2: BAD MANAGEMENT
Men Who Weren’t Worth the Paper on Which
Their Outrageous Contracts Were Printed
A club can’t win a championship without good pitching. Yet, thanks
in large part to the dilution of talent brought about by expansion,
there just isn’t that much good pitching out there. The laws of scarcity
kick in and, as a result, some very large dollar amounts are thrown
at players who plain don’t deserve them. This leads to a pitiful domino
effect: money better invested elsewhere is tied up in one albatross
of a contract. Other needs go unattended, flexibility in signing other
players is lost, the other guys in the clubhouse resent the would-be
superstar for stealing their paychecks, and so on. In a nutshell, it
sucks for everyone, except for maybe the guy who got paid.
The All-Bad Free-Agent Pitching Staff is merely a snapshot of the
grisly history of high-priced signings that have gone terribly, terribly
wrong. Unfortunately, this staff of woe stands no chance of serving
as a cautionary tale for owners of Big-league teams, who will continue
to throw good money after bad in the ever-desperate attempt to shore
up this most important and elusive element of good ball club.
HIDEKI IRABU, NEW YORK YANKEES
A massive star in Japan, Irabu high-handedly refused to play with
an American club other than the Yankees. So New York traded with the
Padres for his right, then signed him to a four-year, $12.8 million
contract. Irabu went 29-20 with the Yankees from 1997 to 1999, but
had an ERA (4.96) as chubby as his 240-pound body. Thanks to manager
Joe Torre’s reluctance to use him in an situations perceived as actually
meaningful, Irabu was also useless in the postseason, appearing just
once for the Yankees and piling up a 13.50 ERA.*
MIKE HAMPTON, COLORADO ROCKIES
In his first six full seasons (1995-2000) as a starter in Houston
and New York, Mike Hampton’s highest ERA was 3.83. Prior to the 2001
season, he signed an eight-year, $121 million contact with the Rockies.
Hampton’s ERA ballooned to 5.41 in his first season in Denver, then
to 6.15 the following year. For good measure, he also threw in a 7-15
record. Just two years into his ginormous contract, Hampton, yet another
casualty of that thin Colorado air, was bundled off to his Atlanta.
His ERA promptly went on a diet and slimmed back down to 3.84.**
JAIME NAVARRO, CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Early in 1997, the Pale Hose penned Navarro to a four-year, $20 million
contact following a couple of excellent seasons with rival Cubs. In
three seasons on the South Side, Navarro went 25043 with a hideous
6.06 ERA, all while being the second-highest-paid player on his team.
These two fun facts didn’t sit well with the White Sox faithful.
WAYNE GARLAND, CLEVELAND INDIANS
The Tribe signed Garland, fresh off a twenty-win season in Baltimore,
to a ten-year, $2.3 million deal in 1977. That’s right, you read correctly, ten years.
In his first spring training with the Indians, Garland tore his rotator
cuff. He went 28-50 with Cleveland, and had been out of baseball five
years when he received his last paycheck from the contract in 1986.
Making matters worse, Garland squandered much of the money on schemes
that were worse investments than he had been for the Indians.
Garland, in a 1990 Sports Illustrated story on the first
free-agent class, complain that Cleveland fans seemed to think he was
actually a millionaire, even though his contract only paid roughly
$200,000 per annum. “People would see me on the street and say, ‘There
goes the millionaire.’”
CHAN HO PARK, TEXAS RANGERS
Arlington has long been a graveyard for pitchers, but Chan Ho Park’s
Ranger headstone is a bit pricier than most. Signed to a lucrative
deal in the winter of 2002, Chan spent three and half season in Texas:
he won twenty-two, lost twenty-six, had a 5.80 ERA, and spent long
stretches on the disabled list. He made more than $50 million doing
MATT YOUNG, BOSTON RED SOX
CARL PAVANO, NEW YORK YANKEES
Historically not known for shrewd thinking when it comes to pitchers,
the Red Sox signed Young, a 51-79 lifetime hurler who had lost eighteen
games the previous year in Seattle, to a three-year, $6.4 million contact
on December 4, 1990. That he was a dismal stinker in Boston, going
3-11 with a 4.91 ERA in two season, shouldn’t have been a surprise
to anyone with any inkling about the game, which may or may not describe
every single person in the Red Sox front office at the time.***
Appropriately enough, the Yankees have two pitchers on this All-Bad
staff. In the winter of 2005, they signed Pavano, a twenty-nine-year-old
right coming off an eighteen-win season in Florida, to a four-year
contract worth just under $40 million. The Yankees thought Pavano was
becoming the top-of-the-rotation stalwart the Pin-striped Ones had
craved for years. What he turned out to be was black hole of wildly
After a truncated 2005 in which he went 4-6 with a 4.77 ERA, Pavano
was a tenured member of the disabled list for all of the ’06 season
with, amount other ailments, two broken ribs from a motorcycle accident.
New York’s thin and aging staff was a major contributor to the Yankees
playoff defeat in both of the seasons. Meanwhile, $17 million of George
Steinbrenner’s money disappeared into the pocket of a pitcher who wasn’t
doing any pitching.****
DON STANHOUSE, LOS ANGELES DODGERS
In Baltimore, they called Stanhouse “Full Pack,” because that how
many cigarettes Earl Weaver nervously puffed through watching the frizzy-haired
fireman eke out another save for the Orioles. In 1979, the Dodgers
needed to rebuild their bull pen, so they signed Stanhouse to five-year,
$2.1 million contact that November. In one season in Los Angeles, he
transformed from Full Pack to Full Platter. That was how much comfort
food Tommy Lasorda needed in order to withstand see Stanhouse win two
games, save just seven, and run up 5.04 ERA, all the while working
in of baseball’s most pitching-friendly ballparks. On April 15, 1981,
just one year into his contact, the Dodgers cut Stanhouse. “Somewhere
the guy just lost his stuff,” shrugged team president Al Campanis.
Yeah, maybe on the transcontinental flight from Baltimore.
MARK DAVIS, KANSAS CITY ROYALS
It took a then-Major League record four-year, $14 million contract
to bring Mark Davis, the 1989 NL CY Young Award-winning closer, to
Kansas City. Davis had saved forty-four games in ‘89. In parts of three
seasons with the Royals he had a total of seven saves, along with a
9-13 record and 5.31 ERA.*****
* Irabu gave up sixty-eight home runs as a Yankee, which gave birth
to Stuart Scott’s home run call: “Iraaaaaaa-BOO-YAH!” As it happens,
this is officially the only slightly amusing catchphrase Stu has ever
uttered in his SportsCenter career.
** Hampton, an excellent hitter for a pitcher, hit .315 with ten
home runs and a .552 slugging percentage in 143 at-bats with the Rockies.
So he took back at least a little of what he so often gave out.
*** Matt Young pitched a no-hitter for the Red Sox in Cleveland on
April 12, 1992. But he still lost 2-1, mainly because he walked seven
batters and allowed six stolen bases.
**** Red Sox fans revel in their rival’s misfortunes, and Carl Pavano
has made a career out of benefiting New York’s bitter enemy in Boston.
In 1998, the Red Sox traded Pavano, then a stud prospect in their farm
system, to Montreal for Pedro Martinez, who became the best pitcher
in the history of the Red Sox franchise.
***** In 1990, the Royals—yes, the Royals— had the highest payroll in
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