New York Yankees: The 10 Most Disappointing Pitchers of the Last Decade
Marquee names, high-powered offense and yearly championship contention are just a few of the consistent themes embedded in New York Yankees culture.
A more disturbing trend that has regularly reared its ugly face, however, is the team's long line of pitching disappointments.
Whether they've been acquired through trades, signed to bulky contracts or even brought up through the farm system, there have been quite a few promising pitchers gone bad. This unfortunate theme has been more prevalent over the last decade or so.
The most recent case perhaps is the one of the young Michael Pineda. But hopefully for the Yanks, his current shoulder injury won't have him jockeying for a spot on this list.
So in an effort to make all you Yankees fans cringe, here are the top 10 most disappointing pitchers to cross the franchise's path in the past 10 years.
10. Randy Johnson
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Usually the saying goes, "If you can't beat them, join them." For Randy Johnson, however, it was "If you beat them, join them."
Four seasons after shutting down the Yanks and giving them fits in the 2001 World Series, Johnson was summoned to the Bronx in 2005. The Big Unit packed his bags and headed to New York in a blockbuster deal that saw Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey and Dioner Navarro shipped to the Arizona desert.
After being traded to the Yankees in January 2005, Johnson almost immediately grabbed headlines. But unfortunately, the headlines wouldn't pertain to on-field activities.
On Jan. 10, Johnson was met by a CBS TV cameraman on the streets of a Manhattan sidewalk. Johnson, wanting nothing to do with the exposure, rudely greeted the reporter by shoving the lens of his camera.
Anyway, he's really on here for his disappointing on-field performance.
In just two seasons with the Yanks, the 41-year-old pitched a combined 34-19 record. Not bad, right?
Maybe for a second or third option, but not for the presumptive ace in Johnson. Although he racked up 34 wins in 77 starts, Johnson pitched an un-Unit-like 3.79 ERA in 2005 and 5.00 ERA in 2006. The 5.00 ERA was the highest of Randy's career since his seven-game run with the Montreal Expos in 1989.
In addition, he failed to win a postseason start in pinstripes. Johnson relinquished five runs in each of his two playoff starts as a Yankee. As the ace of the staff, Johnson failed to carry the Yanks past the ALDS, and the Yankees fell to the Los Angeles Angels in 2005 and the Detroit Tigers in 2006.
9. Jose Contreras
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Before there was Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes, the big-time Cuban defector was Jose Contreras. And over in Cuba, Contreras was easily one of the best arms the country ever produced.
His last season as a member of the Pinar del Rio Vegueros saw the right-hander go 13-4 with a 1.34 ERA. Contreras also tossed a phenomenal eight shutout innings along with 10 strikeouts against the Baltimore Orioles during his time on the Cuban national squad.
After inking a four-year deal with the Yanks in late 2002, however, Contreras seemed to have left his best stuff in Cuba.
In his first season as a Pinstriper, Contreras was quite impressive at a 7-2 clip with a 3.30 ERA. And if you disregard his 5.50 ERA the very next year, his 13-9 record was also fairly nice.
But unfortunately for the Cuban righty, you can't disregard that earned run average nor his inconsistent play.
Although he put up some solid numbers in his rookie season, Contreras was barely in the Bronx. He spent two months of the season on the disabled list with a subscapularis strain and made four stops in the minors.
The inconsistency continued into his sophomore year, clearly indicating he wasn't the ace the Yanks thought they were getting.
Contreras was then traded to the Chicago White Sox in the middle of the 2004 season in exchange for the most interesting American League All-Star starter of all time, Esteban Loaiza.
8. Phil Hughes
The name "Phil Hughes" should now be synonymous with the word "ugh" in the Bronx.
This list may detail the most disappointing arms over the past decade, but I think it may be safe to say Hughes is the most frustrating.
Just like the rest of the guys here, Hughes did display some promise early in his career. Coming up as one of the organization's top prospects, Phil chalked up 31 wins in 57 starts in his first four seasons.
That stretch included a solid 18-win season in 2010 and a stellar bullpen year in 2009.
But, and there's always a "but," Hughes hasn't much since. He went 5-5 with a 5.79 ERA in 2011. He also suffered numerous setbacks during the 2011 season, blaming his woes on a case of dead arm.
Hughes hasn't gotten off to such a hot start here in 2012. So far, the right-hander is 1-2 with a bothersome 6.75 ERA.
Luckily for him, teammate Freddy Garcia has been much worse. If he weren't, it would now seem rather inevitable that a returning Andy Pettitte would be coming for his spot in the rotation.
Although his career has been somewhat rocky, Hughes still does have some time to regroup. But he must do so before the fans and the team lose any more faith in him.
7. Chien-Ming Wang
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Chien-Ming Wang displayed all the makings of a major league ace very early on as a New York Yankee.
