The New York Yankees had won 22 World Series Championships prior to Joe Torre's arrival as manager. But the problem was that the Bronx Bombers had gone 17 years without the title when Torre arrived, their longest drought since winning the first title in the team's history.
Torre was coming off a managerial stint with the St. Louis Cardinals in which he floated around .500 and was ultimately fired in 1995. At first his hiring by the Yankees was widely ridiculed by the fans and media, even calling him "Clueless Joe" in one headline. Torre quickly proved the doubters wrong as we all know now, winning four World Series titles in his first five seasons in New York.
Torre took over the Yankees bench at a time where ownership was ready to spend money to get the team back to the standard they had held for so long. Torre landed veteran free agents to help his home grown stars take the next step into championship territory. And the franchise seemed to be clicking on all cylinders.
The Yankees would not win another title under Torre following the 2000 World Series Championship, and in part there were some players brought in that could take part of the blame. Not living up to expectations or simply not being able to handle the spot light of New York, some players just weren't what they had seemed.
Here we will break down the eight greatest out of many players to play under Torre, and we will take a look at seven players who never lived up to their end of the bargain and maybe cost Torre another title in pin stripes.
15 Best - Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez
Orlando Hernandez came over to the U.S. and joined MLB at the comparatively old age of 32. He had a long journey defecting from Cuba, which included being banned from Cuban baseball and detained by the US Coast Guard in Bahamian waters en route from Cuba into the USA. But once "El Duque" made it to the MLB, it was evident what all the hype was about. Hernandez was as clutch as they come, frequently saving his best performances for the post season. In all, Hernandez spent six seasons in Yankee pin stripes, posting a 61-40 record and 3.96 ERA. In the playoffs, Hernandez began his Yankee career by winning his first eight playoff games and ultimately ended up with a 9-3 record, an ALCS MVP in 1999 and contributed to the Yankees three-peat of 1998,1999, and 2000. He also added a fourth World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.
14 Worst - Tony Clark
In all fairness to Clark, he was brought in to back up Jason Giambi in 2004, and as it turned out, Giambi would miss extended time and Clark played 106 games for the Yankees that season. In those appearances, Clark garnered 16 home runs and 49 RBIs, and registered a .221 batting average. Maybe the main reason he lands on the list is his .297 on base percentage. Clark was a one-time MLB All Star and had the numbers to back them up in a long and successful career. But his one year in the Yankees was an aberration, and it was fortunately followed up by a season where he batted .304 with a .366 on base percentage, 30 home runs and 87 RBIs. Clark may have been a good player, but it seems the Yankees' pinstripes were just a bit too much for him.
13 Best - Roger Clemens
Clouded in controversy, Clemens came to the Yankees at age 36 after beginning his career with the rival Red Sox in 1984 and having a two-year stop in Toronto. During his stay in New York, which lasted from 1999-2003 under Torre, Clemens went 77-36, was named to two All-Star Games, and won the 2001 Cy Young Award. To go along with his personal achievements, Clemens was able to lead the top of the rotation en route to the 1999 and 2000 World Series Championships.
Clemens went on to play with the Houston Astros before finishing up his career at age 44 with the Yankees in 2007. Although his 4.01 ERA with the Yankees is actually the highest of the four teams he played on, he still goes down as a great in Yankees history.
12 Worst - Randy Choate
Randy Choate was a relief pitcher who came up with the Yankees in 2000, but never specialized or filled a need out of the bullpen. From 2000-2003, Choate sported a 4.43 ERA which climbed to 6.04 and 7.36 in his last two seasons. During his stay in New York, Choate struck out 64, walked 51, and plunked 13 with hit by pitches. An even amount of free passes to strike outs is not the ideal situation for bullpen stability.
Choate was dealt in 2003, and was actually still pitching in the majors up until the 2015 season. In 2010 with the Tampa Bay Rays, he managed to appear in more games than he appeared in during his four season stay with the Yankees.
