Jul
23

“It was a disaster. We failed.”

By

That quote comes from Brian Cashman and refers to Kei Igawa, the $46M poster boy of Yankees’ pitching busts. Bill Pennington of The New York Times published a lengthy feature on the now 32-year-old southpaw today, which goes into detail about his time with the Yankees. Igawa still lives in Manhattan and commutes daily to Scranton or Trenton or wherever he may be and is considered a “great clubhouse guy” by the organization and his teammates, but he struggled greatly with the transition to MLB and the United States. The Yankees tried to re-work his delivery, but it didn’t take. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Within the piece we learn that the Cashman had twice negotiated deals with Japanese clubs that would have let Igawa return home, but he refused both times despite being told (very explicitly) that he was not coming back to the majors. Cashman was also prepared to trade Igawa to the Padres after they claimed him off waivers in August 2007, but “ownership was not willing to let him go yet.” Give it a read, it gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation.

Categories : Asides
  • Tom Zig

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

    I laughed.

    • MikeD

      Of course, they do have radar guns in Japan, so if that’s why he failed, then that’s a Yankee and Cashman fail.

  • CMP

    $46 million for -0.2 WAR. This may not be the biggest waste of money contract of all time but it’s gotta be in the top 5.

  • Hardy

    The Yankees do not look good in this article.

    • CC’s third leg

      Because they ARE NOT. 16 starts and done? What the santa claus shit is thay? Reminds me of the youbg wandy, or young gio. Whats the only difference? Second chances

      • Phife Dawg

        The difference: Kei Igawa is not a Major League caliber starter.

        • CC’s third leg

          excuse me sir, but who the fuck are you to say that somebody cannot play in the majors.

          • Phife Dawg
            • CC’s third leg

              Sta-fuckin-tistics? Thats what you base your reasoning on? Ok. then Gio, Wandy, IPK, and many others were not “major league caliber” through their first 16 appearances

              • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama

                Maybe this was a scouting thing. I hate to do the appeal to authority because I don’t think any of us have the info, but maybe the Yankees saw/see things in Hughes that they don’t see in Igawa, when he came to the big leagues. It also probably helps that Hughes was a tippy-top prospect. (And Dice-K was considered an insane “prospect” when he first came over, so it’s not like they just left Igawa off because he was Japanese, or something)

            • Billy Bats

              The same statistics that say that Hughes isn’t a starting pitcher?

              Phil Hughes as a starter:
              5.04 ERA
              63 GS
              341.1 IP

              • The Big City of Dreams

                The response to your Hughes point is Phil was a top rated prospect and has a future with the Yankees.

                • Billy Bats

                  So you are saying statistics mean something in context sometimes. How about the context of 71.2 IP.

                  Also, is it wise to treat a player differently than others because he was once thought highly of?

                  • The Big City of Dreams

                    I’m not saying it’s right but that’s what some fans believe. Whenever Hughes’ status as a starter is called into question ppl defend by saying he’s young and was rated a top prospect.

                    • Billy Bats

                      That’s fine, but baseball history is littered with young and former top-rated prospects that never contribute as much, or in a the way, as people thought they would.

                • Hardy

                  They thought enough of Igawa to commit 46 million to him, so this line of reasoning should work for him, not against him.

                  • The Big City of Dreams

                    It should but it didn’t

          • MikeD

            Coming to the Yankees, MOST scouts believed that Igawa at best was a back-end starter (4th-5th) guy, suited better for the N.L., and really the NL West. Most believed he could not pitch in the AL East.

            The Yankees banished him to the minors and never gave him another chance because they were able to get him off the 40-man roster and avoid paying the luxury tax on his salary. Igawa may have some value in the MLB level (although very minimal) but it was never enough for the Yankees to pay the luxury tax.

            Igawa became a victim of mediocre stuff, being on the Yankees who expect to win, and being on a team that pays a luxury tax.

            He’ll be free to do as he pleases (and millions richer) in about two months.

          • nycsportzfan

            uhhh, who are u to say someone is a major league caliber pitcher? U must be blind or something to think Igawa could be even remotley close to avg as a ml pitcher.. The dude is litteraly the worst ML pitcher i’ve ever seen in my lifetime, hes bottom of the barrell trash..

