I read with interest The New York Times' big article about Kei Igawa, and how he is playing out his $20 million, 5-year contract in the minor leagues. I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for him. Even though he's got all that money, he's in what amounts to a dead-end job. No matter what he does in the minors, he will never get to pitch for the Yankees' big-league team again. And he desperately wants to pitch in MLB -- he twice turned down the chance to go to Japan, in favor of staying here.
Although the article let Brian Cashman play down the luxury-tax issue, it is actually a big reason why Igawa is where he is. The $4 million a year Igawa makes doesn't count towards the Yankees' payroll, unless he is put on the 40-man roster or pitches in the majors. Cashman denied that this money issue had anything to do with Igawa not getting a call-up since 2008, but how could that be, when his numbers are better than many of the journeymen and retreads who have gotten called up to the Yankees?
Once the Yankees decided they were never going to give Igawa a shot at the majors again, I do think the Yankees should have bitten the bullet on his contract and given him his freedom, financial consequences be damned. There's something cruel about taking away a player's hope like that, and dooming him to season after season in the minors, with no chance of getting to achieve his dream of pitching in the majors. People talk about sticking to your dreams, and eventually, they will come through. But until his contract ends, Igawa will never get the chance -- not even one start or relief appearance -- to pitch in the majors, no matter how hard he works.
Although the article makes a big point about how Igawa lives in Manhattan, and has his translator drive his car with him to Scranton or Trenton, Cashman made a rather snotty remark about that as well, saying that "Yeah, he’s passed me on the drive down to Trenton.. He drives faster than his fastball." What was the point of that gratuitous slam, other than to be a jerk?
On the other hand, Igawa comes off as an honorable, uncomplaining person in the article. I don't know how Igawa would have done with another chance with the Yankees, but Cashman doesn't really know, either. And it seems to me that they should at least give him a shot at a September callup spot this year, just to be fair, at the end of his contract.
What do you think? Tell us about it!