|Meche Leaves Royals on Good Note||| Print ||
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on January 20, 2011
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Gil Meche made a move Tuesday very few expected.
No, we knew his career was coming to an end because of severe shoulder trouble; we just didn't think it would come this soon. When I broke the story about Meche becoming a reliever, it seemed odd he would continue pitching. It seemed like an experiment that wouldn't work.
Two numbers defined Meche's stay with the Royals. The first was the five-year, $55 million contract he signed before the 2007 season. To then, he had a 55-44 record, 4.65 ERA and 96 ERA+. (His ERA was four percent worse than league average.)
Meche wore that contract, literally and figuratively. He continued wearing jersey number 55 after signing from the Mariners. But the figure represented something else entirely -- the move produced a few waves in the free agent pool.
The Royals had given Meche a contract tied with Mike Sweeney for largest in franchise history. After many years of losing, they were serious about being a destination for free agents. The Royals also signed Jose Guillen to a three-year deal the next offseason. The free agent spending, needless to say, never panned out.
Meche lived up to his contract his first two years. He posted an ERA+ of 117 and pitched at least 210 innings both seasons. He played big brother to budding ace Zack Greinke. He was producing like a good No. 2 starter.
But then shoulder injuries set in. Some point to a 132-pitching outing in 2009 as the cause, but he was 30 at the time and should've been able to handle one extended outing. The subsequent abuse likely was the root.
Meche surpassed 110 pitches a few times immediately after that. This coming after the Royals thought to skip him in the rotation because of "dead arm." This coming after he pitched horribly in the games following his 132 pitches. This coming in another hopeless Royals season.
That leads to second amazing number in this tale -- $12.4 million. Meche decided to forego his 2011 salary, the last in his five-year contract, because he felt he couldn't stay healthy enough to help the team.
It's an admirable thing for an athlete to turn down this much money for personal reasons. Meche decided he didn't want to sit on the disabled list unable to help the team, should the injury flare up. He wanted to spend more time with his family.
There are few recent examples of this graciousness. First baseman Mark McGwire turned down a two-year, $30 million extension offered by the Cardinals.
Meche will be known as someone who wanted to work through his difficulties to produce for the team. He chose to come back as a reliever to see if he could make it work and posted a 2.08 ERA over 13 innings in September.
His time with the Royals ends with a 29-39 record. That comes out to slightly under $1.5 million per win. But there are a few more important things for Royals fans to remember about Meche.