• Cashman & Afterman’s Ishtar

    Posted by on July 23rd, 2011 · Comments (11)

    Via Bill Pennington

    In the middle of a bright Manhattan summer afternoon, the Yankees’ $46 million pitcher steps from his fashionable East Side apartment building and slips into a waiting Lexus for a chauffeured ride to the ballpark.

    But the car does not turn north for the five-mile drive to Yankee Stadium. The destination is instead Trenton, N.J., or Scranton, Pa., where for the last five years Kei Igawa has pitched for two Yankees minor league teams. Day after day, start after start, complete with the return trip to Manhattan.

    Plucked from a Japanese baseball all-star team roster in 2007 and introduced at a lavish news conference, Igawa was expected to be a staple in the Yankees’ starting rotation. He lasted 16 games, most of them regrettable outings that were sometimes spectacularly inept. Booed off the field, he was called one of the worst free-agent signings in Yankees history.

    After his last, losing appearance for the Yankees in early 2008, he was banished to the farm system and has not come back.

    Except for his nightly returns to Manhattan. But Igawa’s unusual commute is only part of a long, strange journey.

    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.

    Wouldn’t it be a hoot if Igawa signs with a team like the Padres next year and wins 18 games?

    Comments on Cashman & Afterman’s Ishtar

    1. LMJ229
      July 23rd, 2011 | 1:20 pm

      Not gonna happen. If Igawa had any value at all as a major league player he would have been traded by now.

      And why the heck is the guy living in Manhattan? Why not live closer to Trenton where I’m sure it would be much less expensive.

    2. redbug
      July 23rd, 2011 | 1:34 pm

      @ LMJ229:

      I don’t think he’s worried about the cost of living in NYC!

    3. LMJ229
      July 23rd, 2011 | 1:37 pm

      @ redbug:
      There’s probably no one who speaks Japanese in Trenton!

    4. clintfsu813
      July 23rd, 2011 | 1:46 pm

      No..no it wouldn’t

    5. Raf
      July 23rd, 2011 | 2:43 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Wouldn’t it be a hoot if Igawa signs with a team like the Padres next year and wins 18 games?

      I hope he does.

      I’ve gained a new appreciation for Igawa for the reasons the article mentioned. Does his job without a gripe, and is holding fast to his dream of pitching in MLB. He’s be laughed at, he’s been clowned, and here he is, going about his business, bouncing between AAA & AA, the rotation and the pen, hoping that he’d get a shot somewhere else. I can dig that kind of tenacity.

      The Padres put in a claim on him back in 07, I think. The Brewers had a deal in place for him a couple of years ago. But the Yanks didn’t part with Igawa for whatever reason.

      Personally, I think a trade to the AL/NL West (or the NL in general) would do Igawa good.

    6. LMJ229
      July 23rd, 2011 | 3:07 pm

      Since I find it necessary to distract myself while AJ is pitching (lest I throw the remote at the TV) I thought I’d take a look at his stats in terms of quality starts. In terms of the percentage of quality starts, AJ is 4th out of our 5 current starters with a 40% quality start percentage. I’m sure you can all guess who is 5th! Freddie Garcia is first at 71% (surprise, surprise!) and Colon and Sabathia are tied at 64% (also a surprise). So, this begs the question: If the post-season were to start today, who would be your 1-2-3? With AJ producing a quality start only 40% of the time, where do you slot him? Personally, I would make him the 4th starter. I used to think he was just erratic. Now I think he is just not that good. And he is the 8th highest paid pitcher in terms of average annual value.

    7. Raf
      July 23rd, 2011 | 3:16 pm

      @ LMJ229: Given the look he just gave Girardi, he may not make the ps roster at all 😛

    8. LMJ229
      July 23rd, 2011 | 3:39 pm

      @ Raf:

      He only has himself to blame with all the walks he issues. And when AJ gets that pissed off look its best to pull him before he serves up a HR out of pure frustration. Good move by Girardi.

    9. Raf
      July 23rd, 2011 | 3:52 pm

      @ LMJ229: Yeah, the bases were loaded, and he had more than enough opportunities to work out of the jam. I’m not sure what AJ wanted.

    10. Evan3457
      July 24th, 2011 | 1:47 am

      “hoot” is not exactly the word I’d choose. One of Carlin’s 7 words you can’t say on TV (the four syllable one describing Oedipus) is the word I’d choose.

    11. Raf
      July 24th, 2011 | 10:03 am

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