The New York Yankees are the most successful sports franchise in North America. For nearly a decade, they’ve dominated the baseball landscape and no team comes close to their 27 World Series championship rings. The Montreal Canadiens have 24 Stanley Cups — but the majority of those came when the NHL had such few teams.
The Boston Celtics have 17 NBA Championships and the Pittsburgh Steelers have the most Super Bowls with 6. None of those come close to the Yankees’ 27 World Series titles.
Even though The Pinstripes represent the model of excellence, winning and greatness, they are far from perfect — just like everything else in the world. This franchise has definitely accomplished far more than any other in the majors, but the Yankees also have a series of forgettable and embarrassing moments in their history.
But which moments stand out most? Here are 15 things the Yankees and their fans want you to forget about their franchise.
15. The A.J. Burnett Signing
A.J. Burnett was an ace for the Toronto Blue Jays from 2006 to 2008, but chose to opt out after the third season of a five-year deal to test free agency. The Yankees were impressed with his 18-10 record and 4.07 ERA, and signed Burnett to a five-year deal worth $82.5 million.
The new Yankees “ace”, was inconsistent in his first year — going 13-9 with a 4.40 ERA and a 1.401 WHIP. Though the Yankees would win the World Series in 2009, Burnett had very little in contributing to the franchise’s 27th championship.
Burnett struggled mightily over the 2010 and 2011 seasons, posting ERAs well over 5.00 in both seasons while compiling a 21-36 record over that span. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates after a miserable three tenures in The Bronx. This was one of the rare times where the Yankees spent their money horribly.
14. Swept in 1976 World Series
The 1976 Yankees were one of the most dominant teams in franchise history. Their 97-62 record marched them to an easy American League East division title. This team was led by AL MVP — Thurman Munson — who batted .302 with 17 home runs and 102 RBI. Chris Chambliss added 17 homers and 96 RBI, while Graig Nettles clubbed 32 home runs and 93 RBI.
This team was led by a stacked rotation that saw four guys win double digit games. Ed Figueroa led the way with 19 wins, a 3.02 ERA and 119 strikeouts. Catfish Hunter also posted a great campaign with 17 wins, a 3.53 ERA and 173 strikeouts.
The Yankees faced the Pete Rose-led Cincinnati Reds in the 1976 World Series, but didn’t put up much of a fight. Rose’s Reds outscored the Yankees 22-8 in the series, sweeping The Pinstripes with ease en route to the World Series championship.
13. The 1965 to 1975 Period
Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra were just a few of the iconic Yankee legends that helped this team dominate decade after decade. The Bronx Bombers won a trio of World Series titles in the ’20s, five in the ’30s, four in the ’40s, five in the ’60s and a couple more in 1961 and 1962. Not winning championships was always a failure for a team that had such a model of excellence and consistency.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, who really had no idea what losing was like, the years from 1965 to 1975 were far from kind to them. They didn’t make the playoffs once in those 11 seasons and had four losing seasons. The Yankees were struggling to continue their greatness after the legends of the ’50s and early ’60s had left town.
12. Josh Beckett Shuts ‘Em Down
The Yankees were looking to win their fifth World Series championship in just seven years, after becoming a dynasty with titles in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. The Yankees barely missed out on another championship in 2001 (more on that later), and looked to put a cherry on top of their dynasty.
New York was loaded with stars Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi, Alfonso Soriano, Hideki Matsui, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, David Wells, Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera. The Pinstripes went an MLB-best 101-61.
They faced the 91-win Florida Marlins, who had some relatively young players in 20-year-old Miguel Cabrera and 23-year-old Josh Beckett. Florida was supposed to have no chance against these Yankees in the 2003 World Series.
Well, a 23-year-old Josh Beckett put up a performance for the ages in Game 6. He pitched a complete game shutout, striking out nine batters as Florida won 2-0 and clinched its second World Series in franchise history. Definitely not a way the Bronx Bombers planned on ending their impressive season.
11. The Roger Clemens Steroid Controversy
Roger Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young winner, is undoubtedly one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. He enjoyed six memorable seasons with the Yankees, winning two World Series championships and taking home the 2001 AL Cy Young. From 1999 to 2003 (his first stint with the Yankees), Clemens won 77 games. He was a key part of their rotation and helped them earn the dynasty status.
