The New York Yankees have a rich history. For more than a century, this team has defined excellence in sport. They have created legends, made millionaires, created a worldwide fanbase, and made more champions than any other professional sports team in North America. The famous facade, the voice of the late Bob Sheppard, the Core Four (Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter) and playoff triumphs are just a few of the many things associated with The Bronx Bombers. Cooperstown is filled with former Yanks: Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, the list goes on and on.
However, this is not the type of article which (deservedly) praises the awesome history of this baseball dynasty. In reflection of the fact that, if the season ended today, the Yankees would have their first .500 or below season since 1992, an article must be written exploring the darker side of the pinstripes. This piece is about the worst of the worst. These pitchers, given the ultimate opportunity to shine, doused their pinstripes with metaphorical mud. These 15 hurlers made George Steinbrenner scream, fans face palm, and teammates either cringe, commiserate, or hate. Each and every man on this list in some way or another soiled the reputation of The Bronx Bombers and stained the very rubber they pitched off of. Here are the Top 15 Worst Pitchers In New York Yankees History!
15 Roger Clemens
Let's start out with a bang! Roger Clemens is a very controversial figure. Like Barry Bonds, Clemens, on paper, is one of baseball's all time greats. However (again like Bonds), The Rocket is unlikely to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The reason? Anabolic steroids of course. However, Clemens isn't on this list just because of his steroid use. Despite winning the Cy Young in 2001 with the Yankees, Clemens was not that great in pinstripes when compared to his previous career with the Red Sox and the Blue Jays. Since Clemens was only with the Jays for two years and his stats with the Astros aren't relevant to this argument, both sets of stats will be omitted.
For our first example, Clemens' total ERA with the Yankees was 4.01, as compared to 3.06 with the Red Sox. In addition, his average WAR with the Red Sox was around 6.25 while his average WAR with the Yankees was 3.53, making him almost half as valuable with the Yanks as with the Sox. All in all, Clemens wasn't worth David Wells. And not just because Wells' mustache was awesome.
14 Cuddles Marshall
Yes, that's right. There was a guy with the first name Cuddles. Well, it was Clarence actually. Which is fine if you ask me. The puzzling thing is, why change it to Cuddles? Who knows? He only played four seasons in the MLB and with that name in the 40s and 50s, can you blame him? But he is not just here for his name. In his three years with the Yankees, he was BAD. I mean, REALLY BAD. First off, his ERA with the Yankees was horrid. Horrid to the tune of 5.21. His WHIP was a whopping 1.911 with the Yankees. The average pitcher gets 1.25, so this guy truly didn't play well. Maybe the baseball felt awkward being in the hands of a man with the name of Cuddles? I'm still surprised he got away with that nickname.
13 A.J. Burnett
A.J. Burnett was part of the FA class of 2008/09 who cashed in on the Yanks' first playoff-less season (to that point) since 1995. Burnett, Mark Teixeira, and C.C. Sabathia all received huge paydays that ultimately led to their aiding the Yankees in winning the World Series in 2009. In that year, Burnett made a tidy $16.5 million. He was the highest paid pitcher that year for the Yankees (Sabathia's contract was/is back heavy). Burnett was signed to that exact amount for four years. During that time, he helped secure himself a championship ring by winning Game two of the '09 World Series. And that was it. He subsequently lost Game 5, but luckily for him the rest of the team took up the slack and beat the Phillies the next game. Through three years as a Yankee, A.J. had a record of 34-35 (w/l% of .493), an ERA of 4.79, and a WAR of 4.4. And that WAR figure is from only one year. His WAR in 2009 was 4.4. His WAR in 2010 and 2011 was -0.8 and 0.8 respectively. So yeah, you could say Mr. Burnett did not do well for the Yankees. Especially for what they were paying him.
12 Hideki Irabu
The Boss, the late George Steinbrenner, first called Hideki Irabu "[a man who] had stood up to an entire nation" when the Japanese pitcher refused to play for the San Diego Padres and insisted he wanted to be a Yankee. That was in 1997. It took less than two years for the famous Yankees' owner to change his mind about the first Hideki to wear Yankee pinstripes (saying the second one was better would be a Godzilla sized understatement). In typical George style, Irabu was branded a "fat pussy toad." That, in a nutshell, was Hideki Irabu.
Irabu was bad. He was really bad. He makes it on this list not just for his stats, but also because of the hype that led him to the Yankees and how that hype fizzled out quicker than Tom Brady's credibility in Deflategate. High hopes followed him to the MLB based on his amazing stats back home. These hopes were seemingly confirmed when, in the minors for the Yanks, he posted a lethal 1.96 ERA. As the saying goes, it was downhill from there.
