A.J Burnett and Other Yankees Who Couldn't Handle New York
Being an athlete comes with pressure. Being an athlete in New York comes with even more pressure. The fan and media attention in New York makes it a very difficult place to play.
The New York Yankees have brought in players who could not handle it. There have been many quality and star players who turned into a different player and folded once they put on the pinstripes.
With A.J Burnett's Yankee career over, here is a look at some former Yankees players who could not handle the spotlight of New York.
Joe Torre said in his book "The Yankee Years" that "the difference between Kevin Brown and David Wells is that both make your life miserable, but David Wells meant to."
Kevin Brown's time with the Yankees was a complete train wreck.
Stats before Yankees (17 seasons)
Total: 197-131, 3.16 ERA
Average: 12-8, 3.16 ERA
Stats with Yankees (two seasons)
Total: 14-13, 4.93 ERA
Average: 7-6, 4.95 ERA
He also infamously punched the clubhouse wall with his left hand and broke it after a loss the the Baltimore Orioles. That incident basically sums up his time with the Yankees.
The Yankees' reaction to the Red Sox signing Japanese sensation Daisuke Matsuzaka was signing another Japanese pitcher named Kei Igawa. The Yankees shelled out $26 million in 2007 for the rights to negotiate with Igawa and then signed him to a five-year $20 million contract.
In 2007, Igawa was 2-3 with a 6.25 ERA and has not appeared in a major league game since 2008.
Randy Johnson was one of the most dominating and greatest pitchers of all time. However, he could not handle the pressure of New York when it mattered most.
In his first of two seasons with the Bronx Bombers, he went 17-11 with a 3.79 ERA. While those numbers are not too shabby, it was the postseason that showed he couldn't handle the pressure. In the Yankees' 2005 ALDS series against the Angels, Johnson started Game 3 and went all of two innings, in which he gave up five runs.
His struggles carried over into 2006, when his ERA was a bloated 5.00 during the season. Then in the 2006 playoffs, Johnson made one start, giving up five runs over 5 2/3 innings.
Chuck Knoblauch did not necessarily have a bad career with the Yankees. He had a .272 batting average, while averaging 12 home runs and 50 RBI's in his four seasons with the team.
However, the fact that he couldn't throw the ball to first base from the second-base position has to account for something. He once was a solid and sound fundamental fielder. Then for no reason, Knoblauch got a case of "the yips."
During a game, one of his throws went into the crowd and hit sportscaster Keith Olbermann's mother in the face. He never recovered and was forced to become a left-fielder and designated hitter for the remainder of his career.
In 1996, Kenny Rogers was signed by the Yankees to a four-year, $20 million contract. He was coming off of a solid 1995 season in which he won 17 games. The Yankees never saw this 17-game winner when he was with them.
In the 1996 playoffs, Rogers had a 14.14 ERA and pitched in only seven innings. In 1997, he was 6-7 with a 5.65 ERA.
Kenny Rogers came back to haunt the Yankees when he shut them down in the 2006 ALDS with the Detroit Tigers.
The Yankees tried using another former closer as Mariano Rivera's setup man when they signed Kyle Farnsworth before the 2006 season. In 2005, Farnsworth had a 2.19 ERA with 16 saves. This left much to be desired for the Yankees when they brought him in.
In his time in New York he struggled and was 6-9, with a 4.27 ERA. He never looked comfortable pitching with the Yankees and his control was lost.
Jorge Posada's injury in 2008 left a hole in the Yankees roster. The Yankees reacted by bringing in one of the greatest catchers of all time. However, Rodriguez was irrelevant in New York. Rodríguez wanted to leave Detroit due to Tigers manager Jim Leyland's decision to use rotating catchers—and he wound up sharing catching duties with backup Yankee catcher Jose Molina.
While he did not spend much time with the Yankees, his performance in New York was awful. He posted a .219 BA with 2 HR and 3 RBI's.
When Contreras defected from Cuba in 2002 in order to enter the MLB, the Yankees didn't hesitate to lock him up.
While battling injuries he had a decent rookie season in 2003, going 7-2 with a 3.30 ERA. However, from then on he couldn't find any consistency which ultimately led to him being traded.
In his time with the Yankees, Contreras was 15-7 with 4.64 ERA. In his second season before he was traded, he had a bloated 5.50 ERA.
Another international star the Yankees acquired with high hopes was Hideki Irabu. Irabu never came close to living up to the expectations that came with him. Not to mention George Steinbrenner even called him a "fat toad."
Irabu's first season with the Yankees was awful as he was 5-4 with a 7.09 ERA. In his three total seasons with the Yankees, Irabu was 29-20 with a 4.80 ERA. This left the Yankees wondering where the "Japenese Nolan Ryan" went.
Before the 2004 season, the Yankees acquired Javier Vazquez from the Expos and he was expected to be a possible AL Cy Young candidate.
He got off to a strong start and earned an All-Star selection. However, in the second half of the season he only won four games and had a 6.92 ERA. He finished the season 14-10 with a 4.91 ERA. In the 2004 playoffs, Vazquez pitched in three games and had a 9.25 ERA.
The Yankees then traded Vazquez to Arizona for Randy Johnson before the 2005 season. After a couple of strong seasons—including going 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA in 2009 with the Braves—the Yankees re-acquired Vazquez. He once again proved he couldn't handle New York in 2010, by going 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA.
