20 Biggest Disappointments in New York Yankees History

Ely SussmanCorrespondent IDecember 22, 2011

20 Biggest Disappointments in New York Yankees History

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    New York Yankees fans can take at least one positive away from the team's quiet offseason—the inactivity ensures that no new players come in with high expectations and disappoint.

    Far too many have hindered this franchise in the past.

    Some were formerly big-name free agents, while others were acquired through dumb trades or unwisely drafted.

    Pre-1963 Yankees were not considered for this list. New York had won 20 of the last 40 World Series entering that season, so any disappointments were not futile enough to keep the team from success.

    In chronological order, these are the 20 biggest duds in Yankees history.

3B/SS Jerry Kenney

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    Jerry Kenney was promoted to the majors in 1967 with the expectations that he would develop into "the next Tony Kubek."

    His career got off to a promising start with a home run in his first at-bat, but he wouldn't leave the ballpark over his final 73 plate appearances that season.

    Kenney played decently during the 1969 season before sealing his fate with a .193 batting average in 1970. He was out of the big leagues by his 28th birthday.

    Power was always missing from his game. He had a career slugging percentage of .299.

    Kenney only spent 460 games in a New York Yankees uniform compared to Kubek's 1,092. None of Kenney's teams won an American pennant, much less a World Series.

SP Catfish Hunter

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    Initially, Catfish Hunter appeared to be worth every penny of his five-year, $3.2 million free-agent contract. It made him the highest-paid pitcher in baseball, but he was arguably the best in the league in 1975, posting a 23-14 record, 2.58 ERA and 30 complete games.

    His decline began the next season as a 30-year-old. Although he hurled another 21 complete games, his ERA was a full run higher and opposing batters found him easier to hit.

    He lasted until the end of the deal (barely), starting 61 games over his final three seasons. Arm strain and the effects of diabetes took their toll and prevented him from signing another contract.

    Hunter won only one World Series game for the New York Yankees.

SP Don Gullett

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    From a very young age, Don Gullett had success in the major leagues.

    Getting his MLB career started early allowed him to reach free agency with another dozen seasons left in his arm . . . or so the New York Yankees thought.

    The Yankees were understandably enamored with his 3.03 ERA as a Cincinnati Red. They signed Gullett to a six-year contract.

    He made just 30 starts in pinstripes. He succumbed to shoulder issues in 1978 and never fully recovered.

    It's amazing that the Yankees repeated as World Series champs in '78 with both Hunter and Gullett going down during the summer.

1B John Mayberry

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    John Mayberry would end his career with the New York Yankees years sooner than expected.

    He was only recently removed from a 30-homer campaign when the Yankees traded for him early in the 1982 season.

    Mayberry was plugged into the middle of the batting order, but he never rediscovered his home run ability. He struck out more than ever and batted .209 to justify his 1983 release.

    The Yankees would finish the year with a losing record and wait more than a decade to return to the playoffs.

SP Doyle Alexander

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    The New York Yankees thought they knew what they were getting with Doyle Alexander in 1982. They had previously acquired him midway through the 1976 season and he filled out a starting rotation that led the team to the World Series.

    His second tenure was disastrous. He had more balks (four) than wins (one) over a full season!

    The Yankees gave up a couple promising prospects to get him, but he was practically worthless in 1983, and they had to release him.

    To pour salt in a wound, Alexander immediately returned to form with the Toronto Blue Jays and contended for the Cy Young Award with the Detroit Tigers in 1987.

SP Britt Burns

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    Britt Burns won 70 games in six full seasons with the Chicago White Sox, but he would never take the mound with the New York Yankees.

    Soon after this picture was taken, he began to suffer from a degenerative hip condition. His career officially ended after an unsuccessful comeback attempt in 1990.

    If it's any consolation, the Yankees traded Joe Cowley and Ron Hassey to acquire Burns in 1985; neither lasted long in Chicago.

RF Jesse Barfield

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    Amid an era where the New York Yankees regularly raided their farm system for trade bait, they dealt highly-touted pitcher Al Leiter for slugger Jesse Barfield, who appeared to be in his prime at 29 years of age.

    He was expected to be a staple in the middle of the lineup through the 1990s.

    However, he was as strikeout prone as ever with the Yankees. He never approached any of his offensive career highs from a stellar 1986 season.

    Barfield began missing playing time in 1991, and he retired the following year.

SP Tim Leary

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    Although he had spent his entire career in the National League, Tim Leary was supposed to be a suitable starting pitcher in the junior circuit, too.

    Inexplicably, Leary lost his control with the New York Yankees.

    In 1990, he walked a career-high 78 batters and threw 23 wild pitches.

    The front office stupidly re-signed him to a multi-year deal that offseason. He "rewarded" them by putting baserunners on at a much higher rate and missing time due to injury.

    Ultimately, Leary finished his Yankees tenure with a 18-35 record.

SP Brien Taylor

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    The New York Yankees made a huge mistake selecting Brien Taylor first overall in the 1991 MLB amateur draft.

    With Scott Boras advising him, Taylor negotiated his way to a record-breaking signing bonus.

    He progressively got worse in the minor leagues after making a strong debut in 1992.

    An infamous fistfight in December 1993 resulted in a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder. It was surgically repaired, but Taylor never regained his pre-injury velocity. He couldn't locate his pitches, either.

    Taylor never pitched above Double-A.

