Skip

The Lost Yankee
October 5, 2011 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Kei Igawa arrived in the US with a lot of fanfare in 2007. After failing miserably with the Yankees, he was sent to the minor leagues. Since then, he has existed in an uncomfortable limbo, not completely part of either world.
posted by reenum (33 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
How weird. He's like the Mehran Karimi Nasseri of professional baseball.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:44 PM on October 5, 2011


Also, Wade Redden. Meet The Guy Getting Paid $23M to Play Minor-League Hockey
posted by Sauce Trough at 12:48 PM on October 5, 2011


well it is better than Hideki Irabu who met a tragic end.
posted by xetere at 12:51 PM on October 5, 2011


Wow, I hope this story eventually has a cliche sports movie redemption ending because it sounds like he deserves one.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:55 PM on October 5, 2011


It has the stink of Steinbrenner Jr. all over it. This is a grudge, a petty tantrum over a temporary setback - irrational and evil and willfully stupid.

It seems his Igawa's only crime was that the scouts YET AGAIN failed to note that baseball as played in the Japanese big leagues is vastly different than the American game, and that it will take some time in the minors to bring even blue chip prospects up to speed. Completely re-working his mechanics on the fly? WTF?

Look, you send someone to the minors to improve. He improves, you bring him back if you need someone at his position, or you trade him or waive him. The refusal of "ownership" to put him on waivers while making him stew in the minors is a pretty vicious thing to do.

Baseball is a game of patience and second chances. Igawa is playing to win, and I hope he lands a nice west-coast NL contract after he escapes the Yankees.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:00 PM on October 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


The Kei Igawa story was published 7/24 and Hideki Irabu died 7/27. When I saw the headlines about Irabu's death, I thought it was going to be about Igawa.
posted by Jahaza at 1:03 PM on October 5, 2011


Minor league baseball, especially AAA, is a weird mix of rising stars, fading stars and guys who will be in the minors their entire career. Most of the players don't want to be there, for obvious reasons. You have to feel for players like Igawa, who are almost good enough to be in the majors but always fall just short for some reason. But those are the guys who are trying, trying harder than the rest for that slim chance of being called up. It can make for some great baseball.
posted by tommasz at 1:05 PM on October 5, 2011


Touching and sad to see a seemingly nice guy drift around his goal in life, not really being here or there. At least he got his story out ...

Wait, I'm actually reading sports journalism? Thanks, reenum.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:05 PM on October 5, 2011


I hope that he gets another shot at playing the in majors. He seems like a decent guy who just wants to live out his dream. Hes trying to do his best but it seems the Yankees and ownership are doing their best to make sure that doesn't happen.
posted by lilkeith07 at 1:15 PM on October 5, 2011


Cashman added, “He does things his own way.” Like commuting to and from Manhattan.

“Yeah, he’s passed me on the drive down to Trenton,” Cashman said. “He drives faster than his fastball.”



Ooooooooooooooh buuuuuuuuuurn
posted by nathancaswell at 1:18 PM on October 5, 2011


Bill Pennington is fantastic. For those who like his work, this piece about John Sterling, the Yankee's radio broadcaster is also fantastic.
posted by arveale at 1:19 PM on October 5, 2011


The refusal of "ownership" to put him on waivers while making him stew in the minors is a pretty vicious thing to do.

If the Yankees waive him, do they still owe him his remaining salary?
posted by inigo2 at 1:45 PM on October 5, 2011


In the middle of a bright Manhattan summer afternoon, the Yankees’ $46 million pitcher steps from his fashionable East Side apartment building...

Also, for the last five years

they were determined that he pitch somewhere for his $4-million-a-year salary

Lemme check: 5 X $4,000,000 = $20,000,000, not $46,000,000.

Did the Yankees lose a pitcher and a decimal point?
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:46 PM on October 5, 2011


It was mentioned that the Yankees paid the Japanese club a $26,000,000 posting fee.
posted by maxwelton at 1:49 PM on October 5, 2011


So... 4 years ago, before the Yankees realized that he would never be good enough to make their major league club, San Diego claimed him on waivers; the Yankees still thought he had a shot, so they refused. Since then, no team in the majors has wanted him. None. The Yankees were able to set up trades to Japanese teams in both 2008 and 2009, but he refused.

But yeah, this is the Yankees being spiteful, not the fact that he isn't good enough.

Igawa’s best minor league season was in 2008 when he had a 14-6 record with a 3.45 E.R.A. The next year he was 10-8 with a 4.15 E.R.A.

And even those 2008 stats are qualified in the next paragraph:

Looking at his 2008 minor league totals, Cashman noted that Igawa’s QERA or QuikERA — a statistic that estimates what a pitcher’s E.R.A. should be based on his strikeout rate, walk rate and ground ball-to-fly ball ratio — was 4.52.

