Yoshinobu Yamamoto joins list of players with unlucky debuts

ByESPN.com ESPN logo
Thursday, March 21, 2024

Yoshinobu Yamamoto had a rough introduction to MLB.

The Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, who signed a 12-year, $325 million contract in the offseason, lasted just a single inning in his debut. Yamamoto gave up five runs on four hits, allowing the San Diego Padres to bat around, and was relieved after finally retiring the side. It's an inauspicious start for Yamamoto, the two-time Pacific League MVP for the Orix Buffaloes, and undoubtedly has some Dodgers fans a little nervous.

It is, of course, not the first time a player's heralded debut with a new team fell flat. The best-laid plans of mice and general managers often go awry, and many fans have been left scratching their heads after a ballyhooed acquisition dropped the ball in Game 1.

With Yamamoto looking to rebound in his next outing, here are some others who came to mind.

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

James' second stint with his hometown team in 2014-15 started inauspiciously. Playing against the New York Knicks in Cleveland, James managed a paltry 17 points on 5-of-15 shooting (making only one of his five three-pointers) to go along with five rebounds, four assists and eight turnovers. LeBron would quickly turn things around, however, leading the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals that season and winning them the next.

Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys

Considering how Aikman ended up as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, it's surprising to recall that his rookie season was a bit of a disaster. Aikman started off 1989 going 17-for-35 with 180 yards passing and two interceptions in a shutout loss to the New Orleans Saints. It didn't get much better from there. He finished the season with nine touchdowns to 18 interceptions and an 0-11 W-L record. The Cowboys didn't lose faith, however, and Aikman won his first of three Super Bowls just three seasons later.

Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers

The seventh pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Randle looked to be a good candidate to learn from Kobe Bryant at the back end of his legendary career. Randle's 2014-15 season lasted all of 14 minutes, however, as he broke his tibia in his debut and missed the rest of the season. After a few years with the Lakers and a single season with the New Orleans Pelicans, Randle has found a home as one of the pillars of the modern New York Knicks.

Blake Griffin, LA Clippers

Griffin had the bad fortune to get injured immediately before his debut. After landing on a dunk in his final preseason game in 2009, Griffin broke his kneecap, sidelining him for the entirety of what would have been his rookie season. Things went much better in 2010-11, with a fully recovered Griffin making the All-Star team and winning Rookie of the Year.

Lionel Messi, Argentina

Already a legend in the making, having led Argentina's youth team to a title and winning the tournament's Golden Ball in the process, Messi's first friendly with the senior team could have gone better. He was given a red card less than a minute after coming on later in the second half for elbowing Hungarian defender Vilmos Vanczak and reportedly was crying in the locker room afterward. Considering his incredible accomplishments since then, it's an almost unimaginable scene.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

The first pick of the 2009 NFL draft, Stafford carried the hopes of Lions fans in his talented hands. Those hopes were (at least briefly) dashed in his first game, a 45-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Stafford went 16-for-36 for 205 yards passing with no touchdowns and three interceptions. Injuries would limit him for the remainder of the 2009 season and most of 2010, but he was fully operational in 2011, throwing for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns against 16 interceptions.

Chris Bosh, Miami Heat

The often-underappreciated but crucial third member of the Miami Heat's Big Three alongside James and Dwyane Wade, Bosh was ice cold in his 2010 debut with the team. He shot 3-for-11 from the field, pulled down eight rebounds and was minus-17 in an 88-80 loss to the Boston Celtics. Fortunately for all involved, the Heat would end up pretty happy with Bosh and the Big Three, as they ended up winning back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.

Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets

Rodgers lasted all of four plays in the 2023-24 season before tearing his Achilles tendonwhile trying to spin away from Buffalo Bills defensive end Leonard Floyd. Miraculously, the team pulled out a win in Week 1, but a 30-10 drubbing at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2 reminded everyone just how much they needed Rodgers. The Jets finished with a 7-10 record.

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