Jan 1, 2016

1988 N.L. Eastern Champion Mets Pitcher: David Cone (1987-1992 / 2003)

David Brian Cone was born January 2, 1963 in Kansas City Missouri. He grew up a Royals fan and his idol was Royals 1970's pitcher Dennis Leonard.

The six foot one, right handed Cone was selected in the third round of the 1981 draft by his hometown K.C. Royals. In 1982 he won 16 games (16-3) with a 2.08 ERA between Ft. Myers & Charleston. He posted losing records the next two season, before going 8-4 at AAA Omaha in 1986. Cone was brought up in 1986 making eleven brief relief appearances for the Royals.

Just as Spring Training was ending in 1987 he was traded along with Chris Jelic to the New York Mets for Ed Hearn, Rick Anderson and Mauro Gozzo. The Royals owner later called it the worst trade in the teams history.

Cone debuted without much fan fare in the fourth game of the season in relief of Rick Aguilera, against the Atlanta Braves. He allowed a 9th inning RBI base hit to Ken Griffey earning the loss. Cone won two games in May, including a two run, four hit victory in Cincinnati. But he was then back to AAA Tidewater until late August when he returned to Shea. Upon his return he got a relief win at home against the San Francisco Giants & was 3-1 into mid September.

From there he dropped three straight decisions & finished the year with a relief performance in St. Louis, against the NL Eastern Champion Cardinals. On the year he was 5-6 with 68 strike outs 44 & walks posting a 3.71 ERA with one save. That year the Mets finished second winning 92 games (92-70).

In 1988 he started out the first month in the bullpen, earning two victories due to late inning Mets rallies. He also was credited with one hold. Injuries to the starting staff forced him to fill in the rotation spots and from there he excelled. In his first start he shut out the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium, striking out five batters scattering eight hits. From there the Mets went on a long west coast road trip, Cone picked up wins in Houston, Los Angles & San Diego, allowing just two earned runs in 21 innings of work.

He won the NL Pitcher of the Month Award for May, going 5-0 allowing only three runs in 37 innings with 34 strike outs. He followed that month up with a one run ten, inning performance against the Chicago Cubs on June 2nd, although he got no decision. On June 19th Cone pitched a two hit shutout against Philadelphia striking out seven Phillies in a 6-0 Shea win. Soon David Cone was earning the reputation as another Mets star pitcher, although he struggled in July, at the All Star break the surprising Cone was 9-2 with a 2.50 ERA.

He was named to his first All Star squad joining team mate Dwight Gooden. Cone pitched a scoreless 5th inning, striking out Paul Molitor in the Mid Summer Classic at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati.

Trivia: Meanwhile back at home, the Shea Faithful who were always creative in the eighties, began a fan club for Cone on days he pitched, calling themselves: the Cone Heads.

On August 2nd he beat the Chicago Cubs, throwing a complete game, one run performance where he struck out nine. In mid August he then had consecutive starts where he struck out 12 batters in each game. The first came against the Montreal Expos & the second coming against the San Francisco Giants on the road. After losing that game he went on to win his last eight starts of the year. From July 10th through the rest of the year, he went 11-1, including an incredible stretch of winning his last eight in a row, helping the Mets capture the Eastern title. In the final two months he struck out ten or more batters in a game five different times.

On August 29th he threw a one hitter at Shea Stadium, against the San Diego Padres. The only hit came off the bat of batting champ Tony Gwynn. Cone had great control of his pitches, in possibly his best season. He used a cut fastball, nasty slider, curve, changeup, & a lethal split-finger, which he used as his out pitch.

Cone went on to lead the NL in winning percentage with a .870 % , he was 20-3 (3rd most wins in the league) with a 2.22 ERA (second best in the NL) 213 strikeouts (second in the NL) in 231 innings pitched. He made the All Star team, came in third in the Cy Young voting and the top ten in the MVP voting. Beyond his victories, he also had two games were he pitched 10 innings allowing only one run, but got a no decisions.