11 Best - Alex Rodriguez
The love-hate relationship fans have with Alex Rodriguez is truly interesting. His colorful personal life aside, he sure did tail off by the end of his career, but under Joe Torre, A-Rod was still one of the best players in the MLB. A-Rod is also the only player on this list not to win a World Series under Joe Torre. (He won his with Joe Girardi). From 2004-2007, Rodriguez jacked 173 home runs and drove in 513 runs. He would win two AL MVPs, go to the All Star Game all four seasons under Torre, win a Silver Slugger Award and lead the league in home runs twice.
The Yankees won just one playoff series from 2004-2007, and Rodriguez's numbers in the playoffs struggled accordingly. If he was able to deliver earlier in his Yankee playoff career, he could have climbed up this list, thanks to his dominant regular season play.
10 Worst - Chad Curtis
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Curtis is in the news for different reasons these days, but from 1997 to 1999 he was trying to help the Yankees fill their void in left field. He was part of the 1998 and 1999 World Series teams, and even started four games in left field during the 1999 series. Curtis' best year with the Yankees was when he came over in 1997 and hit.291 in 93 games. His next two seasons consisted of .243 and .262 batting averages while his playing time diminished. In all, he finished his time under Torre with 27 home runs and 130 RBIs.
Curtis' weirdest times in Yankees pinstripes could be between the time he snubbed interviewer Jim Gray after a walk off home run in the 1999 World Series, stating the team was standing behind Pete Rose, whom Gray had been ridiculed for hounding about gambling earlier in the series,. There was also the time he publicly criticized Derek Jeter for talking to friend Alex Rodriguez, while the Yankees and Mariners were in a shoving match.
9 Best - Bernie Williams
Bernie Williams spent all 16 of his major league seasons in New York, 11 of which came under the tutelage of Joe Torre. Torre was able to get the best out of Bernie, and both of their careers took off because of it. Prior to Torre's arrival, Williams sported career highs of a .289 batting average, 12 home runs and 68 RBIs. In 1996, upon Torre's first full season, Williams hit .305 with 29 home runs and 102 RBIs, while holding down center field for the Yanks. His career highs would go on to consist of a .342 batting average, 30 home runs, and 121 RBIs. He added a batting title to his credit in 1998 with a .339 clip, while also winning four straight Gold Gloves in center field from 1997-2000.
The five-time All Star was with the Yankees and Torre for four World Series titles in 1996 and the three-peat from 1998-2000.
8 Worst - Clay Bellinger
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Clay Bellinger was nothing more than a role player, but despite not being very good even at that, he stuck around the Yankees for three seasons and managed to win two World Series rings in the process. Bellinger played sparingly in 1999, appearing in 32 games with 46 plate appearances. He was known a bit more for his defensive stints in games than his bat, having played every position for the Yankees besides pitcher and catcher. In 2000, he managed to get 209 plate appearances, which resulted in a .207 batting average, six home runs, 21 RBIs, and 48 strikeouts.
After playing in 51 games during 2001 and sporting a .160 batting average, Bellinger played just two games for the Anaheim Angels before being limited to minor league stints for the rest of his baseball career.
7 Best - Jorge Posada
Posada played minimally during the 1996 season, but not enough to be a part of the World Series roster. But he did assume full time duty behind the plate by 1998 and helped propel the Yankees to three straight World Series Championships from 1998-2000. Posada was a steady hand behind the plate and at the plate as well. He continued to improve his entire career on both aspects. In all, he finished with career highs of a .338 batting average (2007), 30 home runs and 101 RBIs (2003), all of which were under Joe Torre. Anyone who knows the position knows that the prospect of being the starting catcher goes a lot further than numbers. In his time under Torre, Posada appeared in five All Star Games, and won five Silver Slugger awards. He also had his number 20 retired by the Yankees.
6 Worst - Shane Spencer
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Spencer drew some hype during his rookie season and into that postseason. At the age of 26, Spencer was called up to the majors in 1998. He appeared in stints starting in April but in September he captivated Yankees fans by hitting 10 home runs during the month and earning a postseason roster spot. In those playoffs, he continued his new found Yankee stardom hitting a long home run en route to the first of three World Series titles with the team.
