More players than you think feel the way Gil Meche felt.
I can't think of any that have done what he just did.
I don't care that Meche has already been paid more than $50 million in his career, or that the $12 million he could have made by simply showing up to try to pitch for the Royals this year wasn't going to be life-changing money.
It's still $12 million. It's still money that was his.
And he said no.
I've heard plenty of players over the years express honest regret that they haven't lived up to their contracts. I haven't heard any who then walked away from $12 million.
"I just thought it was the right thing to do," Meche said on a conference call Tuesday afternoon.
Meche talked about how bad he felt not to have lived up to the $55 million, five-year contract he signed with the Royals after the 2006 season. He talked about how difficult it was to feel that he wasn't earning his salary.
"I wanted to earn every penny," he said.
You can argue whether he earned the $43 million that the Royals have already paid him, but that's not the relevant argument here. They offered the money, he took it, and no one has ever argued that he didn't make the effort.
In fact, everyone with the Royals I spoke with Tuesday was hugely complimentary about Meche. Most of them even said they wished he was going to be in their bullpen this year, because they thought he could help them.
General manager Dayton Moore gave Meche significant credit for Zack Greinke's development into a Cy Young winner. I can believe that, because I remember Greinke talking about Meche's influence back in the spring of 2009, the year Greinke won the award.
Last year, when Meche went to the bullpen in September (after deciding against shoulder surgery and being told that without surgery he could no longer be a starter), he was throwing 95-96 mph. His ERA in 11 relief appearances was 2.08.
But Meche said Tuesday that he wasn't sure his shoulder would hold up to a full season of pitching, even out of the bullpen. In any case, he wasn't willing to try it.
And he wasn't willing to try to take the $12 million if he didn't feel he could pitch.
"The team has done more than enough for me," he said.
Meche suggested that the Royals could take the $12 million and improve their 2011 team. From listening to Moore, it sounds more likely that the Royals will save the money and continue to concentrate on their strong group of young players.
The loss of Meche will make an already-weak Royals team even weaker this year. It means that closer Joakim Soria, at $4 million, is the Royals' highest-paid player, and it means that the total payroll won't be much more than $30 million.
But the Royals weren't going to win even with Meche this year. They weren't going to win if Meche had made that $55 million look cheap by turning into a 20-game winner.
He never did win 20 games in a season. He won 15 one year with the Mariners, and 14 in 2008 with the Royals. Overall, he went 84-83 with a 4.49 ERA in 10 big-league seasons.
He was, as some others said Tuesday, about as average a major-league pitcher as you're going to find.
He did little on the mound to distinguish himself.
Instead, it was the way he left the game that made him stand out.