    • Jamey

      agreed. I know they think of it as getting their money’s worth making him pitch in the minors for every penny of the contract, but when you get to the point where its “Go home to Japan where we’re saved some cash from OUR mistake or go to minor league Hell” & not letting him leave even when a team claims him off waivers you’re just being vindictive because he wouldn’t do you a solid. I’ll say the same thing I do when Rangers’ fans attack an overpaid star not living up to his free agent deal, he didn’t make his own offer & sign off on it. He took advantage when The Yankees felt the need to try to save face after losing out on Dice-K to The Red Sox, but he didn’t hold them at gunpoint. With the money given to him, it wasn’t a “gamble” they knew what they were getting.

      Guy came here to live a dream of being a MLB pitcher, was given 16 games to prove he could do it (arguably not enough, but I’ll agree with Yankees that its a fair enough sample to make a decision on his YANKEE career on their part) and then got punished for not wanting to give up his dream. If they’re content paying him every penny as he toils in the minors, I don’t understand why they wouldn’t just eat some salary & let him go be someone else’s project. It doesn’t seem necessary, just petty.

      • JAG

        To be entirely fair here, the article states clearly that he was claimed off waivers in 2007 and that the offers for him to go back to Japan happened after that. The Yankees have made efforts to try and let him go somewhere else after having concluded that he can’t help them. Let’s not turn this into something it’s not.

  • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    I’ve always found the fact that the Yanks just completely buried Igawa to be curious. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they should have treated him like a prospect or that anyone should have expected anything great from the guy, but that part at the end of the article about the Yanks constantly bringing in/up arms just to fill a spot in the bullpen and maybe pitch some garbage innings… I’ve never understood why Igawa should be such an invisible man in that regard. Strange to bury a guy’s career like that. I’m sure most people would point out that this is total speculation (and they’d be right), but it seems mean-spirited, like they’re burying the guy because of their mistake.

    • Hardy

      Yes, it looks like the Yankees tried to blackmail him into accepting a trade to Japan and then punished him for refusing the trade(s).

    • Bavarian Yankee

      if they brought up Igawa his salary would’ve been added to the payroll -> more luxury tax.

      • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Yeah I hear you. But you know what? The more I think about this, and taking your point into account… I think they should have just given him to some NL team. Just eat the salary and let someone else have him.

        The Yankees aren’t in the business of being nice or helping other teams, but I don’t know, aren’t there some situations in which you try to do right by people even if it’s not strictly in your own best interest? To keep this guy in the minors without any chance at pitching in the majors just seems cruel. If they were absolutely certain that they would never again call him up to the majors, which it appears they have been for a long time now, I think they should have given him a shot elsewhere instead of burying his career.

        • Bavarian Yankee

          yeah you’re right. It seems like Cashman wanted to trade him but he wasn’t allowed to. Maybe the Steinbrenners or Levine believed that he’ll make it someday. Well, he never did.
          I’m not sorry for Igawa, he earned big bucks and can enjoy his life once he retires.

          • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            “It seems like Cashman wanted to trade him but he wasn’t allowed to.”

            That was in 2007.

            • Bavarian Yankee

              I know, I’ve read the article ;)

              • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                Just saying… Someone may have stopped a deal in 2007, but I think it’s safe to say that from sometime in 2008 through 2011, I don’t think anyone was standing in the way of moving this guy.

                Were there still financial considerations other than just his contract? Would moving him or cutting him have triggered some sort of luxury tax issue?

                • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama

                  Remembered hearing something about this last year, Googled and found this:

                  http://riveraveblues.com/2010/.....kee-32818/

                  Not that it’s necessarily right, but yeah it would trigger a luxury tax issue.

                  • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                    Cool, thanks. Wonder if that applies to just letting the guy go and eating the contract. Anyone?

                  • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama

                    (also, a debate about how the Yankees mistreated Matsui? Buh?)

                    • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                      I’m saying this for the sake of everyone’s sanity… If a stupid conversation has been dormant for a year, let it stay dead.

        • Hardy

          +1.

          I would also add that if the Yankees are convinced that he will never be good enough to pitch in the Majors they would not help the other team at all.

        • Sweet Dick Willie

          I think they should have given him a shot elsewhere instead of burying his career.

          They did -twice. They had two separate deals that would allow him to go back to Japan, and he refused both times.

