Michael Pineda and the 8 Worst All-Time Starts to a New York Yankees Career
Michael Pineda now has more arrests as a member of the New York Yankees than he does appearances on the mound.
The 23-year-old righthander won’t pitch at all this season as he continues to rehabilitate after shoulder surgery performed in late April to repair a torn labrum (per ESPNNewYork.com). The Yankees acquired Pineda and 20-year-old Jose Campos from the Seattle Mariners on Jan. 23 in exchange for catcher Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi.
But Pineda struggled throughout spring training with both his weight (he reported 10 pounds over his playing weight of 270) and the 6-foot-7 righthander never found his velocity in Florida. It was a huge disappointment for the Yankees, who were counting on Pineda—who made the All-Star team as a rookie last season—to be a rock in their starting rotation.
Pineda’s awful 2012 season took a turn for the worse early Monday morning when, according to the New York Post, he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol by police in Tampa, Fla. According to a Tampa Police Department report, Pineda “had a fixed gaze and his eyes were bloodshot, watery and glassy.” The officer filing the report said he could “smell a distinct odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from (Pineda’s) breath and his speech was slurred.”
Two separate readings found Pineda’s blood-alcohol level to be .128 and .125, according to the Post report.
Pineda has been undergoing rehabilitation from the April surgery at the Yankee spring training complex in Tampa.
It has certainly been an inauspicious beginning to Pineda’s Yankee career; not at all what was expected from a pitcher who went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 173 strikeouts in 171 innings for the Mariners in 2011.
Pineda is far from alone to getting off to a rocky start in pinstripes. Here are eight of the worst starts to a Yankee career.
8. Randy Johnson
When the Yankees traded for five-time Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson in January 2005, they believed they were getting an ace, an aging ace but an ace nonetheless.
But Johnson never adjusted to the bright lights of New York. En route to the hospital to take a physical necessary to complete the deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Jan. 10, 2005, Johnson got into separate confrontations with a local television cameraman and a New York Daily News photographer.
There were some concerns the legendarily surly Johnson, who once broke his non-pitching hand punching a wall while pitching in the media pressure-cooker that was Montreal, might not be able to handle the day-to-day pressure of life as a Yankee.
Those concerns proved valid. Johnson won 34 games in his two seasons (2005-06) in pinstripes, but his ERA was more than a half-run higher with the Yankees (4.37) than his career mark of 3.60. His K per nine innings ratio of 8.0 was also significantly below his career mark of 10.1.
In three postseason appearances, two of them starts, Johnson was significantly worse. His career postseason mark as a Yankee was a less-than-sterling 0-1 with 10 earned runs allowed in just 13 innings and New York exited the postseason in the first round both seasons.
7. Mickey Mantle
Most Yankee fans have a special reverence for the career of Mickey Mantle. He was a Triple Crown winner in 1956, a three-time American League Most Valuable Player (1956-57 and 1962) and went to the Hall of Fame for an injury-plagued career that still saw him belt 536 home runs during the regular season and a record 18 more in World Series play.
But Mantle’s career as a Yankee began as a train wreck. Promoted to the majors by Casey Stengel out of spring training in 1951, the 19-year-old Mantle was assigned uniform No. 6—indicating he would follow in the lineage of legendary Yankees Babe Ruth (No. 3), Lou Gehrig (No. 4) and Joe DiMaggio (No. 5).
The teenager struggled under the weight of the expectations, and after he hit just .216 from June 19-July 13, he was shipped off to the Yankees’ top farm club in Kansas City.
After initially balking at the demotion and briefly considering quitting the game, Mantle rebounded to hit .361 in 40 games with the Blues, belting 11 home runs and driving in 50 runs in the process. He was recalled to the Bronx on Aug. 24 and hit .284/.370/.495 the rest of the way with six home runs and 20 RBI in 27 games, 24 of them starts.
Despite suffering a serious knee injury stepping into a drain while chasing a fly ball in Game 2 of the 1951 World Series against the New York Giants, Mantle went on to have a stellar career, albeit one shortened by injuries and, presumably, a nearly lifelong love affair with the bottle.
6. Michael Pineda
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Pineda’s problems were noted on the opening slide of this piece. An All-Star with the Seattle Mariners in 2011, Pineda came over to the Yankees in a Jan. 23 trade but won’t pitch at all this season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in late April.
A lost season got worse on Monday when Pineda was arrested on suspicion of DUI in Tampa, Fla.
