’t able to accomplish on the field what the goal was when I signed there.”
Is he crazy? Perhaps. Many players have felt the urge to stop playing due to an assortment of nagging and serious injuries. But none of them pass up on $12 million dollars. Frankly, I’m shocked that anyone would leave that kind of money on the table.
What I find so refreshing about his decision to retire, however, is his honesty and openness about it. Many players would have gone through with the surgery and started the rehab without a real commitment to regain their earlier form. Their focus would be on getting healthy enough to make the guaranteed money in their contracts. Meche understands this very well, but can not bring himself to do something unethical. He would not be able to live happily with the knowledge that he took the Royals organization for a $12 million dollar ride. That is very impressive.
Amidst all the steroid and cheating scandals that have plagued major league baseball, Gil Meche’s all-star behavior, is a breath of fresh air.
As Danny Knobler of cbssports so eloquently put it, “He was, as some others said Tuesday, about as average a major-league pitcher as you’re going to find. He did little on the mound to distinguish himself. Instead, it was the way he left the game that made him stand out.”