Here's why MLB player returned $500K in pay

San Francisco pitcher Jeremy Affeldt corrected a clerical error in his favor even after management told him to keep the money.

By Jason Notte May 16, 2013 4:57PM
File photo of Jeremy Affeldt of the San Francisco Giants during an MLB game at Chase Field on April 8, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona (© Christian Petersen/Getty Images)When the San Francisco Giants invest in a bullpen piece like left-handed pitcher Jeremy Affeldt (pictured), the least they ask of him is not to cost them anything.

Don't cost them runs, don't blow saves, don't shift games that were in the "W" column into "L" territory. Since arriving in San Francisco in 2009, Affeldt's largely upheld those simple criteria by going 10-9 with 10 saves and giving up just two runs in 15 playoff appearances while helping the Giants to World Series wins in 2010 and 2012.

That he also saved the team $500,000 along the way by pointing out a clerical error in his contract didn't hurt, either.

Hank Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle points out Affeldt was set to earn $4 million in 2010 under an existing contract with the Giants when the team negotiated a two-year, $10 million extension. When the 2010 amount was rewritten into the new contract, someone goofed and typed in $4.5 million instead. The Giants and Affeldt signed it without recognizing the mistake.

Affeldt got opinions from the Players Association, agent Michael Moye and even Giants assistant general manager Bobby Evans saying that it was the team's slip-up and he could keep the extra $500,000. Moye added an addendum to that advice, though, saying that "as a man who represents integrity, I'm saying you should give it back."

Such a conundrum. So how would this story end? Fortunately, in modern Major League Baseball, even middle relievers write books. In his recently released tome "To Stir A Movement," Affeldt writes that he couldn't keep the money on good conscience and asked to have the contract rewritten to excise the extra cash.

"I talked to Bobby the next day and said, 'I can't take that money,'" Affeldt said. "'I won't sleep well at night knowing I took that money because every time I open my paycheck I'll know it's not right.'"

It seems a little trite and "aw shucks," but in the context of the league that employs Affeldt, it's nothing shy of miraculous. It's a league where a highly paid slugger in a major market still makes the same amount for batting close to .200 as he would if he were putting up 50 home runs, and where players routinely involved in scandals involving performance-enhancing drugs have ironclad contracts that still pay them eight figures a year into their 40s.

Affeldt didn't have to kick $500,000 back to a team that has AT&T's (T) name on its stadium and nearly $140 million on its payroll, but his actions are as rare of an occurrence in Major League Baseball as a classic doubleheader.

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Tags: SportsT
May 16, 2013 5:20PM
The betting pool is open - How long will it take for someone to gripe about how athletes are overpaid?
May 17, 2013 4:47PM
Would've been nice if the money would've made it's way to some kids who are in dire need of sports equipment, or uniforms, kinda thing. Just sayin'.
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