January 2014

January 30 – Happy Birthday Hipolito Pena

pena.jpgBack in the mid eighties, one of the top Yankee prospects was a big power hitting first baseman named Orestes Destrade. He was a tall Cuban who was hitting about 25 home runs per season for New York’s upper level farm teams and Yankee fans got our first look at him in September of 1987 when big league rosters expanded to 40. He didn’t hit any home runs but he did get on base a lot (.417 OBP) so I thought we’d probably see more of him the following year. I was wrong.

New York traded Destrade that off season. Back then, New York traded top prospects faster than Donald Trump fired apprentices so I wasn’t surprised to see Destrade dealt. I was surprised at who the Yankees got in return. Hipolito Pena was a tall thin left-handed pitcher who had appeared in 26 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates during the previous two seasons. He had lost all six of his Pirate decisions and accumulated a 5.56 ERA. In 1988, Pena became part of the Yankee bullpen, getting into 16 games and earning his first and only big league victory. He then spent the next six seasons in the minors before retiring for good in 1996. In the mean time, Destrade never made it with Pittsburgh but he resurfaced with the Marlins in 1993, hitting 20 home runs and driving in 87 in what was considered his rookie year. But he also struck out 130 times. Orestes had a terrible 1994 season and it ended up being his last one in the big leagues.

Pena shares a birthday with this former Yankee coach.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1988 NYY 1 1 .500 3.14 16 0 8 0 0 0 14.1 10 8 5 1 9 10 1.326
3 Yrs 1 7 .125 4.84 42 2 13 0 0 2 48.1 33 32 26 6 38 32 1.469
PIT (2 yrs) 0 6 .000 5.56 26 2 5 0 0 2 34.0 23 24 21 5 29 22 1.529
NYY (1 yr) 1 1 .500 3.14 16 0 8 0 0 0 14.1 10 8 5 1 9 10 1.326
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/30/2014.

January 29 – Happy Birthday John Habyan

habyanBy the time John Habyan got to the Yankees he had learned the hard way that it was best to keep his emotions in check. The Bay Shore, New York native was drafted by the Orioles in the third round of the 1982 draft right out of St. John the Baptist High School. He then impressed everyone during his quick climb up the O’s farm system and by 1985, this right-hander was getting shots with the parent club. He later admitted that he was overwhelmed by the experience and and had difficulty staying calm and composed on the mound. He got his best shot with Baltimore in 1987, appearing in 27 games, including 13 starts for a very bad Orioles’ ball club. He went just 6-7 with an ERA near five and then he separated his shoulder in a winter sledding mishap.

So by the time Baltimore gave up on Habyan and he was traded to the Yankee organization in 1989, he had learned his lesson. No more being in awe of big league hitters and no more letting his emotions effect his pitching. He convinced himself he hated every hitter he faced and he learned how not to get too excited when a manager handed him a baseball. He also worked hard to improve his slider.

These were great adjustments on his part. He got his ticket to the Bronx in 1991 after pitching well in Columbus the season before. His first year in New York was Stump Merrill’s last and his 4-2 record and 2.30 ERA in 66 appearances was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal Yankee season. He and closer Steve Farr combined to give New York a great chance to win whenever the team’s substandard offense was able to give them a lead to protect in the late innings.

Habyan then started out the 1992 season just as hot and new Yankee manager Buck Showalter told every reporter who would listen that this guy was the best setup man in the game. But it didn’t last. Habyan started getting hammered after the 1992 All Star break as hitters no longer had trouble squaring up on his slider.

New York gave him a chance to recover the magic in 1993 but when it didn’t happen, he was traded in a three-team deal that put reliever Paul Assenmacher in pinstripes. After pitching for four different teams in the next three seasons, Habyan’s big league career ended in 1996. He eventually became the head baseball coach at his old high school on Long Island.

