Baseball fans will tell you that few transactions are as a risky as signing a free-agent pitcher to a long-term contract. The truth of the matter is that pitchers' arms can be fragile. And the team must pay the player regardless of his performance. In some cases, players are paid for years after their last appearance in a big-league uniform.
Thus, when the Kansas City Royals signed Gil Meche to a five-year, $55 million contract four years ago, baseball fans and experts predicted that the Royals would regret their actions. No one thought that he was worth that kind of money.
All of which makes his story even more extraordinary.
Meche's first two years with the Royals went well: He made the American League All-Star team in his first season with the club. But in his fourth year, he made only nine starts, as the result of a bad shoulder. Nonetheless, since he was owed $12.4 million for 2011, the Royals expected him to return to the team, sore shoulder and all, perhaps as a relief pitcher.
But in January, Meche shocked the Royals and the entire baseball world by announcing his retirement--foregoing the $12.4 million he was owed! He didn't want to take the money when he knew that he wouldn't be able to pitch, at least not effectively. Meche said it "just wasn't the right thing to do."
Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated called Meche's announcement "perhaps the most unbelievable finish in major league baseball history." He pointed out that not only had Meche performed at a high level the first two years of the deal, but that, arguably some of his injury problems were the Royals' doing.
Yet, Meche, who is invariably described as "modest," decided that "the team's done enough for me."
Posnanski is right when he calls Meche's actions "unbelievable." This is, after all, a world in which athletes cash checks even when they aren't contributing on the field and CEOs take home tens, if not hundreds of millions, despite falling share prices.
This is why the Gil Meches of the world are the exceptions. And it's also why we can expect more business scandals and outrages if we fail to re-embrace ethical behavior as a society. If your answer to "how now shall we live?" is "what does the contract say?" then no amount of regulation or even criminal investigations can prevent a recurrence of the 2008 financial crisis.
Without a commitment to doing the right thing, the kind of trust that makes markets work, we will be lacking. At the very least, we will spend untold billions trying to guard against human weakness and evil. And, even then, people will still cash checks they didn't earn.
That's why we've produced a fabulous six-part video series on restoring ethics called "Doing the Right Thing," just as Meche said. It's perfect for churches and groups, business, schools and colleges. Check it out, won't you, at ColsonCenter.org/ethics. The series won't be available until late March, but you can pre-order it at the website.
And let me add one other thing. If what you've heard today makes you want to see our culture reinvigorated with biblical truth, I invite you to become a Charter Member of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Go to JoinColson.com today to learn more. That's JoinColson.com, all one word.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
Publication date: February 16, 2011