As a recurring column idea, Bill will expound upon one interesting transaction that occurred on a particular day in baseball history. It won’t always be the most exciting or most impactful transaction, but always something interesting. Feel free to share which transactions stand out to you in the comments.
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David Cone was a Blue Jay for all of eight weeks in 1992, but they were a memorable eight weeks. The club acquired him from the Mets in late August in exchange for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson. Down the stretch, Cone went 5-3 with a 2.55 ERA. The Blue Jays finished 96-66, winning the AL East. Cone made four starts in the postseason, two of them mediocre and two of them really good. In Game 6 of the World Series against the Braves, Cone held the fort down, limiting the opposition to a lone run over six innings. The Jays would win 4-3 in extra innings to earn their first championship in franchise history.
Cone became a free agent, signing with the Royals, his hometown team. The Jays went on to win another championship in 1993 without him. Cone had incredible success of his own, winning the AL Cy Young Award in the strike-shortened 1994 season. In 1995, the regular season didn’t begin until late April. The Jays reacquired Cone from the Royals on this day 25 years ago, with a few weeks to go before the beginning of the season, sending Chris Stynes, Tony Medrano, and Dave Sinnes to Kansas City.
Though Cone’s second stint with the Jays was short, he continued to pitch well. Over 17 starts, Cone went 9-8 with a 3.38 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings. In late July, the club found itself in fifth place in the AL East. The Yankees inquired about Cone and the two sides came to an agreement on a trade, sending Cone to the Bronx for Mike Gordon, Jason Jarvis, and Marty Janzen. Neither Gordon nor Jarvis ever made the majors while Janzen accrued all of 98 2/3 innings in the majors.
The confluence of events was a boon for Cone’s career and for the Yankees. Cone was solid down the stretch with the Yankees, going 9-2 with a 3.82 ERA over 13 starts. The Yankees won the Wild Card but were ousted from the postseason by the Mariners. Cone suffered an aneurysm in his arm, making only 11 starts that season as a result. He returned in September to help the Yankees win the AL East. Cone had an ugly first start of the playoffs in Game 1 of the ALDS, but the Yankees were able to defeat the Rangers in the next three games to move on. Cone improved in his ALCS Game 2 start against the Orioles, allowing a pair of runs over six frames, though the Yankees ultimately lost. They went on to win the series in five games, returning to the World Series for the first time since 1981. Cone started Game 3 against the Braves, having his best start yet, yielding a lone run over six innings of work. The Yankees overcame a 2-0 series deficit to win the World Series in six games over the Braves, giving Cone his second ring.
In 1997, Cone had one of his best years to date, earning his fourth All-Star nomination while finishing 12-6 with a 2.82 ERA over 195 innings. The Yankees won the Wild Card but were nudged out in the ALDS by the Indians in five games. The next year, Cone led the league with 20 wins and finished fourth in AL Cy Young balloting. The Yankees, meanwhile, had completed their transition into a behemoth, winning 114 games. In the postseason, Cone made four mostly solid starts, helping the Yankees win it all and earn his third ring.
Cone added yet another item to his already illustrious résumé the next year, authoring what was at the time the 16th perfect game in baseball history on July 18, 1999 against the Expos. Cone needed only 88 pitches to carve through 27 consecutive batters, 10 of which he struck out. Incidentally, teammate David Wells accomplished the feat the previous year as well. There are currently 23 perfect games in baseball history as Randy Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Dallas Braden, Roy Halladay, Philip Humber, Matt Cain, and Félix Hernández added their names to the list in ensuing years. Cryptically, Cone was markedly worse the rest of the season, allowing 38 earned runs in 71 innings across 13 starts. The Yankees still won the AL East, however, and Cone returned to form in the postseason, though he did not pitch in the ALDS. In Game 2 of the ALDS against the Red Sox, Cone tossed seven solid innings, allowing only a pair of runs. Cone then blanked the Braves on one hit over seven innings in Game 2 of the World Series. The Yankees would sweep the Braves to win their second consecutive World Series and give Cone his fourth ring.
2000 marked the beginning of the end for Cone. He went 4-14 with a 6.91 ERA across 155 innings during the regular season. Nevertheless, the 87-74 Yankees managed to win a weak AL East. Cone pitched out of the bullpen in the postseason, pitching a clean eighth inning in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Mariners and recording one out in Game 4 of the World Series against the Mets. The Yankees won the series in five games, earning their third championship in as many years. Cone added a fifth ring to his collection. He is one of just 55 players to have won at least five championships.
His tenure as a Yankee over, Cone signed as a free agent with the Red Sox for the 2001 season. Cone was better than he was in 2000, but the Red Sox finished three games above .500. Cone sat out the 2002 season and attempted a comeback in ’03 with the Mets at the age of 40, but he had nothing left in the tank. In four starts and one relief appearance, Cone yielded 13 runs over 18 innings. Bothered by a hip injury, Cone announced his retirement after appearing against the Phillies on May 28.
Unbeknownst to all involved at the time, that seemingly innocuous reacquisition by the Blue Jays on this day 25 years ago would lead to a major windfall for Cone and for the Yankees. Despite Cone’s outstanding career and lengthy list of postseason successes, he received only 3.9 percent of the vote on the 2009 Hall of Fame ballot in his first year of eligibility. Players that receive less than five percent of the vote are removed from the ballot. According to Baseball Reference, Cone was worth 61.6 Wins Above Replacement during his 17-year career. Among the 75 Hall of Fame pitchers that accrued at least 1,000 innings pitched, Cone’s WAR would rank 43rd, right between Juan Marichal and Don Drysdale and ahead of players like Jim Bunning, Whitey Ford, and Sandy Koufax. We likely, to this day, don’t adequately appreciate how good Cone was during his career.