Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pitcher Spurns $12 Million, to Keep Self-Respect

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
“Once I started to realize I wasn’t earning my money,
I felt bad,” Royals pitcher Gil Meche said.
January 26, 2011

New York Times

The guaranteed contract is a fundamental principle of Major League Baseball, as much a part of the game as balls, strikes and outs. No matter how a player performs, or how his body holds up, he must be paid in full. Only in rare cases — an injury sustained off the field, gross personal misconduct — does a player forfeit his paycheck.

But the case of Gil Meche is rare for an entirely different reason. Meche, a 32-year-old right-handed pitcher, had a contract that called for a $12 million salary in 2011. Yet he will not report to Surprise, Ariz., with the rest of the Kansas City Royals for spring training next month. He will not have surgery to repair his chronically aching right shoulder. He will not pitch in relief, which involves a lighter workload.

Meche retired last week, which means he will not be paid at all.

“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’s decision plays against type — the modern athlete out for every last dollar. There have been, over the years, athletes who took less money to play for one team over another, Cliff Lee being the latest when he agreed to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies. And yes, Ryne Sandberg retired from the Chicago Cubs in 1994, forgoing nearly $16 million.

But there are very few parallels to what Meche did.

Instead, it is much more common for an injured player to report to spring training, go through the motions of rehabilitation and collect his paycheck. Lenny Dykstra played his last game in 1996 but did not announce his retirement until after the 1998 season, when the Philadelphia Phillies paid him $5.5 million. Mo Vaughn of the Mets made $15 million in 2004, even though an arthritic knee had ended his career the year before.

“In no way is it assumed that at the end of a deal a guy is expected to walk away if he can’t play,” said Jim Duquette, the former Mets general manager. “It’s just so odd and so rare. There was no way that we would have ever had a conversation like, ‘Hey, Mo, listen, you’re not able to play, so you should retire.’ ”

Sandberg, it turned out, returned in 1996 and essentially earned back some of the money he had left behind. And the novelty of Mark McGwire’s decision to retire from the St. Louis Cardinals with two years left on a contract worth $30 million was tarnished by his subsequent admission of steroid use.

“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.”

The Royals signed Meche to a five-year, $55 million free-agent contract before the 2007 season, when he made the American League All-Star team. He pitched well again the next season, but by mid-2009, his body started to crumble. He made nine starts last season without a victory.

Still, the Royals fully expected Meche to pitch in relief, and to pay him the $12 million — three times more than any other player on the team. If nothing else, they believed, Meche could be a positive influence for a young roster.

But Meche knew the Royals really signed him to start games and log innings. His deteriorating shoulder, surgically repaired twice in 2001, would not allow him to do that. As a divorced father of three, he believed his children — ages 7, 5 and 3 — needed him more than his teammates did.

Meche told the Royals’ general manager, Dayton Moore, that he did not want any of the paycheck due him. No settlement, no buyout, no strings. The Royals had been roundly criticized for signing Meche in the first place — he was 55-44 with a 4.65 earned run average in six seasons for the Mariners — and Meche believed they had already paid him enough.

“He felt the organization had been very good to him, and he felt he needed to, not repay, but in his mind do the right thing,” Moore said. “I’m not saying that if a player decides to do his best and fulfill his contract that’s the wrong thing. But Gil did what he felt was right for him.”

Meche was raised in Lafayette, the hometown of the former Yankee Ron Guidry, his early pitching idol. His father, Fred, has owned a computer company for more than 35 years, and his mother, Linda, stayed home. Meche said he never had to worry about money, and his parents allowed him to focus on baseball.

Meche, who is 6 feet 3 inches, was taller than most classmates as a boy, and threw a lot harder — 92 miles an hour by his junior season. But when illness sapped his strength as a senior at Acadiana High School in Lafayette, Meche figured professional scouts would turn away. He planned to attend Louisiana State until the Mariners surprised him with an $820,000 bonus offer. Meche accepted it, bought a GMC Yukon and, he said, paid for a lot of his teammates’ meals.

“We were confident he would regain his stuff and be a sleeper in the draft,” said Bryan Price, then the minor league pitching coordinator for the Mariners. “Gil always had great stuff, and he was very athletic.”

Meche rewarded the Mariners by reaching the majors by age 20. His shoulder soon broke down, and two operations cost him two seasons.

But he showed enough promise through 2006 to entice the Royals, who paid him $43 million through 2010.

The decision to leave was not easy, Meche said, but his hometown tugged at him. Meche is buying a house in Lafayette, near his parents and sisters and friends. For now he lives in a 45-foot R.V. at a campground.

