If Kei Igawa helps the Yankees defeat the Cleveland Indians tomorrow night at Yankee Stadium, Manager Joe Torre will probably offer him a handshake and some words of encouragement. But Igawa, who pitched for the Hanshin Tigers in his native Japan the previous eight seasons, is accustomed to more tangible rewards.
After contributing to a Hanshin victory, Igawa’s manager would frequently hand him an envelope stuffed with yen, usually the equivalent of about $1,000. Igawa was free to spend the money as he liked. He usually saved it and kept the envelope as a souvenir.
The financial exchange, which is separate from a player’s salary, is common in Japanese baseball and known as kantoku shou, which, translated literally, means manager prize. The foreign players in Nippon Professional Baseball commonly refer to it as fight money.
The practice varies across teams. The Red Sox' Daisuke Matsuzaka once received a case of coffee after pitching in a victory for the Seibu Lions. One wonders from that example what the purpose of the system really is.
Tom Glavine observes, "My immediate reaction is you’re paying guys extra for what they’re getting paid to do anyway." My hunch is that its the symbolic act of giving that is important.