Post Season: In 1988 the Mets won the NL Eastern Title & Cone covered the Mets for a local paper during the post season. He was involved in controversy after the Mets Game #1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Cone stated in his column, that Dodger ace Orel Hershiser was lucky to get as far as the 8th inning in the game. He also blasted Dodger reliever Jay Howell, calling him a high school pitcher because he threw curve ball after curve ball. The Dodgers used this as bulletin board material & went on to beat Cone knocking him out after just two innings while allowing five earned runs in Game #2. 

Cone returned to beat Tim Leary in Game #6, pitching a complete game one run five hitter sending the NL Championship Series to a Game seven. The Mets were shut out 6-0 behind Orel Hershiser who allowed just five hits along the way, advancing L.A. to the World Series & an eventual upset over the Oakland A's.

In 1989 Cone struggled at first, finding himself at 3-5 in mid June. His best outing up to that point came on Saturday May 6th at Shea Stadium, when he beat Houston's Jim Clancy with a five hit 2-1 victory. But after June 22nd, he won eight straight decisions, including a perfect 4-0 July. On July 3rd he beat the Astros with another five hitter at the Astrodome, beating Jim Deshaies 3-1. When the Astros came to Shea, he then threw a four hit, two run victory striking out eight in a 6-2 win.

On August 8th he shut out the Philadelphia Phillies at Veterans Stadium, allowing just six hits in a 9-0 win. On September 4th Cone struck out a season high eleven Chicago Cubs, but allowed five runs taking a 7-3 crucial loss. At the end of the day the Mets fell to 4.5 games behind Chicago with St. Louis & Montreal also ahead of them. In his last outing of the year with the Mets out of the race, he had a fine close to his year. Cone pitched a three hit shutout against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, where he struck out ten.

From late June through the end of the year, he was 11-4 helping the Mets fight for the pennant, although they would lose out the Eastern Division to the Chicago Cubs. Cone went 14-8 on the 1989 season posting a 3.52 ERA striking out 190 batters (4th in the NL) pitching in 219 innings. His strike out per nine inning ratio was fourth best in the NL (7.78). He tossed two shut outs with seven complete games while walking 74 batters.

At the plate he hit a career best .234 with two doubles & four RBIs. Cone drove in four runs or more for the next four seasons as well topping out at five twice. He would go on to lead the NL in strikeouts over the next two seasons posting 233 K's in 1990 while going 14-10 with a 3.23 ERA while tossing six complete games. He was third behind Frank Viola (twenty wins) & Dwight Gooden (19 wins ) on the staff.

The season started out at 0-2 through mid May, although he had recorded seven or more strike outs in five of six starts. He had his best month in August pitching into the seventh inning or beyond four of five times. He went 3-2 that month besting his record to 10-7. On August 18th he struck out a season high 13 batters in a complete game 9-2 win in San Francisco over the reigning NL champion Giants. From June 30th through July he struck out ten or more batters in a game five times, including four straight games beginning June 30th through July 19th.

In September he struck out twelve batters in two separate games going 4-3 in the month. That year the Mets finished second again, four games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 1991 the Mets began a downswing after the glorious eighties. Cone too fell off to a 14-14 record as the team finished in fifth place (77-84) under managers Bud Harrelson & Mike Cubbage. After an early 2-0 start, he found himself at 9-5 at the All Star break. At the end of May he had back to back complete game wins & then began June with a third straight win. It was an eighth inning performance where he struck out 13 Reds at Riverfront Stadium.

On July 29th he pitched a three hitter in Los Angeles beating the Dodgers 5-1, with seven strike outs, walking just one. On August 30th in a game at Riverfront Stadium against the Cincinnati Reds he threw nine pitches and struck out the side against in a 3-2 Mets win. In the game he would go on to strike out nine batters.

Drama: On the next to last day of the season, a New Jersey woman accused Cone of raping her in a Philadelphia Hilton Towers hotel room back in September. The controversy surrounded him but the charges were eventually dropped.

The next day, on the last day of the 1991 regular season he had an incredible outing in Philadelphia against the Phillies. He went into the record books tying an old NL record held by Mets Hall of Famer Tom Seaver as well as Philadelphia's Hall of Famer Steve Carlton, by striking out 19 batters in a game. Cone pitched a three hit shutout that day walking just one batter. He joked the only place he felt safe where the police couldn't get him, was on the mound.

