Saturday, January 29, 2005


January 29th, 1964

John Habyan Born

Memory is a tricky thing, generally speaking (unless you happen to be Oliver North, in which case, Hi Ollie thanks for stopping by, tell your friends) its fairly reliable. Not flawless of course, but reliable. That's why it’s always interesting to discover those occasions when something forces you to realize that your memory bears absolutely zero resemblance to what actually took place. Such is the case of John Habyan and my memory.

Now, to be fair, I was all of seven years old in the summer of 1991 so it would seem logical that my memory of last truly awful Yankee team is a bit fuzzy. But despite that, I had certain notions in my head and was shocked to see how little they correlated with the facts from that season. To start with, I had always thought that Habyan was a product of the Yankees' farm system one of the collection of young mediocrities on the mound that were brought up in the early 1990s. Others in this group included Wade Taylor (who having looked up his transaction history was actually drafted by the Mariners albeit traded to the Yankees shortly thereafter) Jeff Johnson, Scott Kamieniecki and the only one who had a real career, Sterling Hitchcock. As it happens, I'm way off, Habyan was a product of the Orioles system--where he threw a no-hitter in the low minors in 1985--and had pitched parts of four seasons for the Birds before being traded to the Yankees for switch-hitting Stan Jefferson (who appeared in 14 games for the '86 Mets, I wonder if you get a ring for that). Habyan was twenty-six before he pitched his first inning for the Yankees, hardly the young product of the Yankee farm system I imagine.

Something else, although the 1991 Yankees were pretty bad, Habyan, by golly, was pretty good. With Habyan serving as the primary set-up man and Steve Farr as the closer, manager Stump Merrill actually had a fairly decent late inning combo. Habyan appeared in 66 games, threw 90 innings with an ERA of just 2.30 while Farr appeared in 60 games, threw 70 innings and posted an even-better 2.19 ERA. The 1991 Yankees probably did not have many late leads to protect (indeed, Farr would finish with just 23 saves) but contrary to my memory, in John Habyan they had someone capable of doing the job in the 7th and 8th innings.

Habyan would never match his success of 1991 again and floated around baseball for most of the rest of his career, finally retiring after a season with the Rockies
in 1996. Today he works as a coach for the Cal Ripken Baseball Camps. So how to reconcile the John Habyan of my memory, a young Yankee pitching prospect who never had a good season, with the actual Habyan, a four-year MLB veteran acquired in a trade? I suppose I simply have to accept that facts are facts and whatever I have hard-wired into my brain is wrong. If anyone has ever succeeded in doing this, let me know.

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