The New York Yankees may very well be the most loved and the most hated MLB team in history, both at the same time. They’re definitely the most famous though with their 27 World Series championships regardless of how you feel about them. The franchise was born in 1903 and known as the New York Highlanders up until changing the name to the Yankees in 1913. There have been well over 1,500 players come and go through Yankee Stadium over the years.
Our job is to name the three players who struggled the most in a Yankees uniform at each of the 10 positions. The list consists of players who may have been stars elsewhere, but had a hard time playing in the Big Apple, especially at plate with a bat in their hands. These are players who failed to produce with the Yankees during their time in New York only, regardless of how well they played with other teams. Some of them make the list because they played well below par or expectations.
Other players made this list because they simply didn’t have lasting MLB talent and their careers were quickly over. In addition, several players had enjoyed fine careers, but ended up in New York as their last stop and perhaps should have retired a year or two sooner. Just keep in mind that a lot of the outfielders spent time at both right and left field and may have even played all three outfield positions and many players may have played multiple positions.
30 Pitcher-Kei Igawa
Japanese pitcher Kei Igawa goes down in infamy in the Yankees organization, but he’s not entirely to blame. He was a fine pitcher in his homeland and some thought as good as Daisuke Matsuzaka, who the Boston Red Sox signed for $52 million for six years after bidding $51 million for his rights in 2006. The Yankees followed suit and bid $26 million for Igawa and signed him to a five-year deal for $20 million. Igawa never lived up to the hype and started just 16 games for the Yankees with an ERA of 6.66 while giving up 15 homers. Red Sox fans loved the way things turned out as their arch rivals attempted to one-up them. Igawa was gone after two seasons, spent time in the minors and went back to play in Japan in 2012.
29 Catcher-Rick Dempsey
Rick Dempsey played 24 years in the Majors, so he definitely had something to offer. He played behind the plate 141 times for the Yankees between 1973 and 1976, but could only muster up a .231 batting average during that time with a slugging percentage of .296. He also managed just to hit just three home runs during that span to go along with his 25 RBI. It shouldn’t have been much of a surprise though since Dempsey’s career batting average was only .233 with a .347 slugging percentage. Dempsey was pretty good defensively, but was error-prone from 1977 to 1980. He also allowed the second-most stolen bases in the AL from 1985 to 1986, but that could perhaps be expected with a Major League career that spanned almost a quarter century.
28 First Base-Tony Clark
Tony Clark manned first base for 106 games in 2004 as Jason Giambi was injured for most of the season. Clark had some power as he slammed 16 homers and knocked in 49 runs, but he struggled with the Yankees when it came to consistency. Clark’s batting average was a paltry .221 and his on-base percentage was .297. He also struck out 92 times in 253 at bats. This was disappointing for a career .262 hitter and somebody who had played in the 2001 All-Star Game. Clark actually had a pretty good 15-year career, but his time with the Yankees wasn’t up to par, at least statistically speaking. After leaving the Yankees Clark hit 30 homers and 87 RBI the next season with Arizona with a .304 batting average and an on-base percentage of .366.
27 Second Base-Billy Martin
Yes, Billy Martin was a famous Yankees’ manager. A few times during his career in fact, as he enjoyed a strange sort of love/hate relationship with former owner George Steinbrenner. Martin was known for his fiery temper and also allegedly was a bad influence on some of his more famous teammates due to his fondness for drinking. As a player, Martin played second base and could also play shortstop and third. He made the Yankees as a 22-year-old in 1950 and hung around until 1957. He batted .262 with a .313 on-base percentage, was caught stealing 20 of the 39 times he attempted to steal a bag and hit only 30 homers in 1887 plate appearances. The Yankees traded Martin to Kansas in June, 1957 and Kansas traded him to the Tigers just five months later.
26 Third Base-Kevin Youkilis
The Kevin Youkilis experiment didn’t work out for the Yankees after signing him for $12 million to man the hot corner in 2013. Youkilis had made a name for himself with the hated Boston Red Sox from 2004 to 2012 and spent half a season with the White Sox. He was a career .281 hitter with a .382 on-base percentage, but the free agent was a bust with the Yankees. Youkilis suffered a back injury early in the season and managed to play just 28 games. When he did play he produced a .219 batting average with a pair of home runs and eight RBI. He played 21 games in Japan the next year before suffering another injury and his career was over. Youkilis had a fine career, but his time with the Yankees is better forgotten.