Much of his time, he said, will be spent on airplanes. Two of his children live in Phoenix with his ex-wife, and another lives in Texas. Meche spent time with all three children last week.

“I told them Daddy’s not going to play baseball anymore,” he said. “My little girl looked at me and said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said: ‘Well, Daddy’s been playing a long time. Daddy’s shoulder hurts.’ She kind of looked at me and went back to playing with the other two kids.”

There is no throwing program to struggle through anymore, no excitement to try to summon for a game that hurts too much to play. Baseball is over for Meche, who spent Monday night with family friends in Lafayette, eating gumbo, drinking beer, relaxing. He has no specific plans, except to settle in his hometown and see his children whenever he wants.

“He gave his heart and soul to his profession,” Moore said. “You only have so many throws in you.”

Meche knew he had none left, and he would not pretend otherwise. He said his dream in baseball was always simple — to pitch as long as he could — and now that he has achieved it, he needs nothing more.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chris Berman's Nicknames

ESPN announcer Chris Berman enjoys making puns out of sports figures' names [many of them baseball]. Here is the DEFINITIVE list:

René Kook Arocha
Tony Brothers in Armas
Scott Respect Your Aldred
Brady Bunch Anderson
Shawn Lil' Abner
Rick See Ya Later Aguilera
Juan Real Agosto
Steve Ebony and Avery
Mike You're in Good Hands with Allstott
Luis Alicea in Wonderland
Joey Cask Of Amalfatano
Rich Protect Your Car With Amaral
Mike Enough Aldretti
Bill Almon Joy
Roberto Remember the Alomar
Doyle Brandy Alexander
Dana Allison Wonderland
Joaquin the Dog Andujar
Paul Orville Assenmacher
Jim Hey Abbott
Oscar Azocar Named Desire
Steve Poison Avery
Jesus Skip To My Alou
David Green Akers
Pedro Borbon Street
Bernardo Brito Supreme
Jeff Pin the Tail on the Bronkey
Mike April Blowers
Bud Paint It Black
Rafael Good Day at the Old Belliard
Jay Ferris Buhner
Scott Tallulah Bankhead
Joe Leave It to Boever
Bruce Bochy Ball
Bert Be Home Blyleven
George Taco Bell
Greg Life Of Briley
Mike Private Benjamin
Dave Ingmar Bergman
Jason Raspberry Bere
Ron Chevy Blazier
Jesse Belly Up to the Barfield
Bruce Eggs Benedict
Barry Savings Bonds
Rod Beck Beck Beck Beck Beck
Scott Milton Bradley
Todd Mercedes Benzinger
Lance You've Sunk my Blankenship
Kevin Small Mouth Bass
Billy Lima Beane
Wade Cranberry Boggs
Dave Burba Shave
Bret Barberie Coast
Daryl Please Come to Boston
Britt Third Degree Burns
Hubie Babbling Brooks
Greg Crocodile Brock
Ryan Bowen Arrow
Jeff Brown Paper Bagwell
Ricky Bad to the Bones
Mark Beetle Bailey
Marty Grin and Barrett
Floyd Up and Down the Bannister
Tim Humphrey Bogard
Ricky Signing Bones
Bobby Bad To The Bonilla
Scott Am Brosius
Randy Burning Bush
Craig Matinee at the Biggio
Pat South of the Borders
Dante Inferno Bichette
Esteban Bats In the Beltre
Jeff See Through Blauser
Harold Growing Baines
Tom Lightning Bolton
Andy the Merchant of Benes
John Charcoal Burkett
Tom Here's a Story of a Man Named Brady
Damon Blue Berryhill
Bill Bubble Bath
Ross I Never Promised You A Baumgarten
Stan Belinda Carlisle
Pat Side Burns
Scott Supercalifragilisticexpiala Brosius