When he was promoted in '97, he was terrible. He went 5-4 and had a terrible 7.09 ERA. His next two seasons in pinstripes weren't much better (for him at least). Although he went 13-9 in '98, he had an ERA of 4.06. 1999 was more of the same, with Irabu going 11-7 with a 4.84 ERA. All the hype Irabu had generated, along with the hassle he caused during the transaction between his Japanese team, the Padres, and the Yankees, made Irabu a huge disappointment for fans.
11 Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown, overall, had a great career. Over his 19 year career, he went 211-144, had a career ERA of 3.28, and a WHIP of 1.222. Brown led the NL in ERA in 1996 and 2000 (1.89 and 2.58 respectively). Kevin also was the AL wins leader in 1992 with 21, was a six- time All Star, and helped the 1997 Florida (now Miami) Marlins win their first World Series. With all those milestones, one would think Brown would have been great, even in his twilight. Sadly, that wasn't the case.
Brown was traded from the Dodgers to the Yankees in the winter of 2003. The previous season, Kevin went 14-9 with a stunning 2.39 ERA. The final two seasons of Brown's career, which took place in New York, weren't as kind to the veteran hurler. Not only was Mr. Brown bad when he pitched, but injuries made it a rarity to even see him pitch. Over two seasons, Kevin pitched only 35 games. He went 14-13 with an ERA of 4.95 and his SO9 was only 5.8.
More importantly, in the 2004 ALCS (against the future WS champion Red Sox) he went 0-1 in two games, giving up 8 earned runs and pitching a total of 3.1 innings. His injuries, plus his horrific performance against the Red Sox, relegate Brown to bust for the Yankees.
10 Kenny Rogers
Kenny Rogers shares his name with a popular country singer. This author also hates both of their professional work (i.e. music and baseball pitching). However, this entry is NOT about the Cash song butcher, it's about the Pinstripe smear man.
Kenny Rogers had a decent career. He recorded a career total of 219-156, was a a four-time All-Star, a five-time Gold Glover, and is only one of two pitchers to ever record a World Series win after turning 40 (Rogers did it while playing for the Tigers in 2006). However, rewind ten years from that win against the Cardinals, and Kenny wore Yankee pinstripes. Ken signed with the Yankees as a free agent prior to Derek Jeter's rookie season,and was the sole black mark on an otherwise magical season that started the legend that is the Core Four. After a terrific 1995 campaign where Rogers went 17-7 in Texas, with a 3.38 ERA and a trip to the All Star game. George Steinbrenner, fell in love with Ken. He authorized the Yankees to hand out a 4 year, $19.5 million contract to him. With the stroke of a pen, Kenny Rogers became the New York Yankees' highest paid pitcher. Did Rogers live up to that hefty contract? No.
Kenny Rogers' 1996 campaign was bad. Although you wouldn't know it if you looked at his record. He won 12 games and lost 8. However, look further. His ERA was a whopping 4.68 and he walked a career high 83 batters. Worst of all was his postseason performance. He NEVER won a playoff game for the Yankees. He started three games and the only reason he didn't lose any was because of just how amazing the '96 Bombers were. That year, his postseason ERA was approximately 14.4. So, it surprised no one when Kenny was shipped to Oakland after a dismal two years in the Bronx.
9 Jose Contreras
The Yankees thought they had themselves Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez's spiritual heir in Jose Contreras (even though Hernandez was still on the team, but was getting older). Like Hernandez, he defected from Cuba. Like Hernandez, he had big potential. But, unlike Orlando, he was a bust. A four year, $32 million bust. A bust so bad that the Yankees resorted to trading him for Esteban Loaiza. Never heard of him? Well, I have. I heard of him because he was the guy the Yankees traded Jose Contreras for.
However, he came in with great promise. From 1997 until 2001, Contreras dominated Cuban hitters, going 57-18 with an ERA of 2.08. So when the Yankees signed him in 2002, hopes were high. He was so sought after, the Red Sox (#2 in the race to sign Jose) were so mad that President Larry Lucchino was quoted as saying "The Evil Empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America."
As for his stats with the Yanks, they weren't good. Over 1 and a 1/2 seasons with the Yanks, Contreras posted a 4.64 ERA with a 4.72 FIP.
8 Jaret Wright
Jared Wright. He was a sensation when he started Game 7 of the 1997 World Series for the Cleveland Indians. He had a no decision. All in all, Jaret Wright had two good seasons out of his eight before moving to New York.
Unfortunately, the Yankees ignored his other dreadful seasons and signed him to a three year, $21 million contract, which came to bite them in the posterior. Wright put up more of the same performances for the Yankees that had made him a terrible player for the Indians and then the Padres and Braves (with the exception of the 2004 season). Over two years with the Yankees, Wright only pitched 1 and a half seasons. When he did take the mound, he was bad. Over 63.2 IP (only 13 starts) in his first year, Wright went 5-5 with a jaw-droppingly high 6.08 ERA. The year after, he had a better season. He pitched 140.1 innings over 30 games. He went 11-7 with a 4.49 ERA. So, it was no surprise the Yankees shipped him to the Orioles over the offseason. He was not worth the monumental sum he was paid.
