Managerial Search Update: Wedge, Boone, Flaherty, Cone

Wedge. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
Wedge. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

Two weeks and one day ago, the Yankees parted ways with longtime manager Joe Girardi. They’ve just now started interviewing managerial candidates, at least as far as we know. Here’s the latest.

Yankees interview Eric Wedge

The Yankees have interviewed former Indians and Mariners manager Eric Wedge for their managerial opening, the team announced earlier today. He joins Rob Thomson as the only candidates who we know actually interviewed for the job. Wedge, 49, managed the Indians from 2003-09 and the Mariners from 2011-13. He famously ripped the Mariners after resigning, accusing the front office of “total dysfunction and a lack of leadership.” Zoinks.

Wedge, who managed CC Sabathia for a number of years with the Indians, has spent the last few seasons working with the Blue Jays in their player development department. He was well regarded for his work with young players during his time in Cleveland, and he has a reputation for being a players’ manager, though he will get on his guys if he feels it is necessary. Wedge has made it no secret over the years he wants to get back into managing. I do like the idea of Wedge as a candidate, though he has been out of the managerial game for a few years now.

Boone a candidate for managerial opening

According to Buster Olney and Andrew Marchand, former Yankee and current ESPN television analyst Aaron Boone is a candidate for the team’s managerial opening. He of course played for the Yankees in 2003, and hit one of the biggest home runs in franchise history. The Yankees have reached out for an interview. Also, Marchand says David Ross, another ESPN analyst, may be a managerial candidate as well. Hmmm.

Boone, 44, last played in 2009 and he joined ESPN immediately after retiring. He has no coaching or managerial experience. Boone did grow up in MLB clubhouses as a third generation big leaguer, and he spent the last few seasons of his career bouncing around as a role player who received praise for his leadership. Based on his broadcasts, Boone is into analytics. Can he be an effective manager? Your guess is as good as mine.

Cone, Flaherty interested in manager’s job

Cone. (Al Bello/Getty)
Cone. (Al Bello/Getty)

Both David Cone and John Flaherty, two former Yankees turned YES Network broadcasters, have reached out to the team to let them know they’re interested in the manager’s job, reports Mike Mazzeo. “I just wanted (Brian Cashman) to know I’m at a point in my life where I would be interested in it. My agent and him have had a conversation, but it hasn’t gone any further than that,” said Flaherty. The Yankees have not gotten back to either Flaherty or Cone about an interview.

Neither Cone nor Flaherty has any coaching or managerial experience, and as fans, it’s tough to separate our opinions of them as broadcasters from their potential as managers. Just because Flaherty comes off as old school on television doesn’t mean he’d be a bad manager, the same way Cone reciting FIP and WAR doesn’t make him a good manager. Cone has been a staunch pro-labor guy throughout his career and he was heavily involved in the MLBPA. I wonder if that’ll work against him. Ownership might not love the idea of him running the clubhouse.

Thomson wants to remain with Yankees

Even if he doesn’t get the manager’s job, Thomson would like to remain with the Yankees, he told Erik Boland. “I’m a Yankee. I’ve been here 28 years and if didn’t get this job, I would certainly want to come back because this is what I consider my home. I love it here, I love the players, I love what’s going on here,” he said. Thomson, who interviewed earlier this week, has been with the Yankees since 1990 and has done basically everything there is to do in the organization. Given his existing relationships with the young players on the roster, I think Thomson is worth keeping around in some capacity.

The Near No-No: David Cone’s Return from his Aneurysm

(Getty)
(Getty)

From 1982-94, the Yankees never once made the postseason. They finished higher than third in the division just twice during that time: second place finishes in 1985, 1986, and 1993, and a first place finish in 1994 before the work stoppage wiped out the postseason. The Yankees were 70-43 at the time of the strike and had a 6.5-game lead in the AL East.

So, when the Yankees were 41-41 and one game back of a postseason spot on the morning on July 28th, 1995, then-GM Gene Michael shipped three prospects to the division rival Blue Jays to rent 32-year-old David Cone for the stretch run. Cone won the 1994 AL Cy Young award and he pitched well down the stretch in 1995, though the Bombers were bounced from the ALDS in soul-crushing fashion by the Mariners.

The Yankees were able to re-sign Cone to a three-year contract after the season — he was reportedly deciding between the Yankees and Orioles before George Steinbrenner offered a no-trade clause — and he was the team’s Opening Day starter in 1996. He allowed two hits in seven shutout innings against the Indians to earn the win in Game One of the new season.

Cone’s first three starts of 1996 were brilliant: seven shutout innings against the Indians, seven innings of one-run ball against the Rangers, and seven innings of one-unearned run ball against the Rangers again. One earned run in his first 21 innings of the season. Pretty awesome. His fourth start didn’t go well (six runs in five innings against the Brewers) but Cone rebounded his fifth (two runs in five innings against the Royals) and sixth (one unearned run in nine innings against the White Sox) times out.

That sixth start on May 2nd would be Cone’s last start for four months. He had been experiencing discomfort and a tingling sensation in his fingers. His index finger turned white. Cone was soon diagnosed with an aneurysm in an artery under his right armpit. He was receiving treatment but surgery was always considered a possibility. When the treatment didn’t work as hoped, Cone underwent surgery in mid-May.

“Everybody wants to know, ‘When is he coming back?'” said team doctor Stuart Hershon to Malcolm Moran. “My concern primarily is his health and well-being. After that, we’ll worry about when he’s going to be a baseball player. That’s why I didn’t go into the issue of coming back. That’s important for me to convey. You worry about a patient’s well-being, then you worry about the occupation.”

