How do you solve an enigma like Kei Igawa?
For better or worse, the Yankees and Kei Igawa are seemingly stuck with each other. As we know all too well, the Yanks doled out $46 million to bring him States-side, and he’s been a disappointment ever since.
Yesterday, Igawa made his spring debut against non-college hitters. We know how disastrous his last outing was; he gave up four runs on one hit, a grand slam off the bat of a college kid with two at-bats total over the last two years. He walked hitters, hit one and threw a wild pitch. While it was just February, the outing simply added another bad chapter to long tale of Kei Igawa.
So facing the Blue Jays on Tuesday, Igawa had a chance to raise his own stock, and he responded with two perfect innings, and as RAB favorite – I say that sarcastically – George King notes, the fight for a roster spot continues.
While King’s article is chock full ‘o the typical Spring Training hype and hyperbole, Tyler Kepner of The Times wrote a piece more critical of Kei Igawa and the Yanks’ scouting of the Japanese import. Relying on the words of Hideki Matsui and Brian Cashman, Kepner creates a portrait of competing opinions.
“In Japan, he had pretty good velocity and he was the type of pitcher that usually threw fastballs and changeups to strike out hitters,” Hideki Matsui said through an interpreter. “In Japan, you don’t see that many pitchers throw changeups, as opposed to here, where a lot of pitchers throw changeups. And in Japan, his fastball was pretty fast. But when you compare it to pitchers here, it’s not as fast.”
Igawa also tried to throw too many pitches high in the strike zone, where umpires in Japan are more likely to call strikes. But General Manager Brian Cashman said Igawa’s problem was more about command.
“If I felt that our evaluations were improper, then I would think that he’s failed, and I’m not ready to concede that yet,” Cashman said. “It took José Contreras some time to adjust, and although he possesses a different ability, he led the White Sox to a world championship.
“All I can tell you is Igawa was the strikeout leader in Japan — and not just for one year — and those guys are contact hitters over there. Swing-and-miss is still a big part of his game. You can’t deny that; just look at his statistics.”
So what then is the real story? Based on Matsui’s words, Igawa thrived in Japan because his style of pitching was better suited for the NPL. Brian Cashman, on the other hand, would have you believe that the Yanks were getting a top-flight pitcher.
After a year of watching Igawa bounce back and forth from Scranton to New York and get bounced around by Big League pitching, I am tempted to side with Hideki Matsui. Igawa’s stuff was always up. He lived on a change-up in Japan, and in the U.S., that’s just not good enough.
Maybe one year isn’t enough of a sample to determine whether or not Igawa is a big bust, but as I read more about Kei Igawa the pitcher and the way the Yankees approached this signing, I can’t help but think that the Yanks’ international scouts dropped the ball on this one. It happens sometimes, and for the good of the team, the Yanks should be prepared to cut their losses. Now and then, Igawa has a good outing, but the bad ones are always just around the corner.
The game is live on YES and/or ESPN at 1 this afternoon. I’ll update this post if I notice anything of particular note. But for now, here are the lineups:
Tossing for the Yanks:
Update by Ben: Good news as we await the start of this game: The results of Bobby Murcer’s biopsy have come back negative. The tests revealed scar tissue and not another cancerous tumor.
While El Duque hasn’t pitched in the Bronx since 2004, I’ll always have fond memories of his tenure on the Yanks. Today, via BTTF, comes the news that due to his injuries, El Duque may have to retire his signature leg kick. It is indeed the end of an era, and I have to wonder now if we should have a ceremony eulogizing the El Duque Dance as well. · (4) ·
Most of us know Pete Abraham as a blogger. He’s got the most popular Yanks blog on the planet, and it’s getting better with age. Lately, though, I’ve been drawn to his work in his newspaper, The Journal News. The articles are a bit more thought out, and have depth you’re not going to find on the blog. Yes, sometimes they can get a bit fluffy, but having been blogging for nearly three years, I understand that subject matter can be hard to come by. Today, Pete delves into our favorite subject: The Big Three.
While last year we thought having Roger Clemens around would give the kids a proper role model, it appears that it was Andy Pettitte might have been the best mentor all along. He’s on the field at 8:15 a.m., and has Joba, Phil, and IPK in tow.
Pete gave us a glimpse of the working, opening with an anecdote about Phil and Joba trying to run a mile in five and a half minutes. The guys then work out for another hour, sprinting and doing abdominal work. Legs and core…it’s what makes baseball players stronger.
They’re all at the level now where they’re pushing each other, which bodes well for all of them. It’s one thing to be under Andy Pettitte’s tutelage. It’s another to rise up to his level and push him just as hard as he’s pushing you.
This all gets me even more psyched about the Big Three. It’s one thing to fall for the hype. It’s a complete other thing when you see that they’re working their hardest to live up to it.
(By the way, anyone catch Phil’s latest contest? They’re trying to guess the nickname Kennedy has around the clubhouse. The astounding majority of respondents have said “IPK.” Just remember where that one originated.)
Last week, I posted a smattering of Yankee Where Are They Now? profiles, and the response was deafening. RAB comment regulars and lurkers clamored for more with copious lists of old Yankees.
Today, I present Part 2. As the names get more obscure, information gets harder to find. A lot of players leave the game and public spotlight behind when they walk away from the field. They spend more time with their families; they eschew the attention and bright lights of baseball. While the current generation of players should be financially set for life, many were not, and as we travel further back in time, retired baseball players emerge as regular workers like the rest of us.
