"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Wait, Can We Have a Do-Over?

Frustrating loss for the Yanks yesterday. 4-3. They got out of bases loaded jams in the sixth and in the ninth and had the tying run on base a few times, but came up short. Nick Swisher hit a long home right that bounced off the facade of the upper deck in right but the game can be summed up in the final at bat. Robinson Cano was up with Jeter at third. The count was 1-1 when Cano raised his arm to the home plate ump for time. He was too late and time was not granted. The pitch came and Cano, unsettled, swung. It happened too fast; he didn’t mean to swing. But he did and hit an easy ground ball to short for the final out.

Speaking of futility, check out this fine profile of Kei Igaway by Bill Pennington in the Times: 

The five-year saga is a story of a giant mistake of a contract and an overmatched pitcher, a huge organization digging in and a quiet, somewhat mysterious Japanese pitcher with a sense of honor and a durable love of the game. The Yankees made it pretty clear Igawa would never pitch again in the Bronx, but they were determined that he pitch somewhere for his $4-million-a-year salary. They tried to return him to Japan, too. Igawa refused to go, standing fast to his childhood dream of pitching in the American big leagues.

And so, the stalemate — remarkable, if almost entirely un-remarked upon — continues.

The Yankees let him gobble up innings before small crowds in distant outposts as a cavalcade of younger prospects push past him on their way to Yankee Stadium. Igawa never complains, and in a tribute to either willpower or lower level longevity, he has set farm system pitching records. And with just a few months left on his contract, he still dreams of the major leagues, if no longer as a Yankee.

About two weeks ago, on a rare day off, Igawa celebrated his 32nd birthday alone at his Manhattan apartment. He did not consider attending a Yankees game in the Bronx, nor did he tune them in on his television.

“I don’t watch their games anymore,” Igawa said. “I never follow them.”

Excellent piece.


1 a.O   ~  Jul 24, 2011 11:18 am

The Igawa story has gone from sad and disappointing for all involved to bizarre and outright masochistic. What the he'll is he doing?! They told him he will never pitch for the Yankees but he refuses to go back to Japan and instead spends months at a time away from his family and literally alone except for when he is in the clubhouse. And I don't think it's for the money. The culture gap feels like an unbridgeable chasm right now.

2 monkeypants   ~  Jul 24, 2011 11:28 am

[1] The story claims that he is here still 1] out of a sense of duty, and more importantly 2] in the hope of fulfilling his dream of having success as a big league pitcher. He knows that the Yankees have buried him, but he must also know that if he goes back to Japan he's gone for good. When his ridiculous contract with the Yankees is up, someone in ML will pick him up.

3 a.O   ~  Jul 24, 2011 11:51 am

[2] I did read the story. I guess it hinges on the assumption that going back to Japan means you can't/won't get back to the US. Towers is probably right that he might be decent at the back end of some crappy NL rotation. Still ... just leaves me shaking my head.

4 Chyll Will   ~  Jul 24, 2011 11:59 am

That doesn't reflect well on the Yanks at all. Why would they spend that much energy on a battle of wills with someone they don't want, especially if that guy is here because of their own foolishness? It only compounds the pettiness and foolishness on their part. As for Igawa, you can tell he's already moved on, so you can't blame him for disassociating himself from the club. That from what I gather from the article.

5 a.O   ~  Jul 24, 2011 12:08 pm

[4] Agreed. The Yanks thinking is equally bizarre. If I were them, I would have released him long ago... Just as, if I were Igawa, I would have gone back to be with my wife and child(ren) and to pitch in games that matter.

6 monkeypants   ~  Jul 24, 2011 12:08 pm

[3] If he goes back to Japan, wouldn't he return to the same system where the team has lots of control over him? He may figure that no US team will bother to pay another posting fee for him. His best bet was for the Yankees to trade him, which allegedly they almost did before ownershio nixed the deal.

On the one hand, I am glad from a purely competitive standpoint that the Yankees have not gone back to him. On the other hand, I *might* have been more willing to see Igawa than to see yet another return of Lucky Mitre or Sir Sidney Ponson. Maybe.

7 monkeypants   ~  Jul 24, 2011 12:11 pm

[5] Ahhh...but do games in Japan matter any more than MiL games? It's all a matter of perspective, I guess. He conquered the Japanese Leagues and now his goal is ML. If ML is all that matters, pitching against Tokyo or Reading---neither---will satisfy.

8 monkeypants   ~  Jul 24, 2011 12:12 pm

[5] Also, they effectively released him when they took him off the 40 man roster. At that point, from their perspective, they are paying his salary whether he stays in AA/AAA or goes home to Japan. He has not been blocking anyone.

9 a.O   ~  Jul 24, 2011 12:24 pm

[7] My answer is definitely yes because in the minors managing is done often primarily for player development but that is not true of the two Japan major leagues. And I know the answer is yes for most Japanese folks and most of Igawa's fans.

[8] That was essentially what Cashman said. None of that makes the situation any less bizarre for me.

10 monkeypants   ~  Jul 24, 2011 12:30 pm

[9] Agreed. Bizarre all the way around.

11 cult of basebaal   ~  Jul 24, 2011 12:56 pm

Actually, from what I've read it's pretty straight forward.

By taking Igawa off the 40 man roster, his salary isn't included in luxury tax calculations.

If they released him (or promoted him), his salary would count in luxury tax calculation.

That's a 40% tax for changing the status quo.

Strangely enough, the Yankees have essentially saved money by decided Igawa was a sunk cost ...

12 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Jul 24, 2011 10:08 pm

Incredible article, and Igawa comes off well in it. Yanks strategy here is odd for sure.
[1] Definite culture gap. No Japanese person would be in any way surprised by Igawa's actions here. Especially from a baseball player..from a young age ball players here are indoctrinated into some serious old-skool Japanese patterns of behavior. (Remember Matsui apologizing to the team and the media for getting injured?)

13 Dimelo   ~  Jul 25, 2011 12:17 pm

I don't feel bad for Igawa whatsoever. He has a job, he's being paid to do a job, doesn't matter where he does said work as long as it's what he was hired to do. He's not cleaning toilets, he's still pitching. I don't get all this sympathy for Igawa and the Yanks being the bad guys here.

If my manager sends me to a project in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and he only does that because he doesn't think I can work on a major project in a big city then I see no difference between that and Igawa's situation.

I have no ill will against Igawa, but he's hardly a victim.

14 Raf   ~  Jul 25, 2011 3:01 pm

[13] Yeah, but if your manager sends you to the UP when you know other companies can use your services, it's a bit unfortunate. Granted, it's a bit more complex than that, but still.

Anyway, it's not that big a deal; Igawa's Yankee property for a few more months and he can hook on with whatever organization he wants after he signs.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver