Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fiscal Responsibility

Four winters ago, we were in the twilight zone. (Actually, it could be argued we are there now, as Peter Gammons last night compared Jose Iglesias to Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez because neither were top top prospects in Baseball America's rankings. Whatever, I just wrote that to get Pat and Gunn to fight tomorrow.) In the winter of 2006, along with the two free agent signings that partially made How Youz Doin Baseball possible in the first place, there was a free-agent pitcher who got signed to an absolutely asinine five-year, $55 million contract.

That guy was Gil Meche. His career win total was 55. He even admitted himself that he hadn't put together a full good season before signing the contract, be it injuries or flat-out ineffectiveness. His career ERA was over 4.6. He wasn't a very good baseball player. And he got $55 million. This made him unpopular in a lot of places, and it even inspired a blog that claims we're all living in Gil Meche's world.

Obviously we know what happened next. A couple of years of more ineffectiveness, more injuries, and retirement BEFORE this year, leaving $12 million on the table.

Now this brings up the argument that has been posed on this blog and elsewhere a time or two: It's not Meche's fault that the team offered him the contract. Royals GM Dayton Moore deserves more flack for this than Theo Epstein deserves for December 6, 2006, because what happened (except for what happened the last month) you could have seen from miles away. If anyone has another day off tomorrow, feel free to sift through Meche's stats and give me some kind of indication that the last four years WASN'T going to go down the way they did.

The way Meche acted surrounding the humbling amount of money he was given has been honorable since day one. It's been documented in many places (including, I think a Sports Illustrated article I have been unsuccessful at looking for) that he retained the number 55 he wore in Seattle to remind him and everyone that he had expectations he planned to meet - expectations that related to the number - 55 wins, 55 million dollars. He said all the right things, including the admission that he had never done anything to justify the amount of trust Moore had given him (in dollars and cents). With the contract, he took responsibility for his actions, using the money to justify why he didn't want to come out of a game.

But from there, it was just talk until last month. Last month Gil Meche proved that the balls he has are bigger than the balls he served up to opposing hitters throughout the length of this contract. Last month he provided the low-budget team that took a misguided shot on him with an extra $12 million in roster flexibility. Noted ambassador and philanthropist Curt Schilling was okay with collecting $8 million on a one-year contract despite not throwing a pitch that year. Let's see Mike Hampton do something like that. Most athletes, despite underperforming over the length of a contract, develop the middle name Patrick by never owning up to their underperformance. After playing 18 games last year, 46 got a 383% raise.

But Gil Meche will no longer be known as the guy who got a ridiculous contract he didn't deserve. He'll be known as the guy who turned down the $12 million he didn't feel he deserved. Lisa Simpson once turned down $12 million, but she was a fictional character. Gil Meche did, what one blog said, was "one of the remarkably selfless, team-first, right things in the history of sports." While I'm not ready to name him the Armando Galarraga of the year quite yet, it's nice to see that despite the fact that there's a serial rapist in the Super Bowl, a double-murderer on Old Spice commercials, and drug trade co-conspirators running major league baseball and the NHL players' union, there's someone like Gil Meche to have the balls to assume accountability.

5 comments:

TimC said...

I was looking forward to ignoring the next post and just rumbling on with the anti-Bandi sentiment that was rocking this blog in the afternoon...but I really liked this post. I suppose Bandi will learn his lesson about trying to defend a Patriot.

I cannot wait for the first sighting of 383 patrolling the Fenway grass, or, perhaps, the right field bleachers.

Let's not drag Lisa into this- my favorite Simpson- because her 'selfless' act did not provide the Springfied Isotopes, a small-market team if there ever was one, with the financial flexibility to sign anyone of value or even renovate their stadium. In fact, she damn near KILLED HOMER SIMPSON and for that she should be chastised.

I'm not sure where I stand on Gil Meche to be perfectly honest. I see that his turning down the money was a big-man move given how he has performed over these years. However, he has pocketed quite a bit of loose change leading up to it. I suppose I'll sleep on it. In a 'vacuum' I suppose we can look at it as a one-year thing and applaud the man. But $43 million in the bank/US budget deficit? Not so sure there.

Ross Kaplan said...

I've been waiting with baited breath for this topic to come up so that I could make my long awaited return to the world of Blog commenting.

Call me cynical, but there is no way Meche willingly gave up $12 million out of altruism and guilt alone. This is a guy who had already earned $43 million off one of the worst contracts ever handed out. I don't even recall Meche having retained the services of Scott Boras or receiving any offers from other teams so it's not like Moore had to negotiate against anyone, but himself.

I think Meche began to question his legacy and thought did I really what to remembered as the recipient as one of the worst baseball contracts in history (although you can argue that Zito and Hampton were the worst in terms of length, cost and expectations, but at least those guys earned their big pay day unlike Meche which I think makes it even worse). I think he said to himself, yes I could go through the motions for another season take his $12 million and fade off into the sunset or I could be happy with $43 million + I already have in the bank and put myself on the Mount Rushmore of all time great MLB good guys along with Galarraga and Clemente and the choice was obvious.

Of course I can't kill the guy for willingly give up $12 million, but before we put him in the HOF let's not forget how much money he made beforehand.

Anonymous said...

TimC,

I'm going to keep this post short. After the criticsim I received yesterday on the blog, I really have a chip on my shoulder and I'm working much harder today. It's doing wonders for me personally.

Kaplan,

That post had some of the worst sentences every constructed, however you redeemed yourself by comparing Meche to Roberto Clemente, which was totally outrageous.

the gm at work said...

Tim C,

It's just a strange coincidence that Meche turned down $12 million and Lisa turned down $12 million (which, of course, Homer thought was only $120,000 when he suffered his first five simultaneous heart attacks).

I learned last night while doing research for this post that the ambiguous end of that episode was a plan by the writers just in case the show was going to cease production. They nearly killed off Homer!

You're also right by saying that her selfless act only benefitted Mr. Burns's nefarious scheme, and Meche's benefitted a cash-strapped team.

TimC said...

Yeah, DV, that revelation was wild! I did not even realize the Simpsons were to end!

I anticipate a post on this tomorrow, of course, so I'll keep this to a sentence: who would have thought Andy Pettite would hang it up before the Simpsons?

-Tim

P.S. (Well, probably many people.)

P.S.S. Bandi, I too, for some reason, have gotten a lot of work done today. A rising tide lifts all boats!