Matt Son Of A Beech
Juan Less Bell to Answer
Carlos One if by Land, Two if Baerga
Eric Sleeping with Bienemy
Andy Merchant of Benes
Jerome You Better You Better You Bettis
Matt Werewolves of Blundin
Mike Room and Bordick
Rob My Bironas
Ron Born in the US Cey
David Sili Cone
Todd Caribbean Cruz
Greg Life Is a Cadaret
Pat OK Corrales
Ivan Bubbling Calderon
Wil Bungee Cordero
Mark Clark Bar
Jose Can You See Canseco
Steve Kentucky Fried Chitren
Tom Cotton Candiotti
Mark Carreon My Wayward Son
Henry Ava Cotto
Mark Crystal Clear
Sylvester Swallows Return to Campusano
Ken Get Off My Cloude
Danny Van Clyburn
Dave Vodka Collins
Joey Alba Cora
Royce A Roni Clayton
Gene Lamont Cranston
Ty Corn on the Cobb
Ken Helmet Caminiti
Dennis Short Order Cook
Jeff Conine the Barbarian
Steve Short Order Cooke
Scott Little Deuce Cooper
Joe Sergeant Carter
Chuck Creme de la Crim
Cris If I Were a Carpenter
Mike Cameron Swayze
My Cousin Vinny Castilla
Chuck Baby You Can Drive My Carr
Golden Archi Cianfrocco
Dave Clark Five
Francisco Umbilical Cordova
Tim Pablo Crews
Casey Sixteen Candaele
Bob Sister Christian
Jose Can You See Cruz
Ben Winter Coates
Hey You Get Off of Mike Cloud
Matt White Cassel
Chris Cab Calloway
Larry Self Centers
Kal Jack Daniels
Rob Bomba Deer
Rich Dotson 280z
Mike Well Dunne
Leon Bull Durham
Delino Decoconut Deshields
Bill Doran Duran
Bo Buenos Diaz
Jim 2 Silhouettes on Deshaies
Eye of the Storm Davis
Bill Hello Dawley
Jeff Dedmon Don't Wear Plaid
Dan Salad Dreissen
Jim Washer and Dwyer
Mariano Slam Duncan
Ron My Darling
Eric the Red Davis
Brian Number 10 Downing Street
Ken Fix or Repair Dayley
Rob Acey Ducey
Danny Darwin Theory
Red Hot Chili Davis
Jody Davis Eyes
Carlos In Delgado Da Vida
Rob Double Dibble
Kelly Churchill Downs
Carlos Daylight Come and Delgado Go Home
Omar Barbie Daal
Cecil Espy N
Dave No Man is an Eiland
Lee Elia Kuryakin
Dave Right Engel
Tom East of Edens
Damion It Don't Come Easley
Joey Bette Davis Eischen
Juan Re Encarnacion
Jim Bela Fregosi
Steve A Bridge Too Farr
Steve Chariots of Fireovid
Mike Horse Fetters
Brett Favre Ngugen
Felix the Cat Fermin
Rollie Chicken Fingers
Bob Air Forsch
John Generalissimo Francisco Franco
Scott Fletcher Christian
Curt Model T Ford
Todd Which Hand Does He Frohwirth
Hector Sizzling Fajardo
Steve Huckleberry Finley
Mike Center Felder
Monty Farris Wheel
Tony Prehistoric Fossas
Chuck Dorsal Finley
Smokin' Lou Frazier
Jeff French Frye
Cliff Pink Floyd
Marvin Philadelphia Freeman
Kevin Linoleum Flora
Jay Fiedler on the Roof
A J Touchy Feeley
Jay See Me Feely
Barry Bananas Foster
Jeff Philadelphia Feagles
Greg Gagne with a Spoon
Andres the Giant Gallaraga
Fettucini Alfredo Griffin
Mark Amazing Grace
Mike Leggo Gallego
Tom Heard it Through the Glavine
Mark Federal Grant
Jose Mother Guzman
Tony Gwynn and Bear It
Mark Chauncey Gardner
Don Down the Gullet
Dwight Gooden Plenty
Tux Cito Gaston
Dan Man from Gladden
Bernard Innocent Until Proven Gilkey
Johnny Pass the Grubb
Juan Speedy Gonzales
Tom Flash Gordon
Jim Gott the Win
Ron Extrava Gant
Mark Woody Guthrie
Brent Rusty Gates
Jason Giambi Jack Flash
Nomar Mr. Nice Guy Garciaparra
Juan Going Going Gonzales
Joe Grahe Flannel
Ben Good Grieve
Rich Loose Gannon
Bobby Seven Year Gritch
Tony Gwynn One for the Gipper
Chris Gwynn the Eskimo
Andrew Ski Glover
Jay Thurston B. Howell III
