The 15 Worst New York Yankees Pitchers Since The Mid-90s

Beloved, despised, respected and mocked are all words that could be used to describe the late former owner of the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner. Steinbrenner’s polarizing nature notwithstanding, “The Boss” oversaw seven World Series championship teams from when he purchased the Yankees in January 1973 until his death in July 2010. For Steinbrenner, winning was absolutely vital and he’d do anything to strive for its consistency.

"Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing," said Steinbrenner, who was twice suspended from baseball.

Although Steinbrenner’s squads didn’t always win, thriftiness certainly didn’t cause Yankees’ losses. “The Boss” showered high-priced contracts on free agents to put the best possible product on the diamond. While many ballplayers thrived performing in New York’s limelight, other pricey acquisitions floundered. Kenny Rogers, a four-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove Award winner, signed a four-year deal worth $20 million to become a Yankee in December 1995. Rogers struggled mightily over his two seasons in the Bronx before he was traded to the Oakland Athletics for third baseman Scott Brosius in November 1997.

''I have nothing against Kenny Rogers, but we just felt it was in our best interest and his to get him into a situation where he can be comfortable and start over,'' said Steinbrenner.

''He can do that in Oakland. There's no New York pressure. Not everyone is a New York person.''

Indeed, not everyone can handle competing in Gotham. Thus, considering contracts, expectations and other factors, let’s rank the 15 worst New York Yankees pitchers over the past quarter-century.


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“(Hideki Irabu) was a world-class pitcher,” said former Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who managed Irabu in Japan in 1995.

“When Nolan Ryan saw him, he said he had never seen anything like it. There were just some days when he was as good a pitcher as I had ever seen. A fabulous arm.”

The Yankees signed a 28-year-old Irabu to a four-year pact valued at $12.8 million and he debuted in the Bronx on July 10, 1997. Although initially impressive on the hill, Irabu badly regressed and finished the 1997 campaign with a record of 5-4 with a bloated 7.09 ERA. Irabu endured two more lackluster seasons before his plump physique drew the ire of George Steinbrenner.

"[Hideki Irabu] is a fat, pus-y toad," Steinbrenner said in April 1999 after the pitcher failed to cover first base during an exhibition game.

In 126 contests as a Yankee, Montreal Expo and Texas Ranger, Irabu went 34-35 with a 5.15 ERA. Tragically, Irabu committed suicide at the age of 42 in July 2011.


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Kevin Brown was an elite pitcher throughout much of the 1990s and early 2000s. Following a brilliant 2003 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Brown was sent to New York in exchange for Jeff Weaver, Yhency Brazobán and Brandon Weeden.

“(Kevin) told the Dodgers if there is a deal that comes up, he would approve something if that helped them in their flexibility,” agent Scott Boras said. "He told them if he was going to leave LA, it was going to have to be with an East Coast team, something close to his family."

A known loon who was listed on the Mitchell report, Brown went 14-13 in two seasons with the Yankees. Most notoriously, Brown broke his left hand when he punched a wall in the clubhouse in September 2004 and was shelved for three weeks during a tight pennant race.


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"No, I'll make a comment," said former Red Sox president Larry Lucchino after the Yankees signed Cuban flamethrower José Contreras on December 26, 2002. "The evil empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America."

Contreras, who defected from Cuba in October 2002, was thrilled to become a Yankee.

"For me, it's an honor to play for the Yankees,'' Contreras said. "I really sacrificed some money to play for the Yankees, but for me they were the team I wanted to be with.''

Despite possessing an overwhelming repertoire of pitches, Contreras struggled to remain healthy and he never consistently prospered in pinstripes. Following less than two uninspiring years in Gotham, Contreras was sent to the Chicago White Sox for Esteban Loaiza on July 31, 2004. The 45-year-old Contreras most recently threw for the Tigres de Quintana Roo of the Mexican Baseball League.


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Randy Johnson wasn’t a hideous Yankee. However, considering the “Big Unit’s” resume and hefty salary, the 6-foot-10, 225-pound Johnson was far from impressive in pinstripes. New York sent Javier Vázquez, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro and cash to the Arizona Diamondbacks to acquire a 42-year-old Johnson in January 2005. Johnson went 34-19 in two seasons with the Yankees with a 5.00 ERA in 2006.

"It wasn't the exciting Randy that people had witnessed against the Yankees, maybe, or in my Seattle days or 2001," said Johnson, 54.