In his first three seasons in the majors, Wang pitched a combined 46-18 and led the league in with 19 wins in 2006. Wang also relinquished the lowest total of homers per nine innings in consecutive seasons from 2006 to 2007.
The impressive Taiwanese product, however, would suffer a devastating injury during an interleague matchup against the Houston Astros on June 15, 2008. As he was rounding third and coming in to score, Wang did quite a bit of damage to his right foot.
It was later determined that he suffered a torn Lisfranc ligament of the right foot as well as a partial tear of the peroneus longus.
Unfortunately for Wang, he was never the same. He returned in 2009 and looked like a completely different pitcher. The former ace for the New York Yankees hurled a 1-6 record and a 9.64 ERA after coming off the injury.
Wang would also go on to injure his right shoulder in 2009 and succumbed to season-ending surgery just halfway through the season.
The Yankees subsequently allowed Wang to walk right into free agency, where he would find a deal with the Washington Nationals.
On March 15 of this season, Wang sustained a left hamstring injury and is currently resting on the Washington disabled list.
6. A.J. Burnett
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How would you spend $82.5 million in five years?
Personally, I would buy a handful of houses, invest in some good stock, pay off some college loans and unload on some season tickets. And perhaps your answer is somewhat similar.
But would you spend $82.5 million over five years on A.J. Burnett? Yeah, me neither.
The Yankees did, though.
As one of their three huge reel-ins during the famed 2008-2009 offseason, veteran A.J. Burnett was inked to that aforementioned deal to become the team's No. 2 starter.
I guess you could say he earned some of that in his first season as a Yankee. In 2009, Burnett went 13-9 with a 4.04 ERA and pitched some very solid postseason games en route to the Yanks' 27th World Series Championship.
And that was about it for Burnett.
In 2010 and 2011, A.J. had a combined 21-26 record with an ERA well over 5.00. Those two seasons for Burnett were highlighted by numerous five-run outings as well as a plethora of walks and wild pitches.
His swan song as a Yankee came in a rather solid start during a must-win Game 4 in last year's ALDS. Burnett pushed the Yankees to a 10-1 victory after tossing 5.2 innings of one-run ball.
But luckily for the Yankees, they didn't have to fulfill Burnett's entire five-year deal.
The erratic right-hander would be traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in an essential salary dump during the 2010-2011 offseason.
Oddly enough, Burnett is just coming off of a stellar debut in Pittsburgh as he allowed zero runs and struck out seven batters in seven innings against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.
5. Kevin Brown
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Kevin Brown is almost like the pre-existing version of A.J. Burnett for you younger fans.
He found some decent success prior to New York, he was a hard thrower and he chalked up his fair share of strikeouts and walks.
Brown was shipped from Los Angeles to the Bronx in December of 2003 in exchange for Jeff Weaver, Yhency Brazoban and Brandon Weeden (yeah, that one) and $2.6 million in cash.
The funny thing about that trade, however, is that Brandon Weeden probably got the best of it. After being drafted by the Yankees in 2002, Weeden failed to find any success in baseball. He pitched his last game in 2006 and moved onto football at Oklahoma State University.
And now about a decade after being picked in the second round of the MLB draft, it looks like Weeden may relive that same scenario, but now as a quarterback in the NFL draft.
Anyway, back to Brown.
In his two seasons in pinstripes, Brown couldn't do much for you. (Get it? What can Brown do for you?)
But again, back to the topic at hand here. Brown went 10-6 with a 4.09 ERA in 2004 and 4-7 the season after with a 6.50 ERA.
Acquired to be a solid factor in the team's quest for another title, the six-time All-Star didn't exactly come through.
Unfortunately for Brown, he'll be known best in the Bronx for his laughable hand injury which he sustained while punching a wall in frustration.
4. Joba Chamberlain
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Alright, here we go.
There was nothing hotter than Joba Chamberlain in 2007. As a reliever and subsequent setup man for the Yankees' bullpen, Chamberlain was easily the league's biggest sensation.
In 24 innings of relief, the big man struck out 34 batters, allowed just 18 baserunners and relinquished only one earned run. From his stretch in 2007 alone, it was evident that this flame-thrower would be the successor to the great Mariano Rivera.
That prospect, however, took a permanent backseat in 2008 when the team moved Chamberlain to the starting rotation. Of his 42 appearances that season, Joba started 12 of them. He finished with a 4-3 record and a very respectable 2.60 ERA.
The right-hander did seem to carry over his success from the season prior but didn't look quite as electric. He would later be placed on the disabled list after a rotator cuff injury he suffered in a start against the Texas Rangers in August.
From 2009-2010, Chamberlain posted a combined 12-10 record and failed to toss under a 4.40 ERA in both seasons.
Recently, Joba has been desperately attempting to return from two horrifying injuries. Chamberlain underwent Tommy John surgery in June of 2011 and has just suffered an open dislocation while playing on a trampoline.