Mel Carnegie Hall
Jeff Going Back To Huson
Tommy Ben Herr
Lamarr Where Does It Hoyt
Dave Harry and the Henderson
Von Purple Hayes
Danny Uriah Heep
Mike Heath Bar
Tom Dirty Henke
Kent Buy a Vowel Hrbek
Jeff Hamilton Joe Frank and Reynolds
Bruce Patty Hurst
Glenn Old Mother Hubbard
Charles Moscow on the Hudson
Tim Hulett Packard
Chris Mr. Haney
Neal Heaton and Air Conditioning
Chris Hammond Cheese
Vince Four Horsman
Pete Harnisch Racing
Brian Deer Hunter
Glenallen Strawberry Hill
Peter Chips A Hoy
Ron Tala Hassey
Toby Last Harrah
Darryl Green Eggs And Hamilton
Todd Highway to Helton
Tom Henke Panky
Art and Howe
Sam Little Big Horn
John Habyan Corpus
Ah Ah Az Hakim
Dane Clockwork Iorg
Bo Diddley Jackson
Dion Bartles and James
Felix Do You Know the Way to San Jose
Brook Jacoby Wan Kenobi
Wally Absorbine Joyner
Stan Javier Self A Merry Little Christmas
Temple Bethel Johnson
Doug Along Came Jones
Dave Supreme Court Justice
Jeff Mick Jeager
John I Am Not a Kruk
Bob Yom Kipper
Mike The Man Who Would Be Kingery
Jimmy Francis Scott Key
Dana Field Goal Kiecker
Chuck New Kids on Knoblauch
Eric Burger King
Ron Ma and Pa Kittle
Joe Colonel Klink
Darryl Gomer Kile
Eric Karros Matic
Jon Kitna Kaboodle
Dan Erie Kanell
Jim Saturday Night LeFebvre
Chet Bitter Lemon
Mike Car 54 Lavalliere
Steve Lake Michigan
Dennis Fluorescent Lamp
Tim Praise the Laudner
Scott Lay Lady Leius
Jim Frito Leyritz
Bill One if by Landrum
Jeff Sugar Ray Leonard
Vance Common Law
Al Cigarette Leiter
Rick Innocent Lysander
Urbano Renewal Lugo
John Tonight Let It Be Lowenstein
Mark Bud Leiter
Pat Pencil Thin Listach
Keith June Lockhart
Ed Merrill Lynch
Steve Detroit Lyons
Rudy Mother In Law
Jose Lind Cuisine
Craig Def Lefferts
Scott Livingstone, I Presume
Davey Canta Lopes
Mark Get Back Loretta
Steve Lyons And Tigers And Bears, Oh My
Gene Meadow Larkin
Kerry Leather And Lacy
Don't Walk Away René Lachemann
Sean Personal Landeta
Al Fruit Of Levine
John Holy Moses
Me and Willie McGee
Eddie Eat Drink and be Murray
Kevin No Maas
Jose Flying Melendez
Paul Molitor and the Merrimac
Candy Man Maldonado
Darryl Motley Crue
Oddibe Young Again McDowell
Joe Magrane Headache
Kent Magic Mercker
Fred McGriff the Crime Dog
Mike Mason Jar
Greg Appa Maddux
Kirt What Was That Manwaring
Shane Fleetwood Mack
Dave Mary Magadan
Don Welcome Mattingly
Dave Vodka Martinez
Big Ben MacDonald
Pat Mahomes Where the Heart is
José Costa Mesa
Greg Mathe Maddux
Bob Melvin and the Blue Notes
Juan Field Marichal
Jeff Praying Manto
Damon All Mashore That's Going Mashore
Brent Remember the Mayne
Rick Junk Mahler
Kevin Sing Along with Mitchell
Eating Raul Mondesi
Captain Kirk McCaskill
Steve After Dinner Mintz
Angel In the Morning Miranda
Brian 12 Year Moehler
James Teenage Mouton Ninja Turtles
Orlando I Am Merced
Mike Loggins and Mussina
Pedro Harvest Munoz
Curtis My Favorite Martin
Josh Tears of McCown
Mark Eve of Destruction McGwire
Roger Chocolate Maltbie
Mike After Dinner Minter
Chris One Bad Ma'afalla
Natrone Refried Means
Matt No Nokes
Paul Buenos Noce
Reid Buffalo Nichols
Gene Full Nelson
Tim Golden Nehring
Edgar High Nunez
Dan Nick Naulty
Robb The Flying Nen
Jon Get Thee To A Nunnally
John Orton Hears a Who
Johnny Quaker Oates
Gregg Olson Golden
Alex Ochoa Gesundheit
Al Osuna or Later
Sandis Ozolinsh that stole Christmas