Spencer's individual success halted severely following that run. He never appeared in more than 94 games, and hit a high of .282 in the 2000 season that included just 276 plate appearances. Spencer finished his Yankee career with 43 home runs and 167 RBI's. Good thing he started off with those 10 in September of 1998.
5 Best - Andy Pettitte
We previously mentioned Orlando Hernandez and his postseason pitching and how he dialed in. Now turn that up a notch and we have Andy Pettitte. He turned it up so much in that he still holds the record for most wins in postseason history with 19 (18 coming with the Yankees and 13 under Joe Torre). Under Torre, Pettitte appeared in two All Star games and led the league in wins during the 1996 season.
Pettitte continued his success in Yankee pin tripes following Torre's departure and a brief stint in Houston. Pettitte, along with Jeter and Rivera, are three members of the team to win four World Series titles with Torre, while winning another in 2009 with Joe Girardi.
4 Worst - Kei Igawa
Igawa only played one year under Joe Torre, which turned out to Torre's last on the Yankees bench. Igawa came over to play in the MLB with major hype surrounding him. The Yankees signed him to a five-year, $20 million dollar contract and in his first outing, Igawa allowed 7 runs in 5 innings. Following that outing, Igawa's career was a cloud of inconsistency and disappointment. In 2007, he went just 2-3 while starting 12 out of 14 appearances. He bounced around from the Yankees roster to their Triple A affiliate Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, with coaches working on his mechanics in hopes he could become a member of the everyday rotation. It never came to fruition and Igawa was out of the MLB completely after just two more appearances in 2008.
3 Best - Derek Jeter
We probably should have gone 1A and 1B for the last two legends landing on the "Best" side of this list. There is no doubt Jeter is one of the all-time greats and the Yankees knew it when they handed him that #2 jersey. Jeter played 51 games in 1995, but when Torre entered in 1996, he and Jeter were on a path to set history together. Under Torre, Jeter would earn 1996 Rookie of the Year, and also made seven All Star appearances, won the 2000 World Series MVP, won three Gold Gloves and two Silver Slugger Awards, and of course those four World Series Championships together. Jeter also served as Yankees captain for five seasons under Joe Torre, and compiled 2,344 of his 3465 hits under the skipper.
Jeter added a fifth World Series Championship in 2009 and retired following the 2014 MLB season.
2 Worst - Carl Pavano
It was so much a matter of how he performed on the mound, but rather that he was barely ever healthy enough to help Joe Torre and his Yankees during the 2005, 2006, and 2007 seaons. Pavano signed a four-year, $39.95 million deal with the Yankees, and appeared in 17 games his first season in New York, going 4-6 and spending time on the disabled list for his right shoulder. The team expected Pavano to stay healthy for the 2006 season, but as it turned out, he would miss the entirety of the season with an interesting array of injuries with included a bruised buttocks, and cracked ribs which he hurt during an automobile accident that he kept from the team, until they notified him of their plans of him coming off the DL that week.
Pavano would go on to start just two more games under Torre in the 2007 season before leaving and somehow staying somewhat healthy for the Indians and Twins to close out his career.
1 Best - Mariano Rivera
Rivera is arguably the best to ever play the game at closer, and one of the greatest Yankees to ever don the pinstripes. Like Jeter, Rivera played sparingly in 1995 and after serving as John Wetteland's setup man for the 1996 World Series Champions, Rivera took over closing duties in 1997 and it was all history from there. Under Torre, Rivera appeared in eight All Star games, earned 1999 World Series MVP, 2003 ALCS MVP, led the league in saves for three years, and in part to his days with Torre, is the all-time leader in saves.
Furthermore, Mariano Rivera was just lights-out in the playoffs. He posts an 8-1 career playoff record with 110 strikeouts, 21 bases on balls, and in 96 career playoff game appearances, he gave up 11 earned runs, which included just three during their three-peat from 1998-2000.