The Yankees’ $46 Million Recluse
In 2006, a celebrated pitcher from Japan named Kei Igawa announced his intention to play in America. Looking to shore up the back end of a rotation that included Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte, the New York Yankees paid Igawa's Japanese club $26 million for his rights, and then signed him to a five-year, $20 million contract.
That signing didn't quite pan out for the Yankees. Or, as GM Brian Cashman told the New York Times:
“It was a disaster. We failed.”
Igawa was overwhelmed and overmatched from start to finish, and his career stat line looks like this: a 2-4 record with a 6.66 E.R.A from 2007-2008.
After being demoted to AAA, then to AA, then pretty much being told by the Yankees that he had no career in the majors, New York's front office expected Igawa to do what most flameouts in Igawa's situation do: retire, or return to Japan.
Instead, he's stuck around for five years, unwilling or unable to go home, because that would be an admission of failure. So every day, a translator (that the Yankees pay for) picks Igawa up from an East Side apartment (that the Yankees paid for) in a Lexus (that the Yankees paid for) and drives him to New Jersey, where he pitches for the Yankees' AA affiliate, the Trenton Thunder. His teammates seem to like him because he has an iPad that he lets them borrow.
On days that he's not pitching, Igawa sits in the bullpen and doesn't pay attention to the game. Then he does the drive back to the East Side. His days are mostly spent inside that apartment, and the Times describes him as "exceedingly private, almost reclusive."
So goes the life of one of the lonelier millionaire athletes you'll ever see: shuttles to the ballpark, interactions with teammates in broken English, and trips to the electronic store to briefly look at new Japanese cameras. There is, of course, that giant paycheck that awaits him in his locker every payday. But even with that, you have to wonder what's going through Kei Igawa's head as he sits alone in a bullpen in AA, or in that luxury East Side apartment in the loneliest room in Manhattan.
[The New York Times, image via Benjamin Norman]
Be the first to know
Want FREE Fantasy and Gaming Advice and Savings Delivered to your Inbox? Sign up for our Newsletter.