There was a time in the late 90s when I would only see David Cone start for the Yankees. No matter the season, there was a long stretch of consecutive games when my dad, my brother, my uncle and I would make our trips to Yankee Stadium and Cone would be that game’s starting pitcher. But in the late 90s, there was no one better you would want to see start a game for the Yankees.
The streak got so ridiculous when, as a 12-year-old, in May of 1999, I was invited by a friend to make the trek to Fenway Park with his family for a Yankees-Red Sox game. Pedro Martinez would be starting for the Red Sox that night in the middle of his ridiculous 23-4, 2.07 ERA Cy Young-winning season. Starting for the Yankees? Cone, of course. That game happened to be the night Joe Torre returned from his battle with cancer and the Boston crowd welcomed back Torre as if he we were one of their own. It was the exact opposite reaction I witnessed from the first-base line seven years later when Johnny Damon returned to Fenway Park.
I couldn’t have asked for a better childhood as a Yankees fan. Sure, when I attended my first game as a four-year-old August 11, 1991 (the first game of a doubleheader against Detroit), the Yankees were in the middle of a 91-loss season and a postseason drought. But by the time I was able to fully understand what was going on on the field, the Yankees had created a dynasty. Cone was part of that dynasty and for many of those years, I only saw him pitch in person. Like I said, I couldn’t have asked for a better childhood as a Yankees fan.
I was highly anticipating the publication of Cone’s book Full Count: The Education of a Pitcher and Grand Central Publishing was kind enough to send me a copy to review.
From a Yankees fan’s interest, the book details his trade to the Yankees in 1996 and decision to re-sign with the team prior to 1997; his relationships with George Steinbrenner, Joe Torre and Mel Stottlemyre; his impression of Derek Jeter as a rookie and a Yankee; the difference between pitching to Joe Girardi and Jorge Posada; his confrontation with David Wells which led to one punch being thrown and the friendship between the two that led to them staying in their own hotel on road trips for extracurricular reasons; how his mother’s dog biting him created the emergence of El Duque; an intricate look at his July 18, 1999 perfect game; his struggles in 2000 which forced him to the bullpen for the postseason, and how he handled pitching to players like Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken Jr., Manny Ramirez and Tony Gwynn.
To me, the most surprising news in the book (aside from the time a stomach ache led to an accident on the mound in the middle of a minor-league start) was that Bobby Valentine asked Cone if he would be the Red Sox pitching coach for the 2012 season. Selfishly, I’m happy Cone didn’t leave the broadcast booth to take Valentine up on his offer because his absence would have created an irreplaceable void during Yankees games (and also the whole helping the Red Sox thing). But I’m sure Cone doesn’t regret leaving broadcasting to be part of a 93-loss disaster.
That one story did make me think about Cone as a coach in the majors. Now having listened to him as an analyst all these seasons on YES and seeing how he has embraced the analytics and data revolution in baseball, while also maintaining the game is played by humans, I have often wondered how he would be as a pitching coach. On a larger scale, if the Yankees were going to hire a manager with zero experience coaching or managing at any level, I wish they had gone with Cone rather than giving Yankees fans Aaron Boone. The difference in the TV analysis from Boone on ESPN to Cone on YES is the equivalent to having Mike Tauchman or Shane Robinson in right field instead of having Aaron Judge there, and I think Boone’s time on TV is evident in his in-game management, and I feel it would be the same for Cone. Cone wouldn’t have sent Luis Severino back out to the mound for the fourth inning in Game 3 of the ALDS and wouldn’t have followed that up by bringing Lance Lynn in with the bases loaded and no outs. And he certainly wouldn’t have let CC Sabathia go through the Red Sox’ lineup for a second time with the season on the line and then defended his decision by saying he wanted Sabathia to face the 9-hitter which is why he let him face the rest of the team. Unfortunately, we’ll likely never know how Cone would be as Yankees manager because he’s probably too outspoken and too much of his own person to serve as a dugout puppet. That just means we get to keep listening to Cone in the broadcast booth, and that’s certainly not a bad thing.
I feel bad for baseball fans who watch their team on a nightly basis and don’t have Cone to comment on the games. After reading about his identity crisis to find life after pitching and finally realizing broadcasting could fill that void, a man who was once arguably the best in the world at pitching at times, is now inarguably the best in the world at being an analyst.
If you were a David Cone fan when he pitched or are a David Cone fan now that he’s a broadcaster or are a Yankees fan or a fan of the intricacies of pitching or simply a baseball fan then you need to read Full Count: The Education of a Pitcher.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!