          Now I hear what you’re saying about doing right by people, but on the other hand, Cashman apparently explained to him the ramifications of his decision, he chose the minors. Ke(i) sera sera.

          • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            Well, he offered him a return trip to Japan, which isn’t too attractive to someone who wants to play in America. (And it would have cost him some money, no?)

      • sangreal

        Cashman specifically says in the article that the luxury tax issue was irrelevant

        “Again, if he could help us or help us get another player we could use,” Cashman said. “The luxury tax wouldn’t have stopped us.”

        • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Good point, missed that.

  • CC’s third leg

    Gotta feel bad for the guy

    • crawdaddie

      Why? He got paid 20M!

      • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        So you can’t feel sorry for him for other stuff?

        If the guy got kicked in the balls for no reason, would you be like ‘yeah but he got paid $20M, so I have no reaction to him getting an unnecessary and crushing blow to his testicles?’

        • crawdaddie

          Not when he was given a chance to go back to Japan and told up front he will never pitch for the Yankees again.

          • http://www.twitter.com/lawstudentdiary LawStudent

            Guy wanted to play in the Bigs. Can’t fault him too much for that.

        • S

          For 20M I wouldn’t care what they did, Brian Cashman could kick me in the balls, take a dump on my couch and fart in my dinner tonight

    • Phife Dawg

      Feeling bad for a guy who’s making 4 million a year while pitching low pressure minor league baseball? No way!. Even though he’s not taking up any valuable prospect’s spot in Trenton, wouldn’t it have made sense if he went back to Japan despite being told he had no chance to ever make it back to the majors? Not a wise decision on his part.

      • Hardy

        It doesn’t make baseball sense to tell a good AA/AAA player that he has no chance to play in the Majors (not even in September when you have already secured your playoff berth?).

        • Sweet Dick Willie

          The difference is the money. Most good AA/AAA players that a team calls up in September make the major league minimum. Igawa would cost the Yankees $1.6 million.

  • http://twitter.com/bryanl26 Bryan L

    Two hours to Scranton twice a day?! Ouch.

  • http://www.twitter.com/stophamm3rtime Dela G

    damn, this is one of the saddest baseball stories i’ve read in some time. the guy definitely deserved another chance

  • MikeD

    I plan to read the article through all the way later as I just saw this, but I do have a question. I remember when the Yankees did negotiate a trade back to send Igawa back to Japan, yet if I remember correctly, Igawa would have had to taken less money. Hopefully that was included in the article; otherwise not reporting the full story. I also beleive the Yankees didn’t want Igawa to pitch for another MLB team on the slight chance he stuck around for a few years it would make the Yankees look even worse. That, however, was back in 2007 when if they outright cut him they would have had to pay the full value of the contract. That’s no longer the case.

    My guess is Igawa tries to stick with some MLB team next year.

  • Bill

    I don’t blame the Yankees. It seems they did everything they could. In the minors his overall numbers were alright but he still displayed the same inconsistency that made him completely untrustworthy for a ML role. That is why he was never given an opportunity as a left handed reliever. Also financially in order to trade him, buy him out or do anything like that they’d need to pay luxury tax on his salary which the team avoided when they removed him from the 40-man roster.

    Its sad that Igawa never lived out his dream of being a successful ML player, but he did get a shot at it and he earned a lot of money in the process. That’s more than you can say about a lot of guys toiling away in the minors or independent leagues.

    As far as a second chance, he’s a free agent after this year so he’ll have a shot at a new beginning.

    But to say the Yankees owed him more or anything like that is simply false.

    • Hardy

      >>> In the minors his overall numbers were alright but he still displayed the same inconsistency that made him completely untrustworthy for a ML role. That is why he was never given an opportunity as a left handed reliever.

      I would not have a problem with this argument, but the article tells a different story.

  • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama

    I read this article, and it was terrific, and I feel terrible. I know he’s getting paid a ton of money not to even pitch for my favorite team, so I shouldn’t, but I do.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Will he come back to haunt us?

    /probably

    • Billy Bats

      He’s gonna LOOGY us to death in the 2013 World Series. Book it!

  • Dick Gozinya

    His translators name is seriously Takeshita?

    • Billy Bats

      It’s perfect. It’s basically what the Yankees did to Igawa.

