Bronx Bombs: Ten Years of Yankees Pitching Duds
Quacky curmudgeon Scrooge McDuck had a giant silo of gold coins to swim in. Eccentric pop icon Michael Jackson owned the Elephant Man’s dirty old bones. "Big Pants" MC Hammer bought a $12 million mansion that housed nearly 20 racehorses.
Just because you have loads of cash doesn’t mean you always spend it wisely.
Theatrical New York Yankees radio announcer John Sterling has often chuckled and stated, "You can't predict baseball". To be fair, Sterling churns out a lot of goofy jibber-jabber on a daily basis, but ol' John really hit the pinstriped nail on the head with that one.
You can be certain any lifelong Yankees fan has heard many a naysayer spin yarns about the team winning numerous World Championships by buying All-Star caliber teams. The team's General Manager is named "Cashman" after all.
The hole in that theory is that play on the field and deep pockets don't naturally go hand in hand. Sure, piles of dough can assure that a team can be competitive, but money doesn't account for injury, team chemistry, or that all-important Rudy-ish "fight in the dog" spirit.
Simply stated: Loads of dollars do not a championship make. Need further proof? Go count the number of rings on Jason Giambi's fingers.
For all its success, superstars, and timeless tradition, the so-called "Evil Empire" hasn't been free from bad signings, especially when it comes to the mound on East 161st Street in the Bronx. In the blink of an eye, good intentions go sour like milk in the summer sun and what may seem like a wise investment can go flat in a season's time.
60 feet, six inches. Sometimes that short distance can be quite the journey.
1. Kevin Brown
AKA: "The Knuckle(head) Ball"
Let's rank the Browns in order of sports success:
Right-handed clown Kevin Brown walks the red carpet to this list for having the talent to be a grade-A numbskull on and off the field. He nearly won the MVP of the 2004 American League Championship Series… for the Boston Red Sox. He lasted only two painful innings and surrendered five runs, capping off the biggest collapse in playoff history.
Lest we forget, Brown his fractured left hand after he foolishly punched the wall outside Joe Torre’s office in anger (shocker- the wall beat him). Add in an inclusion in the Mitchell Report and a 2006 accusation of pulling a gun on a neighbor to ensure Brown a spot in New York baseball infamy.
2. A.J. Burnett
AKA: "The Screwball"
Quick! Let’s play “Name that Yankee”: towels of whipped cream, bleach blonde locks, hand tattoos, too many rope necklaces. Need more help? Didn’t think so.
While Allan James Burnett was putting peroxide in his hair, the $82.5 million right-hander made fans pull theirs out. This guy was in quicksand so much, he might as well have gotten his mail delivered there.
Despite his role on the 2009 Championship team, the shaky fit wasn't getting any better and after the 2011 season, A.J. was shipped off to Pittsburgh to pitch for the Pirates.
Now, keep in mind the Yankees are currently paying $20 million not to have Burnett make a mess of every fifth game.
3. Randy Johnson
AKA: "The Fowl Ball" (think an ostrich-y appearance)
Justin Verlander may have dressed like him to get into Kate Upton's "Perfect Club", but in New York, Randy Johnson was far from perfect.
Easily one of the greatest and most intimidating pitchers of the past 20 years, Johnson burned the Yankees as a Diamondback in the 2001 World Series, and then he did it for two years in a Yankee uniform.
After an up-and-down first season, “The Big Unit” slept through both the 2005 and 2006 Division Series, sealing his fate for a trade back to steamy Arizona for the 2007 season.
This super-mulleted pitching legend will be headed to Cooperstown one day, but it’s safe to say it won’t be in pinstripes.
4. Javier Vázquez
AKA: "The Junkball"
Remember when Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee broke up amidst a rocky relationship, then stupidly got back together? We all looked at those two and wondered why they’d even bother… they never worked well, and everyone knew it was destined for failure the second time around.
Well, even those two thought the Yankees were bonkers for giving Javier Vázquez a second go-around.
Javy's 2004 tour of duty in the Bronx started well, but soon ran out of gas, and his 2010 season sputtered out of the starting gate before getting worse. He may have seen success in Montreal, Atlanta, and Chicago, but the Big Apple was certainly rotten for Vázquez.
5. Carl Pavano
AKA: "The Breaking Ball"
It's actually quite easy to nearly exclude Carl "DL" Pavano from this list, because, to be honest, he basically didn’t pitch for the Yankees. The man was more accident-prone than Amelia Bedelia.