“That tells me he’s a fly ball pitcher and that’s not good in the major leagues,” Cashman said. “Look, we’ve had plenty of pitching holes. If he could have filled one, he would have been here.”

posted by inigo2 at 1:55 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't get me wrong, I feel for the guy, but if this was any team but the Yankees the kneejerk reactions would be different. (This is where you all reply how no other team would do this to the poor guy. Keeping him in the minors, gosh.)
posted by inigo2 at 1:56 PM on October 5, 2011


Would the Japanese club lose some of that $26M if the contract ended early?
posted by zippy at 1:56 PM on October 5, 2011


It was mentioned that the Yankees paid the Japanese club a $26,000,000 posting fee.

OK, thanks. I lost that sentence somehow.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:02 PM on October 5, 2011


Sorry so comments but three more things --

a) After rejected the Padres claim on him, the Yankees brought him back up to the majors when rosters expanded later that year.

b) The article also left out that he was invited to spring training every year but 2011 (wikipedia isn't clear if he was invited this year).

c) According to the article his Yankee contract should be up now. For his sake, I hope he ends up somewhere and succeeds. But I wouldn't count on it. And that's not the fault of the big bad Yankees.
posted by inigo2 at 2:03 PM on October 5, 2011


Reinforcing inigo2's post above, where Cashman says he's not good enough:

Igawa’s best minor league season was in 2008 when he had a 14-6 record with a 3.45 E.R.A. The next year he was 10-8 with a 4.15 E.R.A

to the article's last paragraph:

Back in his Yankee Stadium office the next day, Cashman summoned to the Yankees Igawa’s Trenton teammate, Steve Garrison, a 24-year-old left-hander with no major league experience. Garrison’s Trenton record this season is 3-6 with a 6.26 E.R.A.
posted by zippy at 2:03 PM on October 5, 2011


I'm not a sports fan, so my question is - he gets paid the same amount (some $320K/month?) no matter *where* he plays, minors or major league, correct?
posted by mrbill at 2:06 PM on October 5, 2011


If the Yankees waive him, do they still owe him his remaining salary?

Most likely... If another team were to claim him, the Yankees would owe him his remaining salary minus whatever the claiming team pays him (usually league minimum).
posted by drezdn at 2:06 PM on October 5, 2011


Back in his Yankee Stadium office the next day, Cashman summoned to the Yankees Igawa’s Trenton teammate, Steve Garrison, a 24-year-old left-hander with no major league experience. Garrison’s Trenton record this season is 3-6 with a 6.26 E.R.A.

Igawa's ERA this year was 3.68, with a winning record. So... yyyyeah.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:07 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]




And it is my duty to do my best

I think he should stick at it.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:36 PM on October 5, 2011


He's still better value than, say, Mike Hampton.
posted by tigrefacile at 2:39 PM on October 5, 2011


Although on payday last week, his fellow pitcher Pat Venditte did switch the envelope left in his locker with the one left for Igawa.

Igawa returned Venditte’s check and said, “No, thanks.”

An average salary at Class AA is about $2,500 a month; Igawa makes roughly 130 times more.


He should maybe consider Direct Deposit.
posted by Knappster at 3:04 PM on October 5, 2011


That tells me he’s a fly ball pitcher and that’s not good in the major leagues

Huh? A 4-point-whatever ERA is pretty good, actually. I don't understand the hate.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:05 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't have any deep understanding of baseball but I think the assumption there is that in the majors those fly balls will be home runs.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:31 PM on October 5, 2011


Dear Theo: This is what you do with high priced free agent pitchers that don't perform.
*cough Lackey *cough*

PS: Please don't sign him.

Actually, $20 MM dollars to play the game you love, without the stress of playing in the Bronx? Life could be a lot worse for Igawa.
posted by COD at 4:45 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]




I remember watching him when he'd come play my Yakult Swallows, and I never thought he had the magic stuff to be a superstar. Not that I'm a professional scout, but I can recall watching workhorses like Matsuzaka, or fireballers like Ryota Igarashi live, and thinking that it was a shame that sort of talent couldn't be seen by millions more in the MLB. I'm glad when they get their chance to shine, but even at the time I couldn't quite get what made Igawa the Hanshin ace. The article was sort of an odd story, but he sounds like a quiet and reserved character, so I imagine it would be quite difficult to get his point of view.
posted by Metro Gnome at 6:57 PM on October 5, 2011


I feel really bad for Theo, because his way of doing things is to develop prospects in the system rather than going after mercenaries. Big-name signings have Mike Henry's fingerprints all over them... and yet, to be brutally honest, the numbers are in Theo (and Henry's) favor.

You really, really, really have to wonder about a coaching staff when big-stats players are signed, perpetually underperform for the club, and then start performing again once they're shipped on. See: Every shortstop since O-Cab.

The new manager needs to clean house with the assistant coaches, and build a reliable staff rom the physical trainer up to the pitching and hitting coaches.

On the other hand, lighting up Big Papi or Wakefield for inconsistency would also be stupid. The Sox need someone who can be easy when easy is needed, and tough when tough is needed. I'm not certain who's out there who would fill the bill.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:03 PM on October 5, 2011


« Older "I tried to get killed in Birmingham and go home...   |   David Bedford RIP Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post