Exhibit A: Melky Cabrera
Pre Yankee Days-N/A
Yankee Days-Cabrera spent four years sporting the pinstripes. During that time, he batted .269, had an on-base percentage of .331, a slugging percentage of .385, and an OPS of .716.
Post Yankee Days-Melky has played for three teams since leaving the Yankees. First he went to Atlanta, then Kansas City, and now he is with San Francisco.
Braves: With the Braves, Melky did not do so hot. He had a batting average of .255, on-base percentage of .317, a slugging sercentage of .354, and an OPS of .671
Royals: With the Royals, Cabrera batted .305, had an on-base percentage of .339, a slugging percentage of .470, and an OPS of .809.
Giants: With the Giants, Cabrera is currently second in the National League with a .353 batting average, an on-base percentage of .396, a slugging percentage of .527, and an OPS of .923.
Bottom Line-After a bit of a hiccup in Atlanta which was likely induced by Post-Yankees Stress Syndrome, Cabrera has become an All-Star caliber left-fielder. He is currently the key cog on a major contender where he is finally living up to his potential.
Exhibit B: Ian Kennedy
Pre Yankee Days-N/A
Yankee Days-A very highly touted prospect that many expected to be the next Mike Mussina. After bouncing around the farm system, he made a few short-lived stints with the big club. During the three-year roller coaster ride, Kennedy went 1 and 4, with a 6.03 ERA, a nearly 1 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio, and a WHIP of 1.676 at the Major League level. After an up and down injury-filled stay with the Yankee organization, Kennedy landed in Arizona following a three-way trade which included the Tigers, Yankees, and Diamondbacks (this trade landed Curtis Granderson in the Bronx).
Post Yankee Days-Kennedy is now in his third season as a Diamondback. It is safe to say that things have gone well. Kennedy has a record of 36 and 21 with a 3.51 ERA, a 3 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio, and a WHIP of 1.178. In 2011, Kennedy went a staggering 21 and 4 with a 2.88 ERA.
Bottom Line-Perhaps it was Kennedy’s young age, injury issues, or his rushed Minor League experience, but things in New York were not working. Arizona has provided new beginnings for the former first-round draft pick and has Kennedy on track to be the All-Star pitcher that most expected him to be since his days at USC.
Exhibit C: A.J. Burnett
Pre Yankee Days-Burnett out of the group is the lone player to have spent the majority of his career wearing a uniform other than the pinstripes. A.J. spent seven years with Florida and then three years in Toronto before even joining the Bombers. Burnett was 32-years-old when he made his anxiously awaited debut for the Yankees.
Marlins: A.J. had a successful seven year stint in Miami that saw him lead the NL in shutouts in 2002 and toss a no hitter on May 12, 2001. He posted a record of 49 and 50, a 3.73 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.284. While in Florida, A.J. captured his first World Series ring, but mainly played on bottom-feeder teams that struggled to finish above third-place in the NL East.
Blue Jays: Burnett followed his time as a Marlin with a three-year stay in Canada. While with the Blue Jays, A.J. saw great success culminating in leading the AL in strikeouts with 231 strikeouts in 2008. Burnett posted a very respectable 38 and 26 record, a 3.94 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.284. Burnett’s amazing 2008 season resulted in the signing of a five-year 82.5 million dollar contract with the New York Yankees.
Yankee Days-Burnett’s stay in the Bronx went from good (sort of), to bad, to ugly. During his three-year nightmare wearing the pinstripes, Burnett posted a record of 34 and 35, a 4.79 ERA, and a 1.447 WHIP. A.J. definitely did not perform like a pitcher making over 16.5 million dollars a year.
Post Yankee Day-A.J. has only been gone from the Bronx for less than a year, but most Yankee fans have erased his stay from their memories. Burnett seems to be more than content with his new team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pittsburgh is currently sitting atop the NL Central and is looking to end their abysmal 19-year streak of playing under 500 baseball. A.J. has been a major contributor to this success, with a record of 9 and 2 and an ERA of 3.74. A.J. looks like a rejuvenated picture and really seems to be embracing his stay in Pittsburgh.
Bottom Line-Burnett has never been a pitcher worthy of a five-year 82.5 million dollar contract. He was never able to find his proper footing in the Bronx, but has seen success with the three other jerseys he has worn during his solid MLB career.
Conclusion: All three of the players discussed above have seen greater success (as an individual player) when not wearing a Yankees jersey. This is indisputable from a statistical standpoint. There are of course other factors that play into why these particular players struggled in New York outside of the bright lights and pressures of the Big Apple. In regards to Cabrera, much of the onus falls on himself from a conditioning stand point. He seems to have taken a much keener interest in his fitness during his post-Yankee days, which probably would have helped him immensely during his time as a Yankee. Ian Kennedy was a very young pitcher while with the Yankees. Not only did Arizona get him at a much better point of his development as a pitcher, they also play in the National League. The league switch tends to pay dividends for many pitchers that move from the AL to the NL (the same argument could be made for Burnett). Many of you are also probably thinking that Cabrera and Kennedy struggled in the Bronx due to their young age during their time spent with the Yankees. This may be true, considering neither player was older than 24-years-old when playing for the Yankees, but both are finally spreading their wings with their new organizations. Besides, this “Youth Excuse” most definitely does not hold any merit when speaking about A.J. Burnett. The numbers can’t be ignored though in regards to these three particular players. Much more success has been seen in the post-Yankee days. With huge contracts and amazingly high expectations from the fans, players may fizzle. Some guys like Derek Jeter have embraced the “Heat” of playing in New York. Others have been unable to handle it.