Money on the Table – A Goodwill Gesture and a Leverage Ploy

by Jeeves

A little more than a week ago Gil Meche announced his retirement. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t have been all that newsworthy. Meche amounted to a league average pitcher over his career (ERA+: 99) and made a well deserved appearance in the All-Star game in ’07; this isn’t what interests me about him, as those types of plaudits could describe any number of pitchers (around 114 to be exact). What I find fascinating and admirable is the fact that Gil Meche retired with $12.4 million in guaranteed salary left on the table. This isn’t football where he could have been cut and his contract would have disappeared; as long as he didn’t retire (and didn’t come into breach of contract) he would have seen $12.4 million dollars (less taxes) flow into his bank account by this time next year. His reasoning is as follows:

“I didn’t want to go try it again for another season and be the guy making $12 million doing absolutely nothing to help their team,” Meche said. “Yeah, a lot of people might think I’m crazy for not trying to play and making this amount of money. I don’t think I’m ever going to regret it.”

It’s a rare person who passes up that type of money because he’s concerned about not making the value up to his team and teammates. I don’t think there are many who would fault him for rehabbing and collecting the last year of his salary. I know I would, and that’s without even considering that the Royals have some blame in the current state of his arm. When he was clearly ailing last year, they had him go out and pitch 121 pitches and then 115 pitches his next time out, which contributed to him hitting the disabled list.

The most striking thing to me is his comment, “I don’t think I’m ever going to regret it.” This is a guy who is clearly happy with his place in life. He is grateful for the lavish amounts of money he has made in his career, and he clearly cherishes his time with the Royals despite the fact that their on-field performance was dreadful.

All this serves to contrast nicely with the rumblings surrounding Carson Palmer. According to Chris Mortenson, Palmer has threatened the Bengals with retirement if they do not trade him. He is willing to forgo the final 4 years of his contract which would see him make 50 million (unguaranteed, of course) dollars. His salary for next season will be somewhere north of $10 million.

Palmer has made a lot of money in his 7-years in the league. It’s well within his rights to end his career on his own terms, but I wonder if it makes him feel a little dirty, at all, that he’s trying to leverage himself out of Cincinnati in such a fashion. Yes, the Bengals were terrible this past year, but they are, after all, only 2 years removed from a division title in the tough AFC North.

I find it hard to believe that Palmer wants to bail out on his team so badly. This truly is his team. He’s the face of the franchise and has by far the largest cap number. I find it unfathomable that he publicly submarined his trade value by announcing that he’d rather retire than be paid handsomely to helm the Bengals’ offense. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but I feel a player should afford his organization some modicum of respect. If Carson really, really wanted out and privately met with management and gave him his ultimatum, fine. I still think he’s shirking on his contract and responsibilities, but at least that way he gives Cinci a fair shake and time to try and accommodate him while recouping some value. By letting this mess get to the public, it makes it sound like he wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Ultimately, I do care where Palmer ends up. He has the ability to still be an effective QB in the NFL, but until then, let’s all take a moment to appreciate Gil Meche the person. He gave his all to his team, to the detriment of his own health. He stuck with the Royals through all the losses. He maintained a sense of duty and loyalty to his employer, which is far too often overshadowed by the petulance normally associated with pro sports. So here’s to you Gil Meche.


2 Comments to “Money on the Table – A Goodwill Gesture and a Leverage Ploy”

  1. Here are some players who left money on the table and retired:

    Gil Meche – 1 year $12.4 million
    Carson Palmer – 4 years $50 million
    Rasheed Wallace – 2 years $12 million
    Ryne Sandberg – 2 years $16 million
    Mark McGwire – 2 years $30 million
    Larry Bird – 1 year $5 million
    Glen Coffee – Signing bonus remnant $625000

    So Meche isn’t one of a kind, but it doesn’t diminish what he did.

  2. That being said, I sure hope the niners get Palmer!

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