Let's take a closer look at Pavano's $40 million Yankee career:
2005: Injured shoulder, Total Starts: 17
2006: Bruised buttocks, broken ribs, Total Starts: 0
2007: elbow strain, Tommy John surgery, Total Starts: 2
2008: hip injury, Total Starts: 7
That's 26 starts over four years, with a 9-8 record in that time. Billy Crystal's one-day minor league Yankee career was more productive. I’ll treat everyone in the stadium to hot dogs the day this joker ends up in Monument Park.
6. Kyle Farnsworth
AKA: "The Terriball, err... terrible"
That was the word uttered by every Yankees fan when Kyle Farnsworth was picked up by the club for a whoppin’ $17 million for the 2006 season. Couldn't Joe Torre have just picked someone from out of the stands each night instead?
Watching Farnsworth bumble around the mound was like watching Wile E. Coyote chase the Road Runner around the scorching desert. It was obvious it was going to end with him falling off that cliff and landing in a pathetic poof of dust, but it was just a matter of seeing how we’d get from Point A to Point B.
Enough was enough. At the 2008 trade deadline, he was traded to the Tigers for a washed-up Pudge Rodriguez and a two-month countdown till the Yankees could play some October golf.
Farnsie's stint in 2011 as the Tampa Bay Rays' closer was a successful turnaround. His 2012 campaign, however, has been one long injury stint thus far.
Just a lesson here, kids, glasses don’t necessarily equal successful.
7. Kei Igawa
AKA: "The Minor Ball"
There's some people who love to "keep up with the Joneses", buying all sorts of useless junk to stay on par with their peers.
In 2006, the Boston Red Sox overpaid for Japanese superpitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. Then Yanks GM Brian Cashman decided to go shopping in the Far East as well, bringing Japanese lefty Kei Igawa back to the States for a cool $20 million.
If the Yankees gave Igawa the job of flinging roasted peanuts to rowdy fans in the bleachers, it'd have been money better spent. Most of his time was spent playing for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and the Trenton Thunder, the team's AA affiliate, essentially making him a giant non-factor for the team.
About a year ago, a sports memorabilia mall kiosk was selling a Kei Igawa bobblehead. It was discounted, collecting dust, and not worth the money. It was very lifelike.
8. Jaret Wright
AKA: "The (Not Worth the) Moneyball"
Jaret Wright should be sending Carl Pavano a Hickory Farms gift basket. The biggest positive for Wright in his Yankee tenure was that he wasn’t Pavano.
Both pitchers were signed at the same time, and if it wasn’t for Pavano’s permanent residence at the doctor’s office, Wright would have been the one whose face ended up on dartboards across the Tri-State Area. After taking $21 million, he started only 13 games in the 2005 season, and finished with a bloated ERA of over 6.00.
Congrats Mets fans, you truly had the better Wright in New York.
9. Jeff Weaver
AKA: "The Passed Ball"
Oh Jeff. We actually wanted to like you.
True, you’re not your ace brother Jered, but you look a lot like him, and you did have pretty good stuff.
It was like watching Steve-O and his two left feet on "Dancing with the Stars". We all rooted, but gosh darn, it was a train wreck on top of another train wreck when it was bad.
In August 2003, after getting shelled by the always dominant Kansas City Royals, an eBay user tried to auction off Jeff Weaver on the site. The auction lasted only one day and reached 99 million dollars before it was removed by eBay brass for breaking policy. In October of that year, he gave up a World Series walk-off home run in Game 4, but, don’t worry, Jeff, it’s not like anyone remembers the World Series.
In hindsight, selling him for 99 cents would have been a better bargain instead.
10. Sidney Ponson
AKA: "The Not-so Fastball"
If you owned a baseball team, big 'ol Sidney Ponson probably pitched for it.
If you owned the New York Yankees, he pitched for your team two times too many.
His career littered with off-the-field issues, it seemed that Ponson wore stripes in jail more than he did on the field:
Fans in New York groaned upon hearing of the signing. A 2006 stint with the Bombers lasted about four weeks, about the same lifespan as a container of sour cream. A head-scratching 2008 return to New York lasted about half a season, but featured an ERA of nearly 6.00.
Thankfully, Ponson hung up his cleats following the 2009 season, and Yankees fans can sleep easy knowing he won't return. He's not in playing shape anymore, after all.