25 Shortstop-Spike Owen
Texan Spike Owen could play both shortstop and third base and enjoyed a 13-year career in the Majors. The Yankees signed him up for three years at $7 million in 1992. The team had a hard time finding a good shortstop before Derek Jeter came along and the 32-year-old Owen was given a shot after having a good season in 1992 with the Montreal Expos. The new shortstop lasted just one season in the pinstripes though and batted .234 with a .294 on-base percentage and a .311 slugging percentage. His WAR and OPS+ were also quite bad and Owen would find himself on the bench while Randy Velarde or Mike Gallego would take over for him. The former 1982 first-round draft pick was traded by the Yankees to California 12 months after signing him.
24 Left Field-Rondell White
Rondell White had close to 500 plate appearances for the Yankees as a left fielder in 2002 after starring for about a decade with the Montreal Expos and Chicago Cubs. Up to then White had been able to hit for average and was a decent long-ball hitter to boot. He would finish his 15-year career as a .284 hitter so the Yankees expected good things from him. However, White struggled in the Big Apple by batting just .240 with a .288 on-base percentage and .378 slugging percentage. In fact, the free agent was well below career average in all major categories and also struck out about 20 per cent of the time. White would play in the All Star Game the very next season after the Yankees traded him to San Diego during spring training.
23 Center Field-Paul Blair
Outfielder Paul Blair was a 17-year Major Leaguer with a mediocre .250 career batting average. However, he was less than mediocre with the Yankees from 1977 to 1980 when he appeared in 172 games. Blair mustered weak .223 batting average with the Yankees to accompany a .270 on-base percentage and .334 slugging percentage. He also chipped in with six homers and 38 RBI. This was the last stop for the ageing Blair after playing in the 169 and 1973 All-Star Games. He was an eight-time Gold Glove winner and a decent hitter who probably hung on for a few seasons too many. The Yankees acquired Blair in a trade with Baltimore in 1977 and released him in 1979, only to re-sign him a year later for the final 12 games of his MLB career.
22 Right Field-Bubba Crosby
Bubba Crosby was drafted in the first round by the Dodgers in 1998 and debuted with them five years later for nine games. The Yankees picked him up in a trade along with Scott Proctor in 2003 which cost them the services of Robin Ventura. Crosby lasted three seasons in New York and they were the final campaigns of his Major League career. He got in close to 200 games and contributed a miniscule .223 batting average with a .263 on-base percentage and .311 slugging percentage. He hit four home runs and 19 RBI while striking out approximately one out of every five at-bats. The Yankees granted Crosby free agency in October of 2006 and while he signed with a couple of other MLB teams they released him and he never played another Major League game.
21 Designated Hitter-Travis Hafner
Travis Hafner was another player on this list whose career came to a less-than-glorious end with the Yankees. He was derided by the fans for his microscopic .202 batting average and .301 slugging percentage in 2013 after playing DH and some first base with the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians. With a .273 career batting average, a lost was expected from Hafner especially since he also tied the MLB career record with six grand slammed a three-run homer in his first at-bat with the Yankees and batted .318 in the first month of the season, but plummeted drastically after that. Hafner was granted free agency at the end of the season and unfortunately, his fine career had to end on a sour note in the pinstripes. On the bright side, he did hit 12 homers and 37 RBI.
20 Pitcher-Carl Pavano
Like fellow pitcher Kei Igawa, Yankees’ fans were never too happy with Carl Pavano after they signed the free agent to a four-year deal worth about $40 million in December of 2004. Pavano had made a name for himself early in his career with the Montreal Expos and had a fine 2004 season with Florida. He was known as a durable pitcher with over 90 starts in the previous three seasons. Things fell apart once in the pinstripes though as he pitched just 26 games in three years with an ERA of 5.00 while going 9-8. The Yankees then cut him loose in November of 2008. Pavano’s starts were limited due to injuries, including bruised buttocks and he missed the entire 2006 campaign. He also broke ribs after crashing his Porsche and withheld the news from the club.
