Would You Turn Down 12 Million Dollars?

It’s pretty easy to turn down money when it means you have to work for it. It’s called being lazy and we all do it. We have the ability to work hard and get paid, but we choose to relax, hang out, and enjoy ourselves rather than push ourselves to the limit. Pretty simply, we’re turning down money because we don’t want to work. It’s just the way the world works, and that’s ok.

But how many of you, given money, would pay not to have to work? What if every hour of tv you watched cost you $20? What if you were given $100,000 on January 1st and had to dole out money when you didn’t want to work your hardest.

Think you would take work more seriously?

Well, most people don’t like giving away money they’ve earned, and there’s been an amazing example of someone who didn’t simply turn down money, as we all do, but who had the money and actually took action to give it back because he believed that he didn’t deserve it.

Gil Meche signed a contract before the 2007 season to pitch for the Kansas City Royals for 5 years and $55 million. A few weeks ago, he announced his retirement.

What’s the big deal? Well, his contract had one more year on it and by retiring, he’s turning down the $12 million he would have been paid this year! He needs surgery to repair his shoulder and he would likely pitch in relief rather than as a starter, two things he didn’t want to do, no matter the price. He could have taken $12 million to get surgery and mostly sit around in the bullpen, but he declined.

It’s pretty bizarre, and he had no obligation to give back his money. In baseball, a contract is guaranteed, even if a player gets injured. In the NFL, contracts are not guaranteed and if a team wants to cut a player, they can without having to honor the rest of the contract.

So why did he do it? I spent awhile trying to find some hidden reason we didn’t think about. I thought maybe he had some sort of insurance policy that would pay him anyway, some other source of income, but the truth is that Gil Meche is deciding to pay $12 million not to play baseball for one year with no catch. Ridiculous!

He thinks that it’s not fair for him to be paid that much and not live up to his expectations.

It’s easy to say that he has enough money and can survive on that other $43 million that he made the past 4 years. But it’s a lot harder to actually take action in order to not receive money, especially that much. How many of you would give back money that you were entitled to?

He is not the only player to have been in this position, and it’s extraordinarily rare for this to happen. For example, over the course of 4 years, Carl Pavano ‘pitched’ for the Yankees. He made a total of 26 starts, 8 fewer than Gil Meche made in the first year of his contract alone. And do you know how much Pavano gave back because he felt he didn’t live up to his contract? $0.00.

Readers, do you think Gil Meche is stupid for turning down that much money? Do you think you would have done the same thing? If you were making $500,000 and felt you weren’t doing your job well, would you turn down an annual bonus or give some of it back to the company?

24 Responses to Would You Turn Down 12 Million Dollars?

  1. It’s easy to say this now, when I’m not really giving up $12 million, but I think I would give it back too. I’ve never really been in a situation where I was not giving something my 100% best effort, but I think if I was, I would feel very guilty about accepting the money.

    My tune might change very much with $12 million staring me in the face. This was truly an extraordinary gesture.

    • Daniel says:

      @Kevin McKee, I would definitely just take it, try and rehab, and give it my all for one more season. There was no reason to leave the money other than wanting to do the right thing. Considering how few people actually do it, I think it’s hard to argue that we’d all do the right thing.

      I expect to see far more people who say they’d do it too than professional athletes who actually do it.

  2. Joe says:

    I can’t honestly say I’d do the same (though I’d like to think I would), but props to Meche for doing that. It’s nice to see an athlete with a conscience set a good example for a change.

    Also, at the beginning of the post I thought you were going in the “penny saved is a penny earned” direction.

    • Daniel says:

      @Joe, I try to keep you on your toes. Also, Meche’s intention was to better the team by not sucking up it’s resources. Unfortunately, management decided to sit on the money instead of spending it on improving the team.

      If I were going to be noble about it, I’d take it all from the Kansas City Royals and give it to charity. It will do better there than in the owner’s pockets.

  3. @Daniel – by giving the money back to the Royals he is, essentially, giving the money to charity! As part of the revenue sharing system, KC sucks up a ton of revenue from larger clubs each and every year.
    That being said, I doubt i’d give the money back however it must be noted that given the amount of money Meche made during his career, and assuming he didn’t frivolously spend it all, perhaps he just didn’t “need” the money?
    In the end I do agree, he could have donated to charity.

    • Daniel says:

      @Sustainable PF, haha very nice! It sounds like he’s smart with his money, he made a point of saying that one reason he’s able to do this is because both he and his children will be taken care of, so the extra $12 million would likely never have been touched in his lifetime.

  4. Jane Sanders says:

    Great post, Daniel!In my current situation, it would be hard to pass up a million dollars. $12 million would be harder to give up.

    I’ve read a lot of comments/articles saying that he’s moronic for throwing away millions. I honestly think that what Gil Meche did is admirable. But, as the saying goes, to each his own.