Hopefully the Yankees don't believe in the idea of "third time's a charm."
Jaret Wright burst onto the MLB scene in 1997 with the Cleveland Indians and had success as a rookie in the postseason. Injuries plagued his career early on. However, in 2004 Wright was able to stay healthy and went 15-8 with a 3.28 ERA.
The Yankees were convinced by this season and signed Wright to a three-year, $21 million contract. Wright pitched only two seasons with the Yankees and in that time he was 16-12 with a 5.29 ERA. His time in New York was a complete failure and he was shipped to the Orioles before he could finish his three-year contract with them.
Kenny Lofton had been a quality center fielder, leadoff hitter, and base stealer throughout his career. The Yankees brought him in at the end of Bernie Williams' career and hoped he could add a different dimension to the Yankees lineup.
However, the career .299 hitter batted only .275 with the Yankees in 2004. He also only drove in 18 runs and stole just seven bases. Lofton was openly unhappy about his time in New York.
The following season with the Phillies, Lofton hit .335, with 36 RBI and 22 SB.
The Yankees got a first hand look at Sidney Ponson for many years with the Baltimore Orioles. So, why they decided to take two shots on him is baffling. He had a decent career with the Orioles, but nothing to write home about.
However, with the Yankees he was a complete failure. In an attempt to boost their rotation in 2006, the Yankees signed Ponson and he appeared in only five games, making three starts. He was 0-1 with a 10.47 ERA.
The Yankees again tried to bolster their rotation depth in 2008 and signed Ponson. In 15 starts, he had an average run support of 6.5 runs per game started. However, he was only 4-4 and had a 5.85 ERA.
Although he was never really a star player, he really could not handle New York.
Once upon a time the Yankees could not find a quality second baseman. That is hard to imagine now with Robinson Cano being one of the best players in baseball. However, after the Yankees traded Alfonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez, they had a hole at second base. In 2005, the Yankees took a shot on Womack who was a good leadoff hitter and base stealer.
He was just as bad in the field as he was at the plate. He made 15 errors in only 108 games and hit .249 with zero home runs and 15 RBI's.
There was one positive of Womack's time in New York though. He played so awfully that Joe Torre was forced to bring up and play Cano.
Esteban Loaiza was traded for another Yankee bust, Jose Contreras, in the middle of the 2004 season. This move turned out to be an absolute waste because Loaiza struggled and was demoted to limited bullpen duty.
In 2003, Loaiza finished second in AL Cy Young voting and had a 21-9 record with a 2.90 ERA. With the Yankees, he appeared in 10 games and started six of them. He was 1-2 with an 8.50 ERA.
Rondell White had been a quality outfielder throughout his career. When the Yankees signed him before the 2002 season they were hoping to get that quality player. However, White never really showed up.
He has a career .284 BA, .336 OBP and .462 SLG. Also, in his four seasons before joining the Yankees he had a .308 BA, .366 OBP and .509 SLG.
In 2002 with the Yankees, White hit .244, had a .371 OBP and a .378 SLG. His batting average was the lowest ever aside from his final season, and his OBP and SLG were the third-lowest in his career.
What shows he couldn't handle New York the most is that the following season, in which he got traded from the Yankees, he hit .289, with 22 HR, 87 RBI, .341 OBP and a .488 SLG.
Ian Kennedy was once one of the top pitching prospects in the Yankees' organization. The Yankees gave him a shot to prove himself, however, he struggled.
In his time with the Yankees he appeared in 14 games and started 12 of them. He was 1-4 with a 6.03 ERA.
The Yankees then traded Kennedy to Arizona in a three-team deal in which they got Granderson from the Tigers. In 2011, Kennedy had a Cy Young caliber season and was 21-4, with a 2.88 ERA. There is not enough evidence to completely confirm this, however Kennedy may be strictly a National League pitcher.
Carl Pavano might be the most collectively despised Yankee player ever. He was hated by both the fans and the team during his time with the Yankees.
After a strong 2003 postseason—which included holding the Yankees to one run over eight innings in Game 4 of the World Series—and an 18-8 2004 season, the Yankees decided to bring in Pavano in 2005.
The Yankees signed Pavano to a four-year, $ 40 million contract. His time with the Yankees was mostly spent on the disabled list and his lack of determination to get back on the field did not sit well with fans and teammates.
He was 9-8 with a 5.00 ERA in his four seasons with the Yankees. The Yanks basically paid Pavano around $4.5 million a win.
The Yankees had one of the biggest offseasons before their 2009 World Series season. One of those deals in that offseason included signing A.J Burnett to a five-year, $ 82.5 million contract.
After a mediocre 2009 season in which he went 13-9 with a 4.04 ERA, Burnett struggled to find any success. In 2010 and 2011 combined, Burnett was 21-26 with a 5.20 ERA. Although he may have had a significant role in the Yankees' 2009 World Series season, he could not handle New York.
It was reported that the Yankees and Pirates agreed on a deal that would send Burnett to the Pirates. Although Burnett was a disappointment with the Yankees, his last impression with the Yankees was a solid outing in the 2011 ALDS game that kept the Yankees temporarily alive in the series.