    • Monteroisdinero

      his driver’s name is Subaru?

    • Calling for the curve

      Hai!

  • Jack Merridew

    Like Karstens and IPK, Igawa will go to the NL next year and show that the Yankees don’t know anything about pitching. They haven’t developed a successful starting pitcher since Andy Pettitte. The guys we let go are actually healthy and pitching much better than the guys we kept.

    • pat

      Yeah, I’d much rather have Ian Kennedy than Curtis Granderson. Karstens? Lol.

    • Dick Gozinya

      Yeah, the Yankees should just shut down shop. They’d be more successful just being the farm system for the Pirates.

      /reasonpeoplethingyankeefansarestupid

    • Jimmy McNulty

      Well his overall point is pretty weak, there’s nuggets of truth in here. The Yankees really haven’t been that successful at developing starting pitching, that’s something that should cause concern (if not for you at least for the organization) and it’s something that needs to be addressed.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/DiscGolfHero the tenth inning stretch

      We’ve developed our fair. We just haven’t kept many.

      • SDM

        +1

  • Icebird753

    The Yankees really haven’t treated the guy fairly; even though he makes loads of money, accepting any trade to Japan would have required that he give up some of the cash as well. Who in their right mind would do that? And I’m sure Igawa wouldn’t be a terrible LOOGY pitcher…they face only one batter in the game. Here’s saying he’ll be back in the majors sometime in the future, with an NL team in the ‘pen.

  • The Big City of Dreams

    Billy Bats says: July 23, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    That’s fine, but baseball history is littered with young and former top-rated prospects that never contribute as much, or in a the way, as people thought they would.

    ————-
    That’s true baseball is filled with top rated guys that never lived up to expectations. Hughes is 25 but you have we reached the point when he has to be reevaluated.

    • Billy Bats

      Always reevaluate players. I am sure tehre are people that think Hughes is still capable of being a #1.

      He needs something outside the usual to be right now. At least in my eyes. I mean Halladay had to revamp his delivery and approach.

  • Jimmy McNulty

    Okay, just a few things on this:

    1.) This article is pretty sad. It’s a sad story of a guy who while infinitely more successful than any of us are or ever will be, he’s still a man and a man has his pride. He’s gone through a lot of soul crushing agony and gotten hounded for countless reasons. The reasons were mainly that he wasn’t any good at the whole pitching thing, he did nothing wrong, there were no decisions that he made that negatively impacted his career, he simply wasn’t good enough to hack it in the bigs. Baseball is his career and how he makes his living and supports his family. Just because he’s more successful and has far more marketable skills than you do does not mean that he is without pride nor does it mean that he doesn’t have a desire to succeed. Most importantly, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have feelings. Imagine if you were told that you were going to be at the most prestigious position for your profession, then imagine that you got knocked down to some of the lowest rungs on the ladder and constantly got passed over for a promotion by guys who were no better than you? Then imagine if you had as much ill-will towards you as Kei Igawa does? This is some pretty heavy stuff.

    He’s not a Carl Pavano who hid injuries from the team and had his work ethic publicly called out by his team mates. He’s not a Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, or a Roger Clemens who’s name rings out in infamy because of decisions that they made. He’s not a Pete Rose who cheated and put the integrity of the game into question. He’s not a Donte Stalworth who killed someone while driving drunk. He simply isn’t a very good pitcher. Which brings me to my next point…

    2.) He simply isn’t a very good pitcher. This is his MINOR LEAGUE stat page:

    http://www.baseball-reference......awa-001kei

    What part of that suggests “capable major leaguer?”

    Kei Igawa sounds like a nice guy that loves baseball and always tries his best to do the right thing. A major league career just wasn’t in the cards for him.

  • Pastadivingarod

    Can we send burnett to japan?

    • YankeesJunkie

      Burnett would torch Japan. Burnett could ride a high fastball and a devastating curve to easily be one of the best if not the best pitcher in that league.

  • Bob Michaels

    No more Irabu`s or Igawa`s, stay away from Japanase pitchers another guy like Matsui is ok.

  • Dale Mohorcic

    Please sign me up for $46M and career fail. I’d happily take that life.

    • Jimmy McNulty

      20M, actually.

  • Jericho Spade

    Cashman is clearly writing his last chapter… I think at this point it would be a surprise if he stayed.