He shares his birthday with this former Yankee second baseman and this former Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1990 NYY 0 0 2.08 6 0 1 0 0 0 8.2 10 2 2 0 2 4 1.385
1991 NYY 4 2 .667 2.30 66 0 16 0 0 2 90.0 73 28 23 2 20 70 1.033
1992 NYY 5 6 .455 3.84 56 0 20 0 0 7 72.2 84 32 31 6 21 44 1.445
1993 TOT 2 1 .667 4.15 48 0 23 0 0 1 56.1 59 27 26 6 20 39 1.402
1993 NYY 2 1 .667 4.04 36 0 21 0 0 1 42.1 45 20 19 5 16 29 1.441
11 Yrs 26 24 .520 3.85 348 18 98 0 0 12 532.1 537 254 228 47 186 372 1.358
NYY (4 yrs) 11 9 .550 3.16 164 0 58 0 0 10 213.2 212 82 75 13 59 147 1.268
BAL (4 yrs) 9 10 .474 4.61 42 18 7 0 0 1 160.0 159 95 82 25 62 84 1.381
STL (2 yrs) 4 2 .667 3.07 83 0 19 0 0 1 88.0 82 35 30 2 35 81 1.330
KCR (1 yr) 0 0 4.50 12 0 2 0 0 0 14.0 14 7 7 1 4 10 1.286
COL (1 yr) 1 1 .500 7.13 19 0 5 0 0 0 24.0 34 19 19 4 14 25 2.000
CAL (1 yr) 1 2 .333 4.13 28 0 7 0 0 0 32.2 36 16 15 2 12 25 1.469
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/29/2014.

January 28 – Happy Birthday Lyle Overbay

overbayttAlong with thousands of Yankee fans, I became a member of the “Lyle Overbay Fan Club” in 2013.  When Brian Cashman first signed this native of Centralia, Washington to a minor league contract after the Red Sox cut him during the final week of the 2013 spring training season, I admit I hardly noticed. I knew he had a good glove, but I thought his offensive skills had abandoned him. Though he had a nice stretch of decent years at the plate with both Milwaukee and Toronto earlier in his career, I felt there was no way he’d be able to effectively replace the run production of the now-injured Mark Teixeira and when the 2013 season began, both Cashman and Yankee skipper Joe Girardi fully agreed with me.

The plan was to give Overbay a shot at becoming the short-term answer at first base during the six weeks doctors figured Teixeira would need to recover from his wrist injury. When that six weeks turned into season-ending surgery for the Yankee slugger, Overbay had played well enough in the field and hit just good enough at the plate to permit New York’s front office to continue to delay a bigger more expensive solution to Teixeira’s absence.

The days turned into weeks, the weeks into months and before we knew it, September came around and Overbay was still starting at first for New York. Along the way, he delivered in enough clutch at bats to lead the Yankees in game-winning hits. He was never really spectacular just pretty much always steady and he stayed healthy. If a couple of Cashman’s other “affordable” preseason personnel moves like Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells or Kevin Youklis had followed suit, the Yankees would have made postseason play.

Just this past week, Overbay signed a minor league deal to play for the Brewers in 2014. The Yankees and Yankee fans probably won’t miss him much but I certainly won’t forget his noteworthy contribution to my favorite team during the 2013 regular season. He shares his January 28th birthday with this one-time Yankee announcer and this long ago Yankee second baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 NYY 142 486 445 43 107 24 1 14 59 2 36 111 .240 .295 .393 .688
13 Yrs 1466 5506 4844 621 1295 342 12 147 640 17 602 1048 .267 .348 .434 .782
ARI (5 yrs) 161 464 404 37 112 33 0 7 49 2 53 110 .277 .363 .411 .774
TOR (5 yrs) 723 2854 2507 337 672 180 8 83 336 9 317 516 .268 .350 .446 .796
MIL (2 yrs) 317 1290 1116 163 322 87 2 35 159 3 159 226 .289 .376 .464 .840
PIT (1 yr) 103 391 352 40 80 17 1 8 37 1 36 77 .227 .300 .349 .649
ATL (1 yr) 20 21 20 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 8 .100 .143 .150 .293
NYY (1 yr) 142 486 445 43 107 24 1 14 59 2 36 111 .240 .295 .393 .688
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/28/2014.