For 1991 Cone struck out 241 batters leading the NL once again, while also posting the league's best strike out per nine inning ratio (9.3) for the second straight year as well. He pitched in a career high 232 innings (5th in the NL) up to that point, while posting a 3.29 ERA , pitching two shut outs & five complete games (7th in the NL).

More Drama: During Spring Training 1992 he was accused of another rape scandal which also included teammates Daryl Boston & the troubled Vince Coleman. Some reports said that Cone had been dating the woman at the time & they were involved in a ménage trios. That news was upsetting to his new fiancée. Once again the charges were dropped.

Later that year his dramas continued when three women accused him of exposing himself to them & then masturbating in front of them while in the Shea Stadium bullpen. Through it all he was surrounded by the issues. Fans would make gestures at him, the newspapers ran comics poking fun at him.

He received obscene phone calls, sexual & threatening letters. He even appeared on Howard Stern & Don Imus' radio shows taking some comedy abuse pointed at him.

He began the 1992 season pitching on Opening Day in St. Louis, earning no decision in eight innings against the Cardinals. On April 11th he allowed four runs to the Expos in Montreal before returning back home to get his first win on April 17th, also against the Expos. On April 28th he tossed a two hit shutout against the Houston Astros at Shea Stadium, striking out 11 batters. In his next start he threw a five hit shutout against the Braves in Atlanta & would win five of his six decisions from late April through mid May.

From June 16th through August 2nd Cone would win eight straight decisions, strike out ten or more batters in a game five times & toss two complete games. He was pitching well enough to be 13-7 with a 2.88 ERA. He was on his way to a career high 261 strikeout season, while also leading the NL in walks (82) with his numbers and it was just the end of August. But the organization wasn’t happy with the ongoing sexual accusations & the bad press that surrounded it.

On August 27th he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Jeff Kent & Ryan Thompson.

METS CAREER: In his Mets career Cone is 81-51. The 81 wins are 8th on Mets All Time list. He has 1172 strike outs (5th on Mets all time list) a 3.13 ERA (9th on Mets all time list) in 169 starts (11th on Mets all time list) with 1209 innings (10th on all time list).

In Toronto he went 4-3 the rest of the regular season then went on to win his first World Series Championship.

Post Season: In the ALCS against the Oakland Athletics Cone went 1-1 taking the victory in Game #2 at Skydome. He allowed just one run on five hits over eight innings of work. In the World Series he earned two no decisions against the Atlanta Braves. In Game #2 at Atlanta he allowed three runs over five innings in the 5-4 loss as he faced off against John Smoltz.

In Game #5 he allowed just one run over six innings, and exited as the game went into extra innings. The Jays won it in the top of the 11th on a Dave Winfield two run double. This was the start of Cones new reputation becoming a big game post season pitcher. Although he never dominated again as he did in his first Mets season, he would become a hired gun, helping to bolster pitching staffs in the heat of a pennant race.

Next season, he found himself back in Kansas City with the Royals & in 1994 he was a 16 game winner (16-5) with a 2.94 ERA (3rd in the AL) winning the AL Cy Young Award. He pitched three shut outs & posted a 762 winning % (5th in the AL) playing in his third of five career All Star Games.

In 1995 he was traded to Toronto in April & would later get traded to the AL New York team for three minor leaguers. Overall he won 18 games between the two teams. There he found new life in the twilight of his career, winning four World Series, throwing a perfect game, and having another 20 win season before it was all over in 2003.

He was brought back to the Mets in ’03 for nostalgic reasons, but was clearly washed up, going 1-3 in five games with a 6.50 ERA. 

In his 17 year career Cone made five All Star teams, won the 1994 Cy Young Award, three monthly & five weekly Player Awards.

Cone won 194 games (129th most wins all time) while losing 126 games. He struck out 2668 batters (22nd all time) with 1137 walks (66th most all time) 56 complete games, 22 shut outs (216th all time) & a 3.46 ERA in 450 games pitched.

He threw 149 wild pitches (37th most all time) hit 106 batters (71st all time) & allowed 258 HRs (100th all time) & 115 earned runs (175th all time) in 2898 innings (152nd all time) in 450 games.

Retirement: After his playing days the Mets offered him a broadcasting job but chose to stay home with his family. He later took a job at the YES network working for the cross town rivals.

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