"But I still gave everything that I had. I wanted to be thrown into that fire. And I did. I had no remorse coming here. I enjoyed every moment of it. I know it might be hard for people to believe that. I enjoyed the history of the game. I never imagined doing any of the things that I did."

After departing the Bronx in January 2007, Johnson played two more years with the Diamondbacks before shelving his cleats as a member of the San Francisco Giants in 2009.


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“Black Jack” McDowell was not the ace the Yankees envisioned when he was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in April 1995. McDowell, a three-time All-Star who earned the 1993 AL Cy Young Award with the White Sox, signed a one-year contract worth $5.4 million to become a Yankee.

"Basically it means they have a free look this year," McDowell said.

"That's to me a smart business decision. But that changes if we get to the end of the year and nothing's done. Then it becomes a highest-bidder-type thing, or where I want to play. So hopefully they can get their look real quick."

McDowell went 15-10 with a 3.93 ERA in his lone season on East 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx. For most fans, McDowell is strictly recalled for flipping off the crowd at Yankee Stadium in July 1995.


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Roughly two months after the Boston Red Sox exorcised ''the curse of the Bambino,” the Yankees signed Jaret Wright to a three-year deal valued at $21 million in December 2004. A 29-year-old Wright, who had been a workhorse for the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves, couldn't overcome injuries in New York.

"I never was the same after that," said Wright, 41, who debuted as a 21-year-old Cleveland Indian in June 1997.

"I never think about the innings I threw. I wanted to pitch all the time. I felt great. I don't think it's why I got hurt. Who knows why you hurt your arm? Some guys, they count all their pitches and keep the innings low -- and they still get hurt."

Wright went 16-12 with an ERA pushing 5.00 over 40 starts as a Yankee.


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Former Yankees manager Joe Torre called reliever Kyle Farnsworth in December 2005 and persuaded him to set up Mariano Rivera in the Bronx. Shortly thereafter, a 29-year-old Farnsworth inked a three-year deal worth $17 million to become a Yankee.

"He just wanted to make it clear it just wasn't hearsay. Coming from Joe Torre, you know it's really true," said Farnsworth.

"My job is to go up and set up in the eighth inning to get to him in the ninth inning. That's what my job is going to be for the next three years. Whatever happens after that will happen."

Farnsworth bombed as a Bomber and went 6-9 with a ballooned ERA in three years with the storied franchise. Mercifully, Farnsworth was sent to the Detroit Tigers for Iván Rodríguez in July 2008.


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Fortunately, the Yankees only surrendered a rampant juicehead named Jesús Montero to acquire fragile righty Michael Pineda from the Seattle Mariners in January 2012. Something of a human chandelier, the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Pineda underwent Tommy John surgery in July after suffering a partial tear of the UCL in his right elbow and a flexor tendon strain.

“Michael Pineda had TJ recommendation confirmed today by Reds Medical Director Dr. Timothy Kremchek, who will perform surgery Tues. in Cinci.,” tweeted the Yankees Media Relations Office.

In only 89 starts as a Yankee, Pineda went 31-31 and never recorded an ERA below 4.37. The 28-year-old Pineda, who is in the final year of his contract, will not be a Yankee in 2018.


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Southpaw hurler Denny Neagle was pathetic in pinstripes. During the Yankees’ quest to three-peat, general manager Brian Cashman gave the Cincinnati Reds four highly ranked prospects to obtain a 32-year-old Neagle in July 2000.

“We like these guys, but we’ve made the decision to go for it,” said Cashman.

“Denny Neagle is the guy we wanted. We feel he was the best pitcher available on the market. He has postseason experience. He’s healthy. He’s been successful. And a left-hander at Yankee Stadium—all those attributes played a part in it.”

Neagle went 7-7 with a heinous 5.81 ERA in 15 starts with the Yankees. Approximately four months after obtaining Neagle, New York won its third consecutive World Series crown in spite of the lefty’s woes.


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A.J. Burnett was a phenomenally talented pitcher who primarily wilted in the Bronx. After missing the playoffs for the first time since 1994, the Yankees went on a spending spree and signed a 31-year-old Burnett to a five-year pact valued at $82.5 million in December 2008. Although the 2008 American League strikeout leader helped the Yankees win the World Series in 2009, Burnett mainly underachieved and was 34-35 with a 4.79 ERA in 99 starts. Following three maddening campaigns in the Bronx, the Yankees traded Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates in February 2012.

