I gotta admit, though – I did not see that coming. With the Yanks winning the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes, I honestly thought it would all be over on Opening Day.
An interesting thing happened though, on the way to the World Series. Giancarlo is hitting .167, has had two 0-5 games, and has been booed at Yankee Stadium.
Now, it’s early days yet, but there is a pretty storied history of Yankee free-agent signings not panning out – especially with players coming from smaller markets. Hey, not everybody can handle the Big Apple, you know.
Stanton's got some pretty, er, small shoes to fill though. Let's take a look at who else he might be competing with.
So, here’s how I went about it:
- Snooped around the Internets a little to see who might be good candidates
- Took the player’s average WAR for the years he was with the Yanks
- Took the player’s best WAR scores for the same number of years with his previous teams and got an average for that (I figure that’s what the Yankees thought they were going to get)
- If applicable, took the player’s best WAR scores for the same number of years with his post-Yankee teams and got an average for that
- If applicable, averaged the pre- and post-Yankee averages
- Calculated the difference between the Yankee WAR and those elsewhere
- Ranked ‘em
NOTE: I eliminated Kevin Youkilis and Nick Johnson as they only played 1 year with the Yankees, at the very end of their careers. I also eliminated Kei Igawa, who actually never pitched anywhere else in the majors other than New York.
#10 – Don Gullett (1.8)
Don Gullett was the second free agent the Yankees every signed. A star with the Big Red Machine of the ‘70s, he was also a God-fearing farmboy from Nowheresville, KY.
It wasn’t Babylon on the Hudson that did him in however. In fact, his first year in pinstripes wasn’t bad at all. He actually went 14-4, and led the AL in winning percentage.
Unfortunately, he also hurt his shoulder the year after, going just 44 innings, hanging up his spikes, and retiring to his tobacco farm.
#9 – Jacoby Ellsbury (2.4)
There’s a long history of Red Sox leaving Fenway for the Bronx (willingly or not). I mean, there’s that guy named Ruth, of course. But it also works the other way sometimes as well. And here I’m thinking Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Kevin Youkilis, and this guy …
Though Ellsbury had 2 decent years with the Yanks (WARs of 3.6 and 2.8), he was unbelievable with the Sox. I’m talking leading the league in steals 3 times, all sorts of fielding crowns, and an AL Comeback Player of the Year Award as well. That’s nothing, though, compared to his 2011. And there I’m talking about an All-Star berth, a Golden Glove, a Silver Slugger award, and finishing 2nd in MVP voting.
With the Yankees? Not so much.
#8 – Dave LaPoint (2.6)
Dave LaPoint was a fairly average junkballer who came to the Yanks for 2 definitely sub-average seasons in the 1980s. They would release him with one year still left on his contract. And that’s about that.
#7 – Carl Pavano (2.63)
Hard to believe, but Carl Pavano was one of the most sough-after pitchers in the 2004 offseason. He had just come off an 18-win season and was just 28 years old. He had also outdueled Roger Clemens in Game 4 of the World Series, giving up just 1 run in 8 strong innings.
And the Yankees love nothing more than signing the guy that just beat ‘em. I figure it’s always been a case of, if you can’t beat ‘em ... buy ‘em.
Too bad it was then 4 years primarily on the DL. For their $40 million, the Bombers got 26 starts, 9 wins, and an ERA over 5.00. With some iffy injuries and some questioning of his toughness by the media, he was also not exactly a fan favorite.
He would later sign with the Indians, then play 4 final years with the Twins, going 17-11 for them in 2010.
#6 – Pascual Perez (3.0)
Here’s our first signing that got a GM fired. Yup, this was what was behind the swapping out of Harding Peterson for Gene Michael.
You gotta admit, though, it was a pretty risky move. Though with tons of talent, Perez was also incredibly inconsistent. I’m talking records of 12-8, 14-8, and 15-8, but also of 9-13 and 1-13. He would go 3-6 in the Bronx over 2 years, with under a 100 innings pitched.
