Bill Pennington had a great story in today’s New York Times about the forgotten $46 million dollar man, Kei Igawa, who has been toiling away in Scranton over the past few years. The absolute failure of his major league career did not sour Igawa on American baseball, Pennington writes, and he has continued to work hard in Scranton despite being surpassed by many younger and more successful pitchers. According to the article, Igawa still lives in Manhattan, and commutes to Trenton or Scranton daily for games. Pennington paints Igawa as somewhat of a tragic figure, not a guy who has failed because of lack of effort or entitlement:
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.
I’ve never had the same vitriol for Igawa that many people seemed to have, he always came across as a humble, hard-working guy who was more than a little over his head in the American game. Despite being demoted to the minor leagues he was not the type of guy to make a scene, demand a trade, or complain, and he has toiled away dutifully in the minors for years, hoping to get another shot in the bigs. He certainly hasn’t done much to merit a return to the big league rotation, but I would like to see Igawa get another chance in the bigs. Not necessarily with the Yankees, and maybe out of the bullpen, but I think it would be a great story if he could work himself back into becoming even a mediocre bullpen arm. While part of me resents him for the money he has made and his poor performance, a much bigger part of me is rooting for the (admittedly) unlikely comeback.
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