"A.J. Burnett is a solid veteran starting pitcher with an above average pitch repertoire and potential to provide us with significant quality innings from our starting rotation," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement released by the team.

Burnett pitched well in Pittsburgh before retiring at the conclusion of the 2015 season.


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Joe Torre and George Steinbrenner weren’t huge Kenny Rogers supporters. The Yankees agreed to a four-year deal valued at $20 million with a 30-year-old Rogers in December 1995. Rogers was rotten on the hill in the Big Apple. Rogers went 18-15 and never registered an ERA below 4.68 as a Yank. Clearly facing buyer's remorse, Steinbrenner swallowed $5 million worth of Rogers’ salary just to send him to the Oakland Athletics in November 1997.

''I have nothing against Kenny Rogers, but we just felt it was in our best interest and his to get him into a situation where he can be comfortable and start over,'' said Steinbrenner.

''He can do that in Oakland. There's no New York pressure. Not everyone is a New York person.''

Kenny Rogers was not “a New York person.”


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Esteban Loaiza was a two-time All-Star selection and the 2003 AL strikeout leader before relocating to the Bronx. In the Bronx, a 32-year-old Loaiza was a feeble liability.

“He is not getting himself in good counts,” Joe Torre said.

“When you are behind in the count, you are left with very few options. That’s why we are doing the six-[starter] thing for a couple of turns, I want to see him. We traded for a pitcher we like and there is still a lot of baseball left. I leave it [the six-man rotation] to Mel [Stottlemyre] but the big thing is to see Loaiza pitch. I don’t want to look at it as an elimination thing.”

Loaiza went 1-2 with a 8.50 ERA over 10 cringe-worthy games as a Yankee.


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Carl Pavano accepted a four-year deal valued at $39.95 million with the New York Yankees on December 20, 2004. Pavano, a 2004 All-Star selection who helped the Florida Marlins win the World Series in 2003, was comically brittle. Nicknamed “American Idle,” Pavano broke two ribs in a car accident in August 2006. However, apparently ashamed, Pavano didn’t disclose his injuries to general manager Brian Cashman until two weeks after the crash.

"Of course I'm angry," Cashman said.

"I think it's obviously frustrating, disappointing. There's a lot of words which would come to mind. ... I've got an army of people here that we provide to put our players in the best position possible to succeed, and I don't want anybody to sabotage that by holding back. And clearly here, for a period of time that took place.”

Pavano went 9-8 in 26 starts with New York. Although often frustrated by Pavano, Cashman offered relatively comforting words when the pitcher signed with the Cleveland Indians in January 2009.

“At the end of the day, he was hurt,” Cashman said.

“People always say, ‘Why do you stick up for him? Is it because you signed him?’ I’m just being objective. The guy, I know, can pitch when he’s healthy. He just hasn’t been healthy. It’s not because he mentally wanted it that way. It just happened.”


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Brian Cashman made an asinine move when obtained Jeff Weaver for solid hurler Ted Lilly and two prospects in July 2002. Cashman raved about the 25-year-old Weaver once he was formally acquired.

''We're ecstatic to have the opportunity to seize the moment to acquire someone of his abilities at his age,'' said Cashman.

''We're fortunate. We're in a 'now' mode. This is another sure sign that this team is dead serious about what we're trying to accomplish on that field right now, and we look forward to Jeff stepping in here and assisting.”

Weaver went 12-12 with the Yankees and had an ERA in excess of 5.00 over 47 games with the Yankees. Most dishearteningly, Weaver allowed a walk-off home run to the Florida Marlins’ Álex González in Game 4 of the 2003 World Series.


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Japanese pitcher Kei Igawa is arguably the most inept Yankees pitcher in recent memory. A 27-year-old Igawa and the Bombers agreed to a five-year deal worth $20 million in December 2006. A southpaw with minimal velocity, Igawa failed to make it to East 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx out of spring training. However, out of necessity, the hurler was promoted in May 2008.

“I feel a burden of anxiety at the opening of my first season in the Majors but it is overwhelmed by the excitement of being a home player standing on the field at Yankee Stadium,” Igawa posted on his blog. “I will strive to do my best at all times.”

Over 16 games as a Yankee, Igawa went 2-4 with a 6.66 ERA.

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