19 Catcher-Red Kleinow
Catcher Red Kleinow was one of those old era Yankees as he played for them from 1904 to 1910 before spending a final year split between Boston and Philadelphia. He had problems with errors, passed balls and with runners stealing bases on him, but other than that was a fine catcher. But like a lot of catchers, Kleinow couldn’t hit worth a lick and compiled a .219 average in over 500 games with the Yankees with a .286 on-base percentage. In 1681 plate appearances he slammed two home runs and 127 RBI, so he also lacked power and run-producing hits. Yes, the Yankees were known as the New York Highlanders back then and baseball was a little different a century ago, but it still involved hitting the ball with the a bat and Kleinow struggled to do that.
18 First Base-Marv Throneberry
Marv Throneberry played with the Yankees from 1955 to 1959, but played just once in 1955 and didn’t make another appearance until 1958. He batted just .238 with the Yankees, but did chip in with 15 home runs and 44 RBI. Throneberry earned the nickname Marvelous Marv and led the American Association for three straight years in home runs and RBI. He wasn’t as successful in the Majors though and struck out in 26 per cent of his at-bats with the Yankees. The team traded him to Kansas City in 1960 in a six-player deal which landed them the legendary Roger Maris. Throneberry later returned to New York with the Mets where he still struggled with the bat and glove at first base, but became a fan favourite due to his personality and antics.
17 Second Base-Tony Womack
Free agent Tony Womack was signed in late 2004 as a leadoff hitter. GM Brian Cashman believed Womack would get on base and steal his share of bags since he led the NL in stolen bases three consecutive seasons, was a career .273 hitter and played in the 1997 All-Star Game. However, he was also in the top-10 for caught stealing and errors by a second baseman three times during his 13-year career. His on-base percentage with the Yanks was just .276, but he stole 27 bases in 32 attempts. He didn’t hit a home run though, had just 15 RBI and committed 15 errors. This led to Womack losing his job at second base and the leadoff spot and he was traded to Cincinnati at the end of the season. Robinson Cano then took over at second.
16 Third Base-Butch Hobson
Former Red Sox manager Butch Hobson manned the hot corner briefly for the Yankees in 1982 after playing from 1975 to 1980 with the hated Sox and then a year with California. Hobson was never a big hitter average-wise, but the Yankees certainly expected more from him than a .172 batting average, .183 on-base percentage and a .207 slugging percentage, especially after he cranked 30 homers in 1977 and 28 more in 1979. They made a trade with California to acquire his services and looked the other way when it came to his AL-leading 43 and 17 errors in 1978 and 1981 respectively. Hobson had no homers in New York, three RBI and struck out in 25 per cent of his at-bats. Hobson’s MLB career ended with the Yankees and he became a successful manager.
15 Shortstop-Gene Michael
Gene Michael played in Yankee pinstripes from 1968 to 1975. He broke into the league with Pittsburgh in 1966 then played 1967 with the Dodgers. The Yankees then bought Michael from LA in December of 1967 and didn’t release him until January of 1975.In between, he appeared to be a capable fielding shortstop, but led the AL in errors with 28 in 1970 and then made a fifth-worst 21 errors for a shortstop two years later. Unfortunately he didn’t contribute much with his bat with a .233 average in New York along with a .296 on-base percentage and a .289 slugging percentage. He attempted 36 stolen bases and was caught 15 times and hit 12 home runs in 2,656 plate appearances. Michael later went on to become manager then GM of the Yankees.
14 Left Field-Bill Robinson
Bill Robinson spent 16 seasons in the big leagues and played three of his first four with the Yankees after playing just six games with the Atlanta Braves in 1966. The Yankees acquired him in a trade for Clete Boyer in November of 1966 and moved him to the Chicago White Sox four years later. Robinson would develop into a pretty good player with some power after leaving New York, but while there he struggled. Robinson played 310 games with the Yanks and hit a less-than-mediocre .206 along with a .264 on-base percentage. He slugged just 16 home runs and was caught on nine of his 21 base-stealing attempts. Robinson also struck out about once every five at bats. Once he left New York though he pulled his socks up and enjoyed a pretty good career.
13 Center Field-Vernon Wells
Vernon Wells was another player who enjoyed a fine career, but struggled after joining the Yankees. Wells was a fixture with the Toronto Blue Jays for a dozen years and then spent seasons with the Angels before the Yankees traded for him in March, 2013. Wells was a good fielder who had played in three All-Star Games, won three Gold Gloves and could hit and slug with the best of them. Wells was a .270 hitter in his 15-year career with a .319 on-base percentage and a .459 slugging percentage. But with the Yankees, he managed just .233/.282/.349 in those respective categories. Wells’ batting and on-base averages were even worse in LA, but the Yankees figured a change of scenery would be good for him. Unfortunately they were wrong and Wells was released 10 months after being acquired.