    • Daniel says:

      @Jane Sanders, It’s hard to judge others, especially when their situations are nowhere near our own. I wouldn’t turn down $12 million in my current situation, and it’s hard to make a judgment on a situation that will never happen to me.

  5. I think it’s honorable but I don’t know if I’d give the money back or not. I definitely don’t think this guy is stupid though. It sounds like he feels like he is doing the right thing which is amazing in my book. :-)

  6. JT McGee says:

    Meh, $12M to him is worth a lot less than $12M to me.

    Even with your question of $500,000…there’s a difference in publicity. I don’t know, I think I’d consider passing up the money if it meant for the next 162 Royals games I wasn’t going to be the subject of TV announcer conversation. Tough to say :/

  7. krantcents says:

    It is rare to see somebody actually turn down money! He obviously has integrity and he is not really turning it down, he doing what is right.

  8. 20 and Engaged says:

    Everyone has their reasoning, and I can’t fault him for whatever reason his was. If it were me, I would give money back that I didn’t earn.

    • Daniel says:

      @20 and Engaged, If you signed a contract with your employer and got injured on the job, you would give back money? He’s ENTITLED to that money, I don’t see why he should even feel bad about it. He’s played well the past 4 years, it’s not like he’s been a total bust. And if he played better than his contract is worth, it’s not like they would have paid him more. That’s what the contract is for!

  9. I probably would try to rehab and at least give it a go and keep the 12M. :)
    I don’t know the whole story though, there may be some other factors right?
    He is just a nice guy? I find it hard to believe.

    • Daniel says:

      @retirebyforty, Possibly, but from his interviews, he actually just sounds like a genuinely nice person who doesn’t want to go through surgery, rehab, and sitting in the bullpen with little to look forward to. He and is family are set, so I’m not sure we can assume he has some hidden reasons for turning down the money.

  10. Andrea says:

    I don’t think he is stupid for turning down the money.

    If I had that opportunity I probably would try to stick it out the final year. But that’s because I don’t know what it’s like to have 12 million dollars in my bank account, at least not yet… :-)

    It’s probably easier to turn down that kind of money when you are already financially secure and don’t have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck. And if I were in that position, and I was financially secure and I didn’t need the money I would give it back.

    • Daniel says:

      @Andrea, I would definitely stick it out. Baseball has been his whole life for many years, I assume that walking away is a difficult thing for him to do.

  11. Noah says:

    There may be more to the story than we know about. Perhaps there is a family member who is ill and won’t last more than a year. Or he simply wants to spend more time with his family. Considering baseball has what, 162 games a year (?), you are probably away from home a good portion of the year. I imagine people like that are only excited when they actually get to play. Knowing you’ll be on the bench all year is probably not terribly exciting.

  12. Darwin's Money says:

    Seems like the right thing to do but makes me wonder if there’s more to the story – because it’s so rare to do this, especially for that sum of money. These days, it’s not what’s right, but what’s legal. We’ve learned this all the way up to President of the US. Normal folks like us do this all the time, so perhaps this guy just hasn’t forgotten his roots, he’s already well-off, or money isn’t his sole motivator – his reputation is higher on the list.

    • Daniel says:

      @Darwin’s Money, It’s not just that it’s legal, but nobody expected him to do it because it was so far within his right and nobody would even think to ask him. Unless there’s something we don’t know..

  13. Sandy @ yesiamcheap says:

    I can’t lie. I would have purchased a nice cushion, a few nice suits, and prepared to sit my ass on the bench and warm it up for the entire season. You can pay me $12M to do a lot worse.

  14. There may be a lot more to this than we know. It doesn’t add up.

    That said, based on the available information provided in the post, I think he’s foolish for giving up that $12 million. What could be so bad about rehabbing, pitching in a different role, etc.

    If I was offered an opportunity to set aside my experience, MBA, etc – and be a janitor for one year, on the night shift, but for $12 million – I would do it in a second. All this guy had to do was be employed and try his best in what’s a DREAM JOB for many people. Of course it’s his choice, but how bad could it be – and what’s the next best use of his time?

    Unless there’s no other information, he’s foolish for forgoing that money. Even if he knows he’s not worth it, and the team is totally ovepaying him and not getting their money’s worth, they made a deal and have to stand by it. He is owed the money. He’s not being honorable, he’s being foolish, in my view. I’d take the money and chillax after that! Easy money!

    All this is based on the premise that there’s nothing else there that we don’t know about which would complete the story.

    • Daniel says:

      @Squirrelers, The problem with your analogy is that you wouldn’t be getting $12 million for being a janitor. You’d be getting your regular salary instead. And keep in mind he’s already rich, so he already has money and can chillax the rest of his life!

      I guess it’s just hard for us to understand his position and it underscores just how special it is what he’s doing.

  15. i dont think anyone would lol

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