So enjoy. I’ll try to keep running these as long as the list of names doesn’t run out.
Greg Cadaret: One season — 1992 I believe — a Greg Cadaret baseball card stood between me and a complete Topps Yankee team set. Cadaret threw in 188 games over three and a half seasons for the Yanks, compiling 22-23 record and a 4.12 ERA. He walked too many guys and struck out too few. He now relives his glory days as an instructor at A’s fantasy camp.
Andy Stankiewicz: Stankiewicz wasn’t very good at the plate or adept in the field, but he sure was a fan favorite. He arrived in the Bronx at the age of 27 in 1992 and departed from New York 461 plate appearances later. He is now an assistant coach for the ASU Sun Devils.
Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens: Talk about overhyped prospect in the Yankees system, and Hensley Muelens’ name leads the pack. Meulens was the first Major Leaguer from Curaçao and was one great prospect who went down in a blaze of glory. He is now the hitting coach with the Indianapolis Indians.
Randy Velarde: When not appearing in the Mitchell Report, Velarde is reportedly retired and at home in Texas. The subject of a 2003 Associated Press profile, Velarde keeps a low profile these days.
Mel Hall: One of the leaders of the bad Yankees from the early 1990s, Hall was known for his less-than-savory antics off the field. His tale has a sad ending though; He currently facing allegations of sexual assault and could face a long prison sentence.
John Wetteland: John Wetteland ushered in a World Series and the Mariano Rivera Era. He was on the mound when the Yanks won in 1996 and then departed for Texas. In 2007, he was named bullpen coach of the Washington Nationals but was fired midseason in 2007. He now works at the Liberty Christian School in Washington state where he teaches Bible class and coaches baseball and football.
Jim Abbott: Jim Abbott compiled a 20-22 record for the Yanks during his two-season stint in New York, but he will be remembered in Yankee history for his Sept. 4, 1993, five-walk, three-strikeout no hitter of the Cleveland Indians. He is currently single-handedly changing the motivational speaking circuit. (Bah-dum-dum-clang. I’ll be here all week.)
Clay Bellinger: The man, the myth, the legend. Despite his .194/.258/.365 career line, the Yanks haven’t won a World Series since Bellinger was released. There may be a curse. He played in the 2004 Olympics as a member of the Greek baseball team and was an assistant coach with the 2007 Chandler Little League team. He works as a full-time firefighter as well.
Mike Stanley: Stanley will always be remembered for his unlucky tenure on the Yanks. He left the team after a few successful seasons following the 1995 campaign and then returned in time for the 1997 ALDS loss. He was a fan-favorite during the 1990s and managed to escape ever winning a World Series. He now coaches at the Lake Highland High School in Florida.
Mariano Duncan: Duncan had a career year in 1996 in New York. He shared second base time with Matt Howard, Andy Fox, Luis Sojo, Robert Eenhorn, Pat Kelly and Jim Leyritz. In 1997, he was traded to the Blue Jays for no one useful. He has since been reunited with his former manager; Duncan is the once and future first base coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Peter Abraham notes that the Yankees renewed Joba Chamberlain’s contract at the $390,000 Major League miminum and wonders if the team couldn’t have found a few more grand to kick back to the kid. At the same time, Abraham notes that baseball is a business, and the Yanks were well within their rights to renew Joba’s contract. That’s where I land on this issue. Chamberlain landed an above-slot signing bonus of $1.1 million from the Yanks, and he threw just 24 Big League innings last year. He’ll get his money when the time comes. There’s no doubt about that. · (18) ·
Because it’s never too early to start speculating on next winter, Jon Heyman at SI.com checks in with C.C. Sabathia. It is seemingly a foregone conclusion that the Indians and Sabathia will part ways in November. The Indians have acknowledged it; C.C. has acknowledged it.
And when one of the game’s top lefty starters hits the open market, we all know what that means: a good, old fashioned free agent bidding war. Sabathia figures to command a contract in excess of $100-$120 million, and of course, our favorites are right at the top of Heyman’s list of likely suitors:
1. Yankees. Long seen as the most logical destination for Sabathia, the big reason they balked at Santana was their reluctance to part with top pitching prospects Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. Since it’ll only cost them money (and draft choices), and Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte could be coming off the books, they remain the favorite. A perfect replacement in case this is Pettitte’s last year, a real possibility.
Of course, Sabathia makes sense for the Yanks whether or not Pettitte continues his “one more year” shtick or not. The Yanks have money coming off the books, and one can never have too much starting pitching, let alone lefties in the Bronx.
The Yankees will go hard after Sabathia, and they need only give up money this time. It’s a match made in baseball heaven. All Carsten Charles needs to do is turn in another top season and avoid injury. The gold is waiting for him at the end of the rainbow.
So what if the game only lasted 1.5 innings? This is what we’re talkin’ about with Hughes. He can shorten games.
Update: The Baseball Gods did not take kindly to my joke. The game is back on with Kei Igawa on the mound. The Yanks lead 2-0. For now.
Update: Scott Patterson goes 1, Kei Igawa goes 2 and Billy Traber goes 1 before rain ends the game. It’s a perfect game though. Yanks win 2-0. · (8) ·