12 Right Field-Jack Reed
It was basically a case of all or nothing for Jack Reed with the Yankees from 1961 to 1963. He didn’t contribute much at the plate in his first campaign with .154 batting and slugging averages and a .214 on-base percentage. But in his second season he batted .302 with a .362 on-base percentage and .465 slugging percentage. Things were looking up but he slipped to a .205/.293/.274 season in his third year when he got more playing time. Reed’s career in the Major Leagues had come and gone in a matter of three quick years, but he did manage to play with the Yankees’ World Series team of 1961 and hit a home run and six RBI. Reed could play all three outfield positions and was often a late-game sub for Mickey Mantle.
11 Designated Hitter-Steve Balboni
Steve Balboni played 295 games with the Yankees as DH and sometimes first baseman. However, he led the AL in errors for first basemen in both 1984 and 1986. He started his career with New York from 1981 to 1983 and was then traded to Kansas City. Balboni could definitely hit the long ball, but had a penchant for striking out. He led the AL in strikeouts in 1985 and was top-six in strikeouts three times in his career. He enjoyed the best seasons of his 11-year career with the Royals and the Yankees reacquired him in March of 1989 in a trade with Seattle. They then released him two years later. ‘Bye Bye’ Balboni hit just 41 of his 181 career homers with the Yankees and batted .214 with a .286 on-base percentage while striking out 219 times.
10 Pitcher-Ed Whitson
Ed Whitson signed a five-year deal in late 1984 and quickly became a target for the fans by posting a 4.88 in his first campaign after starting it at 1-6 with a 6.23 after 11 starts. He also made the headlines by slugging it out with manager Billy Martin near the end of the season with both men suffering injuries. The fans started to get on Whitson’s case, especially after Martin was fired, and he became their whipping boy even when he wasn’t pitching. Things got ugly when his family was threatened via hate mail and they stopped attending Yankee Stadium to see him play. Thankfully for everybody involved, the Yankees traded him to San Francisco during the 1986 season. He went 15-10 with the Yankees with a 5.38 ERA and gave up 255 hits in 195 innings.
9 Catcher-Jake Gibbs
Platoon catcher Jake Gibbs spent his entire 10-year career with the Yankees from 1962 to 1971, so there’s no doubt he brought something to the team. But fans couldn’t help thinking if there was a better option since he didn’t have the greatest time at bat. Gibbs had 1,795 plate appearances and hit just .233 with a .289 on-base percentage. He connected on 25 home runs for the decade with 146 RBI. Gibbs, who was drafted by two NFL teams, attempted to steal a base 50 times, but didn’t have much success there either as he was caught 22 times (44 per cent). Gibbs made the most errors for a catcher in 1967 and allowed the fourth-most stolen bases that year. Still, Gibbs carved out a decent career for himself even with questionable skills.
8 First Base-Kevin Maas
The Yankees drafted Kevin Maas in 1986 and he debuted four years later when a replacement was needed for Don Mattingly. Maas was an instant hit with 10 homers in his first 72 at-bats, 15 dingers after 133 at-bats and 21 round-trippers in his 79-game rookie campaign. He couldn’t keep it up though and slipped to a .220 average the next year and struck out 128 times after batting .252 as a rookie. Maas found it hard to stay in the lineup and spent some time in the minors. He also committed the third-most errors for first basemen in 1990 and was released in spring training, 1994. Maas played with Minnesota in 1995 and then headed to Japan to play the next year. He had 64 homers with the Yankees, but struck out 299 times and batted .232.
7 Second Base-Stephen Drew
Stephen Drew broke into the Majors in 2006, but the Yankees didn’t acquire him until midway during the 2014 season in a trade with arch enemy Boston. He lasted until January of 2016 when he signed with the Washington Nationals after making $5 million in 2015. Drew was hot and cold both defensively and at the plate with the Yankees, but looking at his stats you could have used him to cool down your case of beer. Drew batted a puny .187 in New York with a .257 on-base percentage. At least he showed some flashes of power with 20 homers and 59 RBI, but he also struck out 107 times in 523 at bats. Drew was simply too unreliable with a bat in his hand to keep around especially considering he’s a .252 career hitter.