7 Kei Igawa
The Yankees are really a hit and miss team when it comes to Japanese players. When they are on, they're ON. Hideki Matsui was a terrific player for the Yankees. Ichiro was more than serviceable when he played in pinstripes. Masahiro Tanaka is virtually the only bright spot for the 2016 Yankees. However, it is signings like Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa that make the record of Japanese players in Yankee uniform a mixed bag, with both true stars and stupendous busts.
Igawa is certainly in the bust category. However, unlike Hideki Irabu and just like Jaret Wright, Mr. Igawa had a bad track record. Over in Japan, Igawa put up a 86-60 record over eight seasons, and in 2003 won the Eiji Sawamura award (Japan's equivalent to the Cy Young). In fact, Igawa wasn't even a huge prize when he was first acquired prior to the 2007 season. It was in response to The Boston Red Sox's acquisition of then-phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka (another bust as it turned out ironically) that brought Igawa to the Bronx. In order to even talk to Igawa's agent, the Yanks posted a $26 million fee. In the knee-jerk reaction to the Sox's Matuzaka signing, the Bronx Bombers handed out a $20 million contract to the inconsistent Igawa. During his two major league season with the Yankees (he actually played in the minors for them until 2011), Kei played 16 games. He posted an ERA of 6.66, and the rest of his stats are terrible. So, quite simply, he was a terrible signing.
6 Kyle Farnsworth
Kyle Farnsworth is one of the few relievers on this list. However, like most of these pitchers, Mr. Farnsworth's fluke season was the year before he was signed by the Yankees. In 2005, pitching for the Tigers and the Braves, Farnsworth's ERA was 2.19 and his WHIP was a spectacular 1.014. Seeing a possible repeat of the '96 bullpen duo of Wetteland and Rivera, the Yankees again leapt without looking and gave their dream setup man a three year, $17 million contract.That's a steep price for any pitcher, let alone a setup man. To say Farnsworth was a poor investment would be understatement. Over a measly 181 games, Farnsworth never notched a save. He had a sky high ERA of 4.33 and a subpar record of 6-9. As a replacement for Flash Gordon (who was pretty good), Farnsworth was terrible. The one high point for Farnsworth was that he was traded for Ivan Rodriguez, who was pretty good for the Yankees. Now, Kyle plays semi--pro football in Florida. Go figure.
5 Javier Vazquez
This entry is an interesting one. It's one of those failures of the cliché "if at first you don't succeed, try and try again." Javier Vazquez had a good career. He was never fantastic, never an ace, but a good number two or three. His most reliable trait, that makes him rare even among star pitchers, was his consistency in innings pitched and games started. He only started less than 31 games in two seasons (when he started 26 games both times). His IP never was below 155 (his second year was 154.2). Over 16 years, no major injuries is a big accomplishment.
Having said all that, Vazquez is on this list because the Yankees tried using him twice. He played for the Yankees for two seasons, in 2004 and 2010. In each season, Vazquez was bad. Not terrible, but bad. His 2004 campaign with the Yankees was bad: 14-10 with a 4.92 ERA and a FIP of 4.78. So it came as little surprise that Vazquez, in the 2004 ALCS, having been relegated to the bullpen, gave up that fateful grand slam by future Yankee favorite Johnny Damon which led the Red Sox to break the "Curse of the Bambino" and win the 2004 World Series. Of course, six years and one Yankee World Series win later, the Yanks were looking for pitching again. Vazquez had finally put up more than decent numbers. In 2009, he went 15-10 with a thoroughly impressive 2.87 ERA and a spectacular 1.026 WHIP. Then, Vazquez went to the Yankees, and he did even worse in 2010 than he did in 2004. He went 10-10 with a sky high 5.32 ERA. So, like six years earlier, Vazquez took off his pinstripes in shame.
4 Ed Whitson
Ed Whitson is a player who retired before current Yankee catcher Gary Sanchez was born. In 1991, five seasons after his 1 1/2 year stint with the Yankees, Ed Whitson retired with a thoroughly mediocre statline for his career. Throughout his career, Ed Whitson wasn't known for being a Yankee caliber player. However, it was the mid 80s, and the Yankees weren't very good. Despite having future Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson, Phil Niekro, and Dave Winfield on the team (not to mention Donny Baseball himself Don Mattingly), the Bombers were the ones bombing their season into dust. With the Yankees, Whitson was almost as bad inside the baseball diamond as he was during his off hours. After being signed as a free agent before the 1985 season, Whitson went 10-8 with a lofty 4.88 ERA with a WAR of -0.7. His next half season in pinstripes was even worse: 5-2 with a 7.54 ERA. So Whitson was shuffled quickly out the proverbial door. Whitson, unlike most of other players on this list, is primarily famous for his off duty performance.