However, Clemens career will always be somewhat tainted. The infamous Mitchell Report accused him of taking steroids in his career, as a former trainer testified. While under Oath, Clemens denied taking steroids — only to be indicted for multiple offences — including perjury and false statements.
Clemens would be found not guilty in all charges, but fans haven’t forgotten about the allegations. Jose Canseco claimed that Clemens knew all about steroids and often brought it up with him.
10. Squandering the 2015 AL East Crown
The 2015 season was going perfectly according to plan for the Yankees. The Boston Red Sox once again failed to live up to expectations, the Baltimore Orioles had a miserable season as defending AL East champions, the Tampa Bay Rays were missing Joe Maddon as their manager and the Toronto Blue Jays were underachieving once again.
Going into the month of August, the Yankees held a 5.5 game lead on the Blue Jays for first in the division. But Toronto began to get red hot after the additions of David Price and Troy Tulowitzki at the trade deadline. The Blue Jays got red hot and beat the Yankees in nine of 13 meetings down the stretch, clinching the AL East Division.
Thanks to their unravel, the Yankees had to face the Houston Astros in the Wild Card game. The Astros shut out the Yankees, ending a promising season for the Pinstripes when it looked like the division was all their’s in August.
9. Trading Fred McGriff
Fred McGriff was one of baseball’s best sluggers in the ’80s and ’90s, being named to five All-Star Games while winning a trio of Silver Slugger Awards. McGriff finished with a career .284 batting average, 2,490 hits, 493 home runs and 1,550 RBI. McGriff was drafted by the Yankees in 1981 and looked to be a big part of their future.
However, the team didn’t have much faith in his abilities and dealt him to the Toronto Blue Jays, along with Dave Collins and Mike Morgan in exchange for Dale Murray and Tom Dodd.
Murray spent just three seasons with the Yankees and failed to produce much, while Dodd never played a game for New York. McGriff could have been a nice piece to a loaded Yankees lineup in the ’90s, but the team made a big mistake in giving up on him so early.
8. The 1955 World Series
The Yankees had already won four World Series championships in the ’50s and were looking to add even more to their dynasty. Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Bill Skowron, Gil McDougald, Whitey Ford, Bob Turley and Tommy Byrne formed one of the most dominant Yankees franchises of all-time.
The only thing standing in the Yankees way was the Brooklyn Dodgers, led by baseball icon Jackie Robinson. Though the 1955 World Series is remembered as one of the best in history, the Yankees would undoubtedly like to put it behind them for good.
New York just needed one victory at home in Game 7 to clinch the World Series, but an excellent outing from Johnny Podres was key, as the Dodgers won 2-0 and clinched the World Series on Yankees’ soil. Not exactly the way the Bronx Bombers planned on ending their season — in a very crushing way in front of their fans.
7. The 2013 Offseason Shopping Spree
The 2013 Yankees dealt with so many injuries to star players like Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira. As a result, they weren’t able to build off of a trip to the 2012 ALCS and missed the postseason altogether with an 85-77 record. The Yankees didn’t want to rebuild, so they decided to throw money around at some of the top free agents on the market.
The Yankees got to work right away, signing Boston Red Sox star Jacoby Ellsbury on a seven-year deal worth $153 million. They also added star catcher Brian McCann, signing him to a five-year deal worth $85 million. Veteran Carlos Beltran was added on a three-year deal worth $45 million and Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka was signed away from Rakuten at seven-years, $155 million.
All that bought was an 84-78 record, as the Yankees actually posted an inferior record to the 2013 campaign despite adding four big names. All of those signings were for nothing, as the Yankees never even won a postseason game with those four marquee additions.
6. Bill Mazeroski Walks off Yankees
Much like the 1955 World Series, the 1960 Yankees were looking to add another cherry on top of their dynasty. This 1960 squad was in great position after winning 97 games and being led by superstars Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Bill Skowron, Jim Coates and Art Ditmar. All the Yankees had to do was defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates, and then they’d add yet another Commissioner’s Trophy to their giant room.
The Yankees and Pirates faced off in a thrilling World Series that went back-and-forth, with teams alternating victories throughout before Game 7 at Forbes Field in The Steel City.