5. Ed Whitson
Ed Whitson was an All-Star pitcher with the San Francisco Giants in 1980 and parlayed a 14-8 record with the National League champion San Diego Padres in 1984 into a five-year, $4.4 million free-agent deal with the Yankees the day after Christmas 1984.
Whitson opened the 1985 season 1-6 and soon became a target for the wrath of Yankee fans. Whitson said he was receiving hate mail, had been chased out of the stadium parking lots by fans and subject to verbal abuse so severe that he refused to let his wife attend games at Yankee Stadium (per ESPNNewYork.com).
Whitson wound up in a brawl with manager Billy Martin at a Baltimore hotel, breaking Martin’s arm. The following season, new skipper Lou Piniella reduced Whitson to a mop-up role and only used him in road games, even though Whitson never requested such a move.
Still, although Whitson’s Yankee career ended in July 1986 when he was traded back to the Padres with an ERA of 5.38, he was 15-10 in 44 appearances for New York, 34 of them starts. Perhaps it’s statistical lines such as this that has started to make people understand the danger of placing too much value on wins as a pitching metric.
4. Andy Messersmith
Andy Messersmith had been a workhorse for the California Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers in the early to mid-1970s and was declared one of the game’s first free agents following the 1975 season. He nearly signed with the Yankees then but wound up with the Atlanta Braves.
He was solid for a bad Braves team in 1976 and even agreed to do a little bit of advertising for owner Ted Turner’s fledgling TBS by wearing No. 17 with the name “CHANNEL” on the back of his jersey, a move that was quickly nixed by MLB (per ESPN.com).
Messersmith was shut down in the second half of the 1977 season with elbow trouble, but the Yankees took a flyer on his, purchasing his contract from Atlanta in December 1977. But he hurt his shoulder in spring training, didn’t make his season debut until late May and lasted just six games and 22.1 innings as a Yankee and was released at the end of the season.
3, Bobby Meacham
Bobby Meacham was a promising shortstop prospect for the Yankees who wound up in owner George Steinbrenner’s notorious dog house.
Meacham incurred the wrath of Steinbrenner in just the fourth game of his first full season in the bigs, 1984, when he committed an error that allowed the game-winning run to score in a 7-6 loss at Texas. The miscue came after Meacham had entered the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning and Steinbrenner wanted the kid, just 23 at the time, sent all the way back to Double-A (per baseball-reference.com).
Meacham rebounded to win the starting shortstop job later that season and in 1985, but after a .218/.302/.266 disaster at the plate in 566 plate appearances in 1985, he was relegated to a utility role for the remainder of his career.
Even in his post-playing days, Meacham is still taking the fall. He was fired as first-base coach of the Houston Astros last week as part of the organizational shakeup that saw manager Brad Mills jettisoned—because as we all know, first-base coaches play such an integral role in winning and losing.
2. Denny Neagle
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Looking for some reinforcements for the starting rotation in July 2000, the Yankees traded three prospects to the Cincinnati Reds for lefthander Denny Neagle, who had gone 8-2 with a 3.52 ERA in 18 starts for the Reds.
Neagle was a disaster with the Yankees, stumbling to a 7-7 mark despite a 5.81 ERA and an unsightly 1.423 WHIP in 91.1 innings in pinstripes. He was winless in three postseason starts, tagged with the losses in both games the Yankees lost in the ALCS to the Seattle Mariners, and was gone that winter, signing a free agent deal with the Colorado Rockies.
A silver lining to the deal was that none of the four prospects surrendered in the trade—third baseman Drew Henson, outfielder Jackson Melian and pitchers Brian Reith and Ed Yarnall—panned out, either.
1. Carl Pavano
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Carl Pavano had come off a career year with the Florida Marlins in 2004, winning 18 games and recording a 3.00 ERA heading into free agency. Pavano signed a four-year, $40 million contract with the Yankees but Pavano’s Yankee career was marred by injury and controversy.
Pavano’s return on New York’s investment was nine wins, a 5.00 ERA and 145.2 innings. That wasn’t in 2005; that was over the life of the four-year contract.
Pavano was so often absent from the Yankee rotation that George King, the Yankees beat writer for the New York Post, dubbed the righthander “American Idle” (per ESPN.com).
Making matters worse for Yankee fans is that Pavano turned into a workhorse for the Minnesota Twins, working 221 innings in 2010 (while winning 17 games) and 222 innings in 2011 before being sidelined with a shoulder injury in June.