3 Eli Grba
Eli Grba only played five major league seasons and almost started for the Boston Red Sox. However, between the minor leagues, a trade to the Yankees, and a failed deferment from the US Army, Mr. Grba didn't put on pinstripes during a regular season game until 1959, seven years after being selected by the BoSox in the 1952 amateur draft. In 1957, Grba was in the Sox spring training, hopeful of a starting rotation slot when, out of the blue, Boston sent him packing to their fiercest rivals: the New York Yankees. However, before Eli had finished unpacking or fulminating over his new team, the US Draft came calling. After trying to secure a deferment, Grba was legally shanghaied into the service of Cold War Uncle Sam. He was two weeks away from Opening Day. Talk about bad timing compounding worse laws.
During his two year service, Grba pitched for teams in several bases on the continental US. So, when he was allowed to attend Yankee spring training in '59, his skills had improved. However, the Yankees management weren't convinced he was ready, since he only had two serviceable pitches and the Yankees plopped him into their Triple A team's rotation. After having mastered a modified slider, Grba was recalled to the Yankees. He had two stints out the bullpen with great results.However, the rest of his short Yankee career was horrible. His record with the team was 8-9 with a 4.74 ERA. So, when the MLB awarded expansion slots to both Washington DC and Los Angeles, Grba was told by his team that he would be eligible to be picked up in the coming expansion draft. Eventually, Grba became the first ever player for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (not their name back then).
2 Brien Taylor
Brien Taylor (pronounced "Brian") can't be judged by his statistics. He is so high on this list because he never pitched a game for the Yankees. He never even played a game higher than AA ball. Brien Taylor was the last #1 pick taken straight out of high school and signed with the team who drafted him (Brady Aiken was drafted by the Astros in 2014, but the deal fell through). Scouts today still consider Mr. Taylor the best prospect in the history of the draft. Brian Cashman, the Yankees' current GM, had this to say about Taylor:
"Bill Livesey is one of the greatest scouts of our era. He told me the best amateur position player he ever saw was A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez). The best amateur pitcher he ever saw was Brien Taylor."
How exactly then, if Brien was such a hot commodity, did he end up never rising above Double A ball? At first the huge contract he signed looked like it had paid off, as Taylor started out extremely strong. He even had a sort of cult following. Jim Hendry, Coordinator of Player Development for the Florida Marlins in 1992, compared Taylor to Dwight Gooden, Kerry Wood, and Josh Beckett. Taylor started out by pitching 95 mph at 18 years old. The consensus was that it wasn't a question of if, but when Taylor was going to make it to the Majors. Everything was looking great, until a fateful night in 1993. At his home in North Carolina, Taylor received a phone call while still in bed that told him his brother was getting beat up near a bar. Like any good sibling, Taylor rushed to the defense of his brother. However, in the process, he injured his pitching arm. The examining doctor diagnosed the pitcher with a serious tear of his rotator cuff. After that, nothing was the same. Taylor tried to make it to the majors for the Yankees until 1998 and in 2000 for the Indians. He ultimately failed. To top off his failure as a player, in 2012, Brien Taylor was sentenced to 38 months (instead of up to 40 years) in jail when he pled guilty to the distribution of 28 grams or more of crack cocaine. A truly sad story.
1 Carl Pavano
When you started reading this article, one name was at the front of your mind: Carl Pavano. The player who, after one fantastic season, got a four year, $39.95 million contract. The player nicknamed "American Idle" for his lack of playing time. Unlike every other pitcher on this list, he missed a full year of playing time while under contract. Pavano is Exhibit A of short sighted deals the Yankees have made over the years. Like Kyle Farnsworth and Jaret Wright, the Yankees signed Pavano after his fluke year, with no track record of greatness other than a mediocre 2003 season where he helped the Marlins beat the Yankees in the World Series. Pavano is at the bottom of this list because not only was he terrible when he played for the Yankees, but he cost them so much and he was their A-Rod of pitchers, a bad contract at the time that only got worse as the years went on. Unlike Rodriguez, Pavano didn't have any good seasons in pinstripes. However, as far as anyone knows, Carl didn't take any steroids. But chances are, even if he did, he still would have been bad. So much has been said about Carl over the years that I'd like to end this article in a Spockish tone: his stats as a Yankee. Four seasons (three active). Record: 9-8. ERA: 5.00. IP: 145.2. FIP: 4.95. WHIP: 1.455. Pitcher's WAR: 0.4.