Perez was also a major flake. His nickname was “Orbit,” and the stories are absolutely endless. Oh, he also had a nasty cocaine habit too.
#5 – Steve Kemp (3.2)
Steve who? And, no, I do not mean the musician or the trade unionist (but thanks for disambiguating that for me, Wikipedia).
Steve Kemp (the baseball player) was the 1st player picked in the 1976 draft, by Detroit. He had a couple of good seasons for them, topping 20 homers and 100 RBIs twice, hitting .300 one season, and making it to one All-Star Game.
His 2 years with the Yanks were totally forgettable, though, with him finishing with season averages of less than 10 homers and less than 50 RBIs. I’m sure getting nailed by an errant fly ball in batting practice and needing reconstructive facial surgery didn’t exactly help any.
#4 – Kenny Rogers (3.53)
Kenny Rogers had a pretty decent baseball career. He played 20 years, won over 200 games, was a 5-time Gold Glover and a 4-time All Star, and also pitched a perfect game.
And none of that was with Yankees. With them for only 2 years, he finished barely over .500, and with an ERA over 5.00. It wasn’t pretty in the postseason either. I’m talking 3 starts, 7 innings, and an ERA of 14.14.
A genuine hot head and not terribly likable fellow, Rogers fought with the press, his teammates, and manager Joe Torre. "He was uncomfortable here," admitted Torre to The New York Times.
#3 – Andy Hawkins (3.7)
Hoo boy, talk about uncomfortable. Andy Hawkins grew up on a ranch in Texas, then began his career with a 7-year stint with the very small-market San Diego Padres.
So, why not sign for a gazillion bucks with the biggest media market on the planet? No pressure, right?
You know where this is headed, don’t you? Yup, 20-29 record and an ERA over 5.00 over 3 years in pinstripes. And, because the Yanks kinda sucked during this period, no postseason outings either. In fact, the Yanks managed to once “support” Hawkins by committing 3 errors, scoring no runs, and making him take a 0-4 loss while he tossed an 8-inning no-hitter for them.
#2 – Dave Collins (3.9)
For the 1982 season, George Steinbrenner had a vision that the Bombers should ditch their homer-happy template of years past, and get themselves some speed. So, out with Reggie Jackson and in with this guy …
Dave Collins actually had some genuine wheels. Over his career, he would finish 5 SBs short of 400, and would steal 79 in a season two years before he came to the Yankees (with Cincinnati).
His one year with New York, however, would see him struggle to get into double digits (13). Once out of the Big Apple and back safe in another small market (Toronto, this time), he would nab 60 in a single year.
The New York Daily News calls the Collins signing “a symbol of a George Steinbrenner at his manic worst.”
#1 – Ed Whitson (5.88)
The Yankees had actually had a fair amount of success stealing players from the lowly Pads. You remember Hall of Famers Goose Gossage and Dave Winfield now, don’t you?
That’s also, however, where Andy Hawkins came from (see above), as well as this guy. In fact, Hawkins and Whitson were kind of two peas in a pod. Whitson, was also a country boy (from Johnson City, TN), with extensive experience with small-market teams (Pittsburgh, in addition to San Diego).
And things went south for Whitson as well – in a New York minute. Whitson’s problem may have had less to do with New York, though, than with one New Yorker in particular – his manager, Billy Martin. Yankee fans would side with Martin, though, booing Whitson mercilessly, and regularly phoning in death threats (even when he went back to the NL and pitched at Shea!).
Whitson summed it all very well himself: “Some people can handle it, and some people can't. It can be pretty overwhelming for a guy coming out of a small hometown and smaller media markets.”
Whitson did, however, manage to break Martin’s arm in a fight
You may have some other names in mind – Tartabull, Contreras, the Big Unit, Irabu, Mel Hall, Jaret Wright, Burnett, Spike Owen, Giambi, Clemens – but those guys actually weren’t all that bad .. according to my calculations at least.