Recently, we’ve gotten into the meat of our Top 100 Yankees list here at Pinstripe Alley. Over the next week and change, we’re going to be wrapping that up and getting to the greatest of all the greats from Yankees’ history. However, it’s time to take a brief step away from that and instead look at the polar opposite of that list. That’s right, it’s time for the worst Yankees in history.
In the interest of not doing a 3000-word article, this one is not going to be a countdown of the worst Yankees for my own personal subjective reasons. Besides, unlike the best Yankees for which there are some tangible factors, there are a couple different reasons why you might consider someone the worst. For me personally, Jayson Nix is my least favorite Yankee ever, but I don’t expect anyone else to feel that strongly about him.
Instead, we’re just going to go through the contenders from a few different categories, statistical or more subjective. Feel free to add your own, or even make a list if you want, but let’s get going.
Worst by fWAR and bWAR
Players finish with negative WAR totals for a single season pretty regularly, but it’s hard to put up a negative total over a lengthy span, because that usually means a player isn’t very good, and teams in general won’t deal with that for too, too long.
However, Enrique Wilson managed to accumulate -2.4 fWAR over parts of four seasons with the Yankees from 2001-04. Wilson had the reputation as a hitter who had Pedro Martínez’s number, and with a career 1.062 OPS against him, he arguably did. That was about the only pitcher he owned, though. As a Yankee, Wilson put up a 54 wRC+ in 636 plate appearances. Plus, considering that he was a utility infielder, his defense didn’t particularly grade out well in his time in pinstripes. Put that together, and that’s a recipe for a below replacement level player.
Worst Pitcher by fWAR and bWAR
Wilson held things down for the worst WAR totals overall, but going off pitching WAR, your leader by bWAR is Jeff Johnson at -2.5 from 1991-93. By fWAR, there’s a seven-way tie at -0.9 between Albert Abreu, Wade Blasingame, Eli Grba, Sean Henn, Bobby Hogue, Lou McEvoy, and Scott Nielsen.
Worst by Win Probability Added
WPA is not the cleanest way to do this, since it doesn’t take into account things you may do defensively, or mistakes players make around you. It’s simply a measure of how your team’s chances of winning a given game changed positively or negatively after a plate appearance you batted or pitched in.
Therefore, it makes some amount of sense that the worst Yankee all-time in that statistic is Bobby Richardson. He was good enough with his glove to get into our Top 100 list, but he was never an outstanding hitter. However, he played 12 years, which is a long time and a lot of at-bats in which he didn’t always get things done, accumulating -12.4 WPA. On the pitching front, Johnson makes yet another appearance, topping that list with -5.0.
Worst by OPS
There are plenty of player in Yankees’ history who played for them, went 0-for-1 or 0-for-2, and never played for them again, leaving with a .000 OPS. The Yankee with the most plate appearances who never did literally anything at the plate was Chien-Ming Wang with a .000 OPS in 15 plate appearances. If you recall, his Yankee career basically ended while he was running the bases, but that came about after he reached on a bunt groundout, where the Astros got a force out at third instead of getting Wang at first. That’s how he technically finished his Yankee career with one run scored and a goose egg in pretty much every other offensive stat.
If you want to take pitchers out of the equation for this one, the position player answers are Gordie Windhorn and Zinn Beck, who both put up .000 OPS figures in 11 career Yankee plate appearances.
Worst by ERA
There are a couple of players with ERAs of infinity via divide by zero error, having never recorded an out as a Yankee pitcher. However, among those with mathematically existent ERAs, the worst is Art Goodwin, who allowed three earned runs in 0.1 innings in 1905, which is good for a 81.00 ERA.
To get into a little more subjective categories, it’s hard to look past Carl Pavano. After signing a four-year, $39.95 million contract with the Yankees ahead of 2005, Pavano pitched just 145.2 innings in 26 starts across those four years, the vast majority of which came in the first year of that deal. He left after 2008 following four seasons of injuries and questions marks surrounding him. Kei Igawa also deserves some consideration.
Most Disliked by Fans
Statistically, he belongs nowhere near a worst Yankee list, but it’s undoubtedly true that there’s a rather large number of Yankee fans that really detest Alex Rodriguez. Some of the reasons for that are fair, but a lot are also very unfair. I have no personal animus for A-Rod, but it’s hard to deny that a lot of people do. Joey Gallo also fits that category.
Let’s go all the way back to 1904 in the then New York Highlanders’ second year of existence for the worst teammate in franchise history: Bob Unglaub. The brief Yankee pretty regularly had disputes over salary. His SABR bio also tells a story which shows the personality of what must’ve been an extremely difficult man:
A story is told of Unglaub during his stay in Milwaukee. His manager, Joe Cantillon, and several players were walking the streets of Indianapolis. They stopped on a corner to take in the spectacle of a Salvation Army gathering, complete with brass band. Much to their amazement, out of the crowd stepped Bob Unglaub to repent his evil ways.
“I am sorry to admit it,” he said, “but I am a baseball player. I don’t know how I ever got into such a degrading, sinful business. It is an awful game and the men who play it are sinners, not fit for God-fearing people to associate with.”
Cantillon had to restrain his companions from going after their teammate as Unglaub finished his testimony, and they then went on their way. When telling this story a few years later, Cantillon was asked if Unglaub had quit baseball after his epiphany. “Hell no,” snapped the manager, “He was the first man in line at the pay window on the first and fifteenth of every month.”
Also, he wasn’t very good.