From the "Joba Rules" to the Cleveland midges and now the infamous trampoline incident, we can pretty much conclude that Chamberlain's career has been an eventful one. Hopefully for Joba, he may be able to salvage his career upon his return from his latest devastating injury.
3. Kei Igawa
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Sign Kei Igawa, they said. He's a cheaper Daisuke Matsuzaka, they said.
Well, it turns out Igawa was a cheaper Daisuke. In fact, he was a lot cheaper and a lot more useless.
For the sake of everyone reading, I'll keep this short—just like Igawa's major league career.
Igawa posted a career record of 2-4 in 16 appearances for the Yankees. He allowed 53 runs in 71.2 innings of work and could seemingly never catch on in the states.
After inking this man to a five-year, $20 million deal, all the Yankees got was an Asian version of Napoleon Dynamite, glasses and all. The only difference was that Jon Heder probably could have lasted longer in the Bronx.
2. Carl Pavano
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You may not recognize him from that picture, Yankee fans. That might be because he isn't sporting that awesome porno mustache he grew over in Minnesota.
But in case you forgot, that's good ol' Carl Pavano.
On December 20, 2004, the Yankees inked the then-28-year-old right-hander to a lucrative four-year, $39.95 million contract. The former Florida Marlin turned down even more lucrative offers from Boston and Cincinnati just to pitch for the Yankees franchise.
After coming off an 18-win season that earned him an All-Star appearance and sixth place in the National League Cy Young vote, Pavano completely flopped in New York.
In three seasons with the Yankees, Pavano went a combined 9-8 and was never able to start more than 17 games. He posted a 4.77 ERA in 2005, a 4.76 ERA in 2006 and rounded out with a 5.77 before leaving for Cleveland after the 2008 season.
Pavano will be most remembered by his injuries as a New York Yankee.
His first one came in the form of a nagging right shoulder in June of 2005. That injury limited Pavano to just 17 starts in his first season.
His next injury began a string of straight-up ridiculousness, if you will. During spring training in 2006, Pavano bruised his buttocks. His buttocks injury sent him to the disabled list before the season even started.
But that wasn't the only time Pavano was a pain in the butt for the Yanks.
Shortly after, Pavano revealed he had suffered broken ribs on August 15th. He did not inform the team about the origin of the injury until two weeks later on August 28th, when he admitted to sustaining the two broken ribs in an automobile accident.
And as if the ribs, shoulder and butt things weren't enough, Pavano suffered yet another injury very early into the 2007 season. On April 15, the starter was placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury that would later turn out to be worthy of the famed Tommy John surgery.
Known to the New York media as the "American Idle," Pavano never found his niche in New York and went on to sign with the Indians for the 2009 season.
Carl wasn't exactly endeared by his teammates during his time in pinstripes and certainly wasn't embraced by the New York fans.
1. Javier Vazquez
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If you haven't guessed it already, Javier Vazquez is undoubtedly the most disappointing pitcher in the past 10 years of New York Yankees baseball.
And why is he here? Because he was so not nice, that he did it twice.
Unlike the rest of his worthy opponents on this list, Vazquez tanked in two separate stints with the team.
On December 16, 2003, Vazquez was acquired by the Yankees in a trade with the Expos that sent Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate to Montreal. After being picked up by the Yanks, Vazquez was an extremely popular American League Cy Young pick amongst many experts at the time.
And to Vazquez's credit, the start of his 2004 campaign was nothing short of impressive. He went 10-5 with a 3.56 ERA in his first 18 starts, earning him an All-Star nod.
But the second half of the year was just about the opposite for Vazquez.
He finished the season with a 4-5 record and had a terrible 6.92 ERA. That very same season, Vazquez would be inserted into the infamous 2004 ALCS Game 7 as a source of relief.
The only relief he gave was to Red Sox fans after allowing perhaps the most devastating home run ever given up by a New York Yankee. It would be one that would rival that of Bill Mazeroski's walk-off, World Series-winning homer in 1960.
The knockout grand slam by Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon capped off a 4-3 series victory for Boston in the championship series and propelled them to their first World Series title in 86 years.
Vazquez would later reveal that he suffered from a nagging elbow injury throughout the second half of that season, something he failed to tell team officials during the year.
But in 2010, the Yankees needed some starting pitching and the history of Javy seemed to be in the past.
On December 22, 2009, the World Series champs shipped Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino to the Atlanta Braves for Vazquez and Boone Logan.
Well, at least the Yankees received Logan in that deal.
In his second go-round with the Yanks, Vazquez went 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA in 26 starts. He would later be moved to the bullpen in an attempt to salvage any part of his ability.
After failing to live up to the bill as one of the game's best pitchers at the time, Vazquez was left off the postseason roster by manager Joe Girardi in 2010. It was an appropriate testament to Javy's performance that he couldn't even find a spot in a rather thin bullpen.
His playoff exclusion was just the icing on top of one of the most failed New York Yankee careers of all time.