SP Hideki Irabu

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    Because of his feats in Japan, Hideki Irabu was paid like an ace under his first MLB contract.

    He made his New York Yankees debut in 1997 after a handful of minor league starts and was obviously overwhelmed. His 7.09 ERA during the regular season kept him from pitching in the playoffs.

    Luckily, he improved and posted winning records in 1998 and 1999.

    Honestly, though, Irabu was an afterthought on World Series-champion teams.

    He was traded to the Montreal Expos with one year remaining on his original deal.

OF/DH Shane Spencer

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    Shane Spencer stunned everybody in 1998 by smashing 10 home runs in the month of September.

    Unfortunately, his skills never translated over a full season.

    He played at least 70 games from 1999 to 2002 and couldn't exceed his 1998 total. Consistently from year to year, Spencer struck out too frequently.

    The New York Yankees allowed Spencer to leave via free agency and replaced him with Hideki Matsui.

1B Jason Giambi

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    Jason Giambi was the first position player in MLB history to play out a $100 million contract when his seven-year, $120 million deal expired after the 2008 season.

    He started off well but tapered off.

    2004 and 2007 were lost campaigns. He had a 1.034 OPS in 2002, but he never went above 1.000 again. His defense at first base was comical and he saw a lot of time at designated hitter, where he wouldn't be such a liability.

    New York couldn't win a World Series with Giambi.

SP Kevin Brown

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    The New York Yankees accepted the final two years of Kevin Brown's monstrous contract going into 2004 because they were mesmerized by his 2003 statistics.

    In his two Yankee seasons, he pitched fewer innings and accumulated fewer strikeouts than he had totaled in 2003 alone.

    He embarrassed the franchise with a wall-punching incident and choked in the 2004 American League Championship Series.

    Jeff Weaver—who the Yankees traded to acquire Brown—could have done a better job!

SP Jaret Wright

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    Similarly, the New York Yankees jumped on the Jaret Wright bandwagon following one superb season. He had won 15 games with the Atlanta Braves and had shown control of all his pitches.

    Wright was shelled in 2005 and hid in the back of the rotation in 2006.

    The biggest issue with his pitching was the lack of length he gave the Yankees. Wright averaged five innings per start and single-handedly tired the bullpen. Scott Proctor and Ron Villone, for example, were forced to throw innings they weren't accustomed to and both began to decline after 2006.

SP Carl Pavano

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    The week before the New York Yankees signed Jaret Wright, the front office agreed to terms with a screw-up who would affect the team for four, long years—Carl Pavano.

    Again, he looked great on paper having come over from the National League.

    With the Yankees, he continued to pound the strike zone, but 26 starts isn't much of a sample size. That is all Pavano gave them for four years and $38 million.

    His injury excuses were ridiculous, none more priceless than the "bruised buttocks" that caused him to miss significant time.

DH Nick Johnson

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    More than six years removed from his early New York Yankees career, the team invited Nick Johnson back in December 2009 to be their designated hitter.

    His extraordinary eye at the plate had always contributed to an incredible on-base percentage. He brought that patience with him to the Bronx, but apparently his bat was sold separately.

    He totaled 12 hits for the $5.5 million that the Yankees paid him, as a May wrist injury required season-ending surgery.

    Nobody cared for his .167 batting average, anyway.

SP Javier Vazquez

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    "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

    It's a famous quote, no doubt, but apparently one that general manager Brian Cashman didn't take to heart.

    He gave quite a package of players to the Montreal Expos in 2004 for 27-year-old starter Javier Vazquez.

    However, Vazquez didn't co-lead the rotation as expected.

    He pitched well earlier on—made the AL All-Star team, in fact—but didn't fare so well during the second half of the season.

    In 2010, Vazquez was given a second chance, probably because he was fresh off his most outstanding year. Regardless, Cashman should have kept the quote in mind.

    Vazquez was so mediocre that he had to be pulled from the rotation and kept off the playoff roster.

    He was serviceable in each of his career stops . . . except with the New York Yankees.

SP Kei Igawa

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    The New York Yankees made a fearless dive into the Japan baseball market before the 2007 season and made the highest bid for Kei Igawa.

    He was a bust from the get-go, allowing 15 home runs in 67.1 innings before being sent down to the minor leagues for further development.

    He made an ugly cameo in 2008 and never made another appearance in the big leagues.

    According to baseball-reference.com, Igawa was worth -1.0 wins for the Yankees.

    He was finally granted free agency in early November.

SP Andrew Brackman

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    Andrew Brackman was nearly as bad for the New York Yankees as Brien Taylor was.

    A first-round pick in 2007, he reached Triple-A in 2011 and looked terrible.

    His height, velocity and control issues made him comparable to future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, but understand how poorly he was pitching. Brackman was credited with 19 wild pitches and 14 hit batsmen on top of 75 walks in only 96 innings.

    He was given an unearned September call-up and continued to disappoint.

    The Yankees officially gave up on Brackman this winter.

SP AJ Burnett

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    Two years remain on AJ Burnett's contract, but his reputation is already irreparable.

    He has a losing record in three years with the New York Yankees despite being supported by one of the league's most productive offenses.

    He has led the major leagues in wild pitches and walks since the start of 2009.

    His durability is his worst attribute. It's so difficult to keep a pitcher with his potential off the mound when healthy. The Yankees keep pitching him, and he consistently under-performs.

    Burnett is among the 20 highest-paid players in Major League Baseball, which is why he belongs on this top 20 list, too.