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Royals' $55 Million Man heading for surgery

Bob Dutton and Tereza Paylor with the utterly shocking news:

    Royals pitcher Gil Meche believes he made every effort to avoid shoulder surgery – and it just didn’t work. So season-ending surgery now looms as a likely next step.

    “I’ve done everything possible I could do to be on that mound,” he said. “I know that, (the Royals) know that. It’s not like I’m sitting here not wanting to pitch.”

    All that work failed to resolve the problem.

    --snip--

    Meche’s shoulder problems, previously identified as bursitis, surfaced late in spring training and forced him to open the season on the disabled list. He returned April 11 but went 0-4 with a 6.66 ERA in nine starts before returning to the disabled list.

    “He worked really hard to do everything he could to get back without having this happen,” Yost said. “We’ll get it taken care of now, get it done as soon as we can, and hopefully have him ready to go (by the start of) next year.”

    Surgery would cap a second straight injury-filled year for Meche, who made just 23 starts last season because of back and shoulder problems. He finished 6-10 with a 5.09 ERA.

    Meche is in the fourth season of a five-year, $55 million deal signed Dec. 8, 2006, after spending the previous 11 seasons in the Seattle organization. He went 23-24 with a 3.82 ERA in 2007-08 with the Royals while making 68 straight scheduled starts.

    “When I signed this contract here,” he said, “it was to pitch. The first 2½ years, I did that. But since then, it’s been crazy and disappointing.”

Hmmm. This might be my last chance in a while to say I told you so, so ...

Man, I told you so.

When the Royals signed Meche, I said:

1) He probably isn't talented enough to earn $55 million;

2) Even if he's talented enough, he probably won't be healthy enough to earn $55 million;

and

3) Even if he's talented enough and healthy enough to earn $55 million, the Royals won't be good enough over the life of his contract to justify spending that sort of money.

I might have been wrong about the talent. Despite having just come off a string of impressive seasons, Meche posted a solid 3.82 and led the major leagues with 68 starts in his first two years with the Royals. Kudos to Dayton Moore and his scouts, who seemed (for a brief moment in geological time) to have hit the bullseye with their $55 million man.

Then he got hurt. Maybe those 68 starts (and 426 innings) took their toll; before joining the Royals, Meche had never managed to pitch 200 innings in a season. Maybe staying healthy just isn't his thing.

The critics -- Rany Jazayerli, Joe Posnanski, every half-rational observer, me -- will point to a start last July in which Meche was allowed/ordered to throw 121 pitches after complaining of a "dead arm."

That's a problem. As Posnanski points out, since that start Meche has a 7.18 ERA with more walks than strikeouts. Meche had been struggling earlier, though. I suspect his shoulder would have exploded eventually, regardless.

Good points all. My point is that the Royals wouldn't be contenders even if Trey Hillman hadn't played chicken with Meche's right arm. If he wasn't hurt last year, they would have finished 14 or 15 games out of first place rather than 22. If he wasn't hurt this year, they might be eight games out of first place rather than 13.

Big deal.

Management might have tried to justify spending $55 million on Meche in a couple of ways. One, claiming that they were almost ready to win, and he would put them over the top. Clearly not the case. Or two, claiming that spending $55 million on Meche would give the franchise credibility.

Well, you be the judge. When's the last time one of your half-rational friends mentioned the Royals without a smirk or (if he's a Royals fan) a scowl? You don't gain credibility by overspending on injury-prone starting pitchers (are you listening, Mr. Beane?). You gain credibility by drafting well, making smart trades, and finding bargains on the free-agent market.

You gain credibility by doing what Tampa Bay has done.

You gain credibility by winning.

Oh, and one more thing in case you skipped to the end ... You gain credibility by NOT FLUSHING FIFTY-FIVE MILLION DOLLARS DOWN THE TOILET.