I have encountered one SATA cable that just plain didn't work, and another cable that was strangely unreliable (but just one of each, so this kind of thing is not common).
The unreliable cable was much worse than the one that didn't work -- I had it in my desktop for about a year, and a few times a month the drive on it would just stop responding. Replaced the drive, thinking it was possibly dying, and the new drive did exactly the same thing. Replaced the cable, and it hasn't happened since.
Symptoms of a bad SATA cable: for me it manifested as ATA command timeouts. It was never corrupted data, or the drive acting as if it had bad sectors -- *but* the drive's internal SMART log did log the errors as failures while accessing sector 0, which was misleading at first (until I realized that it wasn't a failure to *read* from sector 0, just that that's the sector the drive heads happened to be on when the error occurred). The drive randomly disappearing from the OS could also be a bad SATA cable (or just a loose one