The Yankees went into the top of the ninth trailing 9-7, but got a pair of runs to tie things up. In the bottom of the ninth, Ralph Terry threw a pitch that Pirates’ icon Bill Mazeroski crushed over left field. Mazeroski’s walkoff home run gave the Pirates the World Series, and a moment Yankees fans would like to forget about.
5. Babe Ruth Caught Stealing
The Great Bambino is widely considered to be the greatest ball player of all-time. George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth changed the sport forever as a dominant pitcher and batter — crushing 714 home runs and leading the league in home runs 12 times. The seven-time World Series champion did everything the New York Yankees asked of him, except for one particular mistake…
The St. Louis Cardinals and Yankees faced off in the 1926 World Series, and the classic Game 7 came down to the wire. The Cardinals took a 3-2 lead to the bottom of the ninth, and Ruth (not known for his base-running skills), was on first base with two outs. With Bob Meusel batting, Ruth tried to steal second base.
But Ruth was thrown out on the attempt, ending the World Series altogether. It truly wasn’t a way the Yankees had hoped to end their season. Undoubtedly a moment they would like to pretend never took place.
4. Mariano Rivera Blows Game 7 of 2001 WS
Mariano Rivera has a nearly flawless career resume, with 652 career saves (an MLB record), 2.21 ERA, 1,173 strikeouts, 13 All-Star Game appearances and five World Series championships. Rivera is undoubtedly the greatest closer in MLB history, and his legacy is all about closing out big games in the most clutch fashions.
However, the 2001 World Series showed the world that no legend is untouchable, and Rivera was the latest to learn this. The Yankees faced the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series, looking to win their fourth-straight World Series.
The Yankees carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth of Game 7. Rivera allowed a leadoff base hit then overthrew Derek Jeter at second base on a bunt attempt. The Diamondbacks would rally and score two runs to win the World Series.
3. Alex Rodriguez Gets Busted
It seems like many Yankees fans had a love/hate relationship with Alex Rodriguez. On one hand, he won two American League MVPS, the 2009 World Series and ranks sixth all-time in franchise home runs with 351. Rodriguez’s hot glove and great bat made the Yankees a force in the American League. Without his talents, it’s tough to see how the Yankees would have won the 2009 World Series.
On another note, A-Rod’s cockiness, insane greed for money and all-around personal image also left many Yankees fans with bitter feelings towards Rodriguez. And when he confessed to taking steroids in 2009, followed by being named in the Biogenesis baseball scandal, A-Rod’s career and legacy took a massive hit.
2. Struggles in the ’80s
The Yankees won multiple championships in the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’90s and ‘2000s. Notice a missing decade in there? That would be the the ‘1980s, by far the worst decade for Yankees baseball.
Tragically, the Yankees lost franchise superstar Thurmon Munson in 1979 when he died in a plane crash. Munson was only 32 years old and at the top of his game, and his death was absolutely devastating for the entire baseball world.
The Yankees struggled after Munson passed away. They were swept by the Kansas City Royals in the 1980 ALDS and lost the 1981 World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. From 1982 to 1989, the Yankees never made the playoffs and had two losing seasons. It’s tough to imagine, but the Yankees were not a dominant team throughout the majority of the ’80s.
1. 2004 ALCS
The Babe Ruth trade in 1919 forever changed the baseball lore. The Yankees would win 26 World Series championships before the Boston Red Sox (who traded Ruth to the Yankees), won a single title.
You see, the Yankees and Red Sox faced off in the 2003 ALCS — with New York winning a thrilling seven-game series. Boston looked to avenge the crushing defeat when they faced the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. But the Yankees won the first three games and looked destined to reach the World Series…yet again.
But as everyone remembers all these years later, Boston never gave up. They solved the great Mariano Rivera in Games 4 and 5, setting the stage for David Ortiz to play hero in both games. Curt Schilling’s Bloody Sock performance in Game 6 propelled Boston to forcing a Game 7.
Johnny Damon’s grand slam was key as the Red Sox won Game 7, becoming the first team in MLB history to erase a 3-0 deficit. Boston beat the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years.
It wouldn’t have happened without the Yankees meltdown — the biggest blemish in franchise history.
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