6 Third Base-Mike Pagliarulo
Don’t feel too bad for Mike Pagliarulo being on this list as he’s now the hitting coach with Miami after an 11-year MLB career and also playing in Japan. He broke into the league in 1984 with the Yankees and remained with them until 1989 when he was traded to San Diego midway during the season. Pagliarulo had power as his 32 homes in 1987 proved, but he was also top-five three years in a row from 1986 to 1988 for errors committed as a third baseman. He smacked 105 home runs and added 337 RBI in 703 games with the Yanks, but batted just .229 with a mediocre .300 on-base percentage. Pagliarulo picked things up after leaving New York though and finished his career with a .241 batting average.
5 Shortstop-Fred Stanley
The Yankees acquired infielder Fred Stanley in a 1972 trade with San Diego after his fourth Major League season. Stanley played 521 games with New York as a steady, not spectacular shortstop who didn’t really stand out in any area of the game. This was especially true of his hitting prowess. Stanley hit 10 home runs during his 14-year career with six of them coming as a Yankee. He also chipped in with 78 RBI, a .222 batting average and an on-base percentage of .299. The Yankees kept him around until 1980 though when they traded Stanley to Oakland. One reason for this was because they won a pair of World Series with him in 1977 and 1978. However, he got just 10 at-bats in the playoffs in those two postseasons combined.
4 Left Field-Ron Woods
New York acquired outfielder Ron Woods during his rookie campaign back in 1969 when they traded Tom Tresh to Detroit for him. Woods lasted for three years in the Big Apple and appeared in 192 games before the Yankees traded him to the Montreal Expos for fellow fielder Ron Swoboda. Woods career didn’t take off though and he played his last Major League game in 1974. While with the Yankees, Woods didn’t do much right with his bat as he contributed a .208 batting average with a .305 on-base percentage. He also chipped in with 10 homers and 36 RBI. Once Woods realized his MLB career was coming to an end he took advantage of the opportunity of playing in Japan in 1975 and 76. Woods did ok though, considering he was originally an amateur free agent.
3 Center Field-Deion Sanders
The Deion Sanders experiment was a bit of a mess for the Yankees. They drafted the baseball/football player in 1988 and he was drafted into the NFL by the Atlanta Falcons the next year. Sanders decided he’d be a two-sport man and play in both the NFL and MLB. He perhaps should have stuck to football which he excelled at instead of struggling in baseball. Sanders often used his baseball career as leverage when embroiled in contract disputes with his NFL team. He debuted with the Yankees in 1989 and his lack of effort early on didn’t impress the fans. The Yankees cut Sanders loose in 1990 after he asked for $1 million the next year he’d go to NFL training camp. Sanders left New York with a .178 batting average and .247 on-base percentage in his back pocket.
2 Right Field-Johnny Callison
Yankees fans saw Johnny Callison play 137 games in 1972 and 73 after spending 14 seasons of his 16-year career in Philadelphia and Chicago. Callison came over from the Cubs in a trade and had enjoyed a great career up until then with 216 homers, 800 RBI, and three All-Star Game appearances. He was so good fans expected a lot from him. He’d add just 10 more dingers in New York though as he was in the twilight of his career. Callison didn’t get on base much with an OBP of just .266 and his batting average slumped to .231 with the Yankees. This was well below his career average of .264 and on-base percentage of .331. Callison is a prime example of a great player who just happened to play below par with the Yankees.
1 Designated Hitter-Cliff Johnson
Houston was home to Cliff Johnson for the first six years of his career where he would catch and play first base. The Yankees acquired him in a June, 1977 trade and dealt him to Cleveland two years later after playing him mostly as a designated hitter. Johnson had good power with 20 homers and 56 RBI in pinstripes and was fine in his first year. But things went south quickly as he batted just .184 in 1978 with six homers and 19 RBI. Johnson’s batting average in New York was just .239 compared to a career mark of .258. He played on two World Series winners in New York, but was given just 19 at-bats in two postseasons. Johnson was sent packing to Cleveland shortly after getting into a brawl with teammate Goose Gossage and injuring himself.