Hideki Irabu (1997–1999)
Hideki Irabu, the six-foot four-inch giant who owned a wicked 98-mile-per-hour fastball, was drafted at age seventeen and began playing for Japan’s Lotte Orions in 1987. Eventually, in January of '97, his negotiating rights were sold to the San Diego Padres. But he demanded a bigger stage and fancied himself a Yankee. So Irabu forced a deal, signing a four-year contract in the Bronx for $12.8 million. Before the year was done, Irabu was sent down to the minors for a spell and finished his first major-league season with a 7.09 ERA. The following season was more hopeful, as he posted a 13-9 mark with a 4.06 ERA. But by this time, it was obvious Irabu would never meet the oversized expectations that burdened him. The team dealt him to Montreal at the end of the season. Irabu was a failure with the Expos and later the Rangers, and returned to Japan a defeated man.
Excerpted from Who's on Worst? by Filip Bondy. Copyright © 2013 by Filip Bondy. Excerpted by permission of Anchor, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.