Gil Meche retires

Gil Meche was a Timber Rattlers pitcher near the end of the 1997 season and for all of 1998.  He was 19 years old in 1998 and went 8-7 for the Rattlers.  He also struck out 168 batters in 149.2IP.  Here is his baseball card from the 1998 season.

gilmeche.jpg

Meche called it a career yesterday and retired with one year (and $12 million) remaining on his contract with the Kansas City Royals.

Larry Stone of the Seattle Times had this blog post up shortly after the news was announced:

Meche said it was his health that led to his decision:

“After a lot of thinking and prioritizing of issues in my life I have decided to retire from baseball. As a competitor my entire life this is the hardest decision that I’ve ever faced, but it’s not fair to me, my family or the Kansas City Royals that I attempt to pitch anymore.”

“I came into this game as a starting pitcher and unfortunately my health, more accurately, my shoulder, has deteriorated to the point where surgery would be the only option and at this stage of my life I would prefer to call it a career rather than to attempt to pitch in relief for the final year of my contract. I can’t thank the Kansas City Royals and their fans enough for my four seasons there and if I have any regret, it’s that we weren’t able to accomplish on the field what the goal was when I signed there.”

The Royals took a lot of heat for the contract they gave Meche, but he was very solid for them his first two years. It wasn’t until his shoulder problems hit in 2009 that he regressed — and manager Trey Hillman didn’t help matters, as this piece chronicles. Meche appeared in just 20 games last year (nine starts) and was 0-5 with a 5.69 ERA. Realistically, they weren’t expecting much from Meche this year, and anything they got would have been a bonus. Many baseball analysts believe the Royals have among the best prospects in baseball and could be on the verge of a turnaround. This financial relief could enable them to augment their youth with some veteran talent.

Jim Oskola of the Post-Crescent had this blog post about the 1997 Timber Rattlers pitching staff:

In 1997, Brian Fuentes and Gil Meche both pitched for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers who along with Dennis Stark and Brian Fitzgerald were at the time thought to be a quartet of pitchers who would eventually play big roles for the Seattle Mariners.

In the low minors, those are the things dream of. Those are the things teammates talk about.

It doesn’t work out that way very often.

Fitzgerald had a cup of coffee with the Mariners in 2002 – his only year to play in the majors.

Stark made his major league debut with the Mariners in 1999, 2001 and 2009. In between he spent three seasons with the Colorado Rockies with his best year in 2002 when he went 11-4 with an ERA of 4.00.

Fuentes has turned into a valuable relief pitcher, debuting with the Mariners in 2001 before spending the next seven years with Colorado, 2009 with the Los Angeles Angels and splitting last season with the Angels and Minnesota Twins. In 2009, he had a career-high 48 saves.

I will note that the 1998 Timber Rattlers roster had the following pitchers make 15 or more starts: Meche, Uber-prospect Ryan Anderson, Joel Pineiro, and Allan Simpson.

That 1998 pitching staff struck out 1,274 opposing batters to set a Midwest League record that still stands today.

At the time, there was a poster of the starters standing on the field that was titled…if I recall correctly…Young Guns. I will see if I can dig that poster (and the Gil Meche mini-bobblehead) from a few seasons ago up for a future post.

Meche and his 168 strikeouts in the 1998 season set a franchise record for K’s in a single season.  He is second on the list now, behind Clint Nageotte’s 187 in 2001.

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