  • nathan

    Word play at its best, they make the Yanks look business-like ruthless and merciless even. Igawa better take the writer to some nice dinner because Igawa will some Yankee fans back after this article.

    Where Igawa loses me is when he declined 2 separate opportunities to go back to Japan. He was given a chance to escape all the ignominy and embarrassment of , according to him, lesser players passing him over. The was not forced to remain there, he could have left.

    Overall, Igawa’s issues taught the Yanks and maybe some future Japanese players lots of lessons about the pitfalls of taking a chance in the Majors. There is no happy ending for the Yanks or Igawa and truthfully this is not a sad story.

    • SDM

      It seems like its not so much the pitchers themselves so much as the amount of abuse the Japanese league puts their young pitchers through.

      We’ve heard many stories over the years about pitchers that come over to the mlb throwing long bullpen sessions one top of long toss (I’m looking at you Daizuke) and throwing 130+ pitch games every week from the time they are 18 years old in the Japanese Pro-baseball League.

      The way they go about developing pitchers is not a good manner at all in them being capable of pitching in the MLB. There is are tons of talented arms in Japan, but they don’t have the chance to thrive if the arm is so overworked by age 27 that its almost useless when they are finally posted.

  • http://riveravenueblues.com barry leeds

    what do you think: worst yankee free agent pitcher signings…(consider length of contract and dollars)

    – kei igawa
    – kevin brown
    – don gullett (injury)
    – aj burnett
    – steve karsay (injury)
    – hideki irabu
    – ed whitson

    who did i leave out?

    bottom line- burnett has been a MAJOR disappointment.

    • Donny

      I’m no A.J. fan, but in my opinion, he’s not even in the conversation…

    • Donny

      Oh, and you left out Pavano.

      • http://riveravenueblues.com barry leeds

        thanks donny, how could i forget that big mope. he may even be #1 seeing how he signed for $40 mill over 4. as for aj, check his stats (w-l, quality starts, etc). making $80 mill over 5,he is definitely on the list.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Brown and Irabu weren’t free agents, they got them in trades.

  • BigLoving

    A.J’s salary counts against the luxury tax also can we banish him to the minors also? So sick and tired of watching this clown give up lead after lead after lead and look like a lost puppy on the mound.

  • Official Member of the Bartolo Colon Fan Club

    oh please. this whole thread is a huge clusterf*ck.

    the yankees aren’t perfect in signing and developing pitchers. sure. so show me a team that is.

    if you want to be a fan of a baseball team, you can’t expect perfection. it just doesn’t work that way. so can we stop complaining about the mistakes of years past and just focus on the fact that we have a damn good baseball team every damn year (which no one else can say)???

    you people (everyone knows who i’m talking about) are the reason yankee fans are so poorly thought of around the nation. because they are so damn ignorant and complain about everything, even though we have a great team.

    /rant’d

  • JG233

    Game 2 of the 2009 WS gets AJ off the hook in my book…made the whole contract worth it right there.

  • Another Bronx Dynasty

    It’s a toss up for wost between the Pavano or the Igawa signings

  • Another Bronx Dynasty

    As the VP & GM for the Yankees with all their financial strength the Igawa signing turns out to be a mistake. In a small market (where its rumored he wants to go) those teams he be afforded that luxury, but rather mistakes like that would lead tp a dismissal.

  • Opus

    So basically the Yankees are Play Now and Igawa is George Costanza?

    “George: Siege mentality Jerry. They really want me out of here. They’ve downgraded me to some sort of a bunker. I’m like Hitler’s last days here.”

  • John

    I got mixed feelings on the article.

    cleary it makes the Yankees out to be some evil company with goals of destroying igawa.

    but igawa had his chances, albeit not that many. But every time he started in the majors things took a turn for the worse. Hell he could still be on the team now, and after every fail in the past five years would we still feel the same way about him?

    making good money doing what you love. Getting paid money to pitch baseball. Maybe not the majors, but professional baseball.

    I actually know some pitchers in the independents who are going through alot worse situations than igawa, and they have better arms than this guy.

    Also didn’t really think Romine’s comments were too helpful. Someone in the front offices could look at them the wrong way.

  • Justin

    Good read, I wish K-man will get another chance to pitch again in the major.