Ron Roller Oester
Steve Vi Olin
Tom Goodnight Sweet Prince
Jim Car Poole
Rafael Emerson Lake and Palmiero
Jim Hanky Pankovits
Ted Tower of Power
Ken Good Evening Mr. Phelps
Mark Trans Parent
Terry Swimming Puhl
Terry Pit and the Pendleton
Eric Ker Plunk
Joe Actual Retail Price
Dave Parallel Parker
Bill Veal Pecota
Mike Onion Pagel
Melido Shuffle Perez
Don Whiter Shade of Pall
Tony Jala Pena
Phil the Final Plantier
Chan Ho 3 Com Park
Robert Missing Person
Mike Pepperoni Piazza
Jorge Carne Posada
Jeff Juden Priest
Vicente Buckingham Palacios
Bill Liquid Plummer
Luis Ap Polonia
Albert Winnie the Pujols
Ricky Proehl Shampoo
Carl Slim Pickens
Arquimedez Principle Pozo
Jamie Men at Quirk
Dave Prince Righetti
Randy Ready or Not
Jerry Rolls Reuss
Bobby Tokyo Rose
Kevin Reimer Reason
Dave Rohde Runner
Tim Purple Raines
Johnny Manta Ray
Craig Reynolds Wrap
Gary Redus a Bedtime Story
Jim Pork Fried Rice
Cookie Days of Wine and Rojas
Vern Golden Ruhle
Luis Buick Rivera
Bruce Two Minutes for Ruffin
José Blame It On Rijo
Andre Bad Moon Rison
Kevin Ritz Cracker
Wally Lionel Ritchie
Bryan Rekar Named Desire
Kirk Weekly Rueter
Who Framed Roger Ruzek
Jerry Minute Rice
B J And the Bear Surhoff
Joe Slusarski and Hutch
Pete Raise Your Hand if You're Schourek
Gary Sheffield of Dreams
Bill Per Spiers
Todd Aris Stottlemyre
Tim Sockeye Salmon
Gary Sheffield Of Dreams
Heathcliff Slocumb if ya got 'em
Mark Tossed Salas
Steve Alto Sax
Craig Brewer and Shipley
Rafael Evil Ways Santana
Joel Mule Skinner
John When Irish Eyes are Smiley
Eric Win Place or Show
Larry Satin Sheets
Mike Great Scott
Darryl Strawberry Shortcake
Mike Pre Schooler
Bob Ice Station Sebra
Billy Free Sample
Tom Leave it to Seaver
Jeff Wine Sellers
Juan Play it Again Samuel
Rick Really Big Schu
James Easter Steels
Ed Ocean Sprague
Doug People Are Strange
Sammy Say it Isn't Sosa
Mario Scotch and Soto
Bill Beer Stein
Bruce Three Piece Sutter
Kevin Alka Seitzer
Ruben High Sierra
Mike Nova Scioscia
Scott Room Servais
Chris Church Speier
Paul Veal Sorrento
Buck Showalter Raleigh
Mario Speedwagon Soto
Tim Spehr Tire
Franklin Ticket Stubbs
Reggie Colonel Sanders
Lance Sargeant Schulters
John Private Tudor
Steve Rainbow Trout
Andres Doubting Thomas
Manny Kingston Trillo
Fred Toliver Twist
Alan Have Gun Will Trammell
Pat Pick Up the Tabler
Frank Tanana Daquiri
Mark Fall Of The House Of Tauscher
Kevin Spinal Tapani
Dickie Mara Thon
Jim Home Thweet Thome
Mike Miami Tice
Tony Tarasco Sauce
Jim Thome Can You Hear Me?
Michael Turner Overdrive
George Iced Teague
Ground Control to David Toms
Amani It's Not A Toomer
José Game Winning Uribe
John Stick It In Urrea
Ugueth What You Pay For Urbina
Bobby Be My Valentine
Ozzie Like A Virgil
Frank 101 Strings Viola
Dave Death Valle
Robin Ventura Highway
Todd Smack Crackle VanPoppel
Andy Dick Van Slyke
Butch Oil and Wynegar
Gary Hospital Ward
Mitch The Devil and Daniel Webster
Jeff Montgomery Ward
Walt Three Blind Weiss
Craig For What It's Worthington
Todd We Are the Worrell
Tim Eli Wallach
Vince Workman My Way Back to You
Mark Bay City Wohlers
Don Pop Werner
Kerry Norwegian Wood
John Teenage Wetteland
John Hia Wathan
Jeff Dream Weaver
Bob Intentional Walk
Duane Psycho Ward
Rich Not Ready Yett
Matt Forever Young
Ray Wine Zellers
Greg The Wrath Of Zahn
Todd Good Housekeeping Zeile
Eric Light My Ziere