The Yankees were not particularly deep with starting pitchers at the time, and now they were going to be without their ace for an unknown amount of time. Young Andy Pettitte stepped into the ace role, Jimmy Key was able to stay healthy after missing most of the 1995 season, and Doc Gooden was surprisingly solid, so the rotation was okay. Scott Kamieniecki, Ramiro Mendoza, Brian Boehringer, and Mark Hutton all made spot starts during Cone’s absence.

Cone had his surgery in May, rehabbed through June and July, and come August, he was in good enough shape physically to begin pitching again. Doctors gave him the okay to start throwing, and the Yankees, who were on top of the AL East and looking ahead to the postseason, were excited about getting their ace back. Cone made two rehab starts with Double-A Norwich before rejoining the big league team on September 2nd, a little less than four months following surgery.

The Yankees were in Oakland on Labor Day and they were in a funk at the time. They had lost six of their last eight games and eleven of their last 17 games. The AL East lead had dwindled from nine games to four games during that 17-game span. The A’s were not very good in 1996, but the Yankees needed to right the ship, and they needed Cone to show he could be effective following surgery. He did exactly that in his first outing off the DL.

David Cone Athletics 1

Not the best start! Cone walked the first batter in his first game back on four pitches. He did rebound to strike out the next batter, and Joe Girardi did Cone a solid by throwing out Jose Herrera trying to steal second. That probably would have driven me nuts if I were an A’s fan at the time. You’ve got a pitcher coming back from a four-month layoff and he just walked the first batter of the game on four pitches. Why risk it? It looked worse when Cone walked Jason Giambi, the No. 3 hitter, on five pitches. A Mark McGwire pop-up ended the inning.

David Cone Athletics 2

Much better second inning for Cone, who got three quick outs on eleven total pitches. He needed that after throwing 19 pitches in the first inning and putting himself in the stretch right away. The A’s weren’t any good, but Giambi and McGwire were hardly easy outs. Oakland scored runs 5.31 runs per game in 1996, not too far behind the eventual World Series champion Yankees (5.38).

David Cone Athletics 3

Another quick inning in the third. Cone needed only eight pitches to get two fly balls and a strikeout. I remember watching the game live and thinking it looked like he was starting to get settled down and find his rhythm. I’m sure he was amped up after missing so much time and also a little nervous given the severity of the injury.

“I struggled in the first. I didn’t have a feel for anything,” said Cone to Jack Curry after the game. “The first five pitches weren’t close. I was just thinking, ‘Don’t let them get anything.'”

David Cone Athletics 4

Giambi was 25 at the time and in his first full season, and he had yet to emerge as the offensive force he was in the late-1990s and early-2000s. He was still a very good hitter though, and in the fourth inning he worked another five-pitch watch to snap Cone’s string of eight straight retired. Giambi saw five pitches in the fourth inning. The other three batters saw seven pitches total.

David Cone Athletics 5

Eleven pitches. The Athletics had drawn three walks on the afternoon but they did not yet have a hit through five innings against Cone in his first start off the DL. He had only thrown 61 pitches as well, so he was efficient. The Yankees had him on a pitch count — Joe Torre said Cone was good for 100 pitches before the game but indicated he didn’t want to push it — and he was giving them length. It was everything the Yankees wanted to see from him.

David Cone Athletics 6

Three up, three down once again. Two fly balls and a strikeout. That seemed to be Cone’s formula for the afternoon. Fly balls and strikeouts. The Yankees finally broke through and scored a run in the top of the sixth — Cecil Fielder was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded — so Cone had a little bit of support. He was through six hitless innings.

David Cone Athletics 7

Another three up, three down frame, though this one came with some warning signs. Giambi hit a line drive to Derek Jeter at shortstop. Charlie Hayes made a diving stop and threw McGwire out at first base, robbing him of a base hit. Berroa crushed a ball to dead center that Bernie Williams caught right at the top of the wall. All three batters made loud contact.

Hayes hit a home run to help break the game open in the top of the seventh and give Cone some breathing room. His pitch count was at 85 after the seventh inning and he had retired eleven straight and 19 of the last 20 batters he faced. Torre could have easily sent him back out for the eighth with the no-hitter intact, but that’s not what happened. Cone’s afternoon was done after seven hitless innings in his first start off the DL.

”If I would have left him in to throw 105 or 106 pitches and his shoulder would have been achy tomorrow or down the road, I never would have been able to live with myself. I would have always regretted it,” said Torre to Curry, keeping the big picture in mind. Girardi added, “He’s one of the best pitchers in the league. That’s why everyone wants him in September for the pennant run.”

Did Cone want to go back out for the eighth inning? Of course. “I was ready to go back out. I was ready to throw caution to the wind. Joe did the right thing,” he said. The aneurysm was a scary, career-threatening thing. Cone couldn’t have possibly known he still had several years left in the tank and would later throw a perfect game.

Fielder hit a home run in the top of the eighth to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead. Torre went to ace reliever Mariano Rivera to close out the no-hitter, and after a clean eighth, Rivera allowed a ground ball single to the speedy Herrera with one out in the ninth. Jeter almost threw him out from deep in the hole but couldn’t get the out. Torre argued to no avail. The Yankees settled for the one-hitter and a 5-0 win.

The Yankees needed the win given their slide in the standings, and they needed Cone to show he could be effective following the aneurysm. He did that and then some. Cone continued to shake off the rust in September before helping the Yankees win the World Series in October. He came close to a no-hitter that afternoon in Oakland. More importantly, the Yankees had their ace back.

“I’ll never wonder if this could have been my last opportunity to throw (a no-hitter),” said Cone to Curry after the game. ”I wouldn’t think that way. I appreciate that they took me out of the game. It’s more important for us to get to the playoffs and the World Series.”

FanGraphs Q&A with David Cone

David Laurila of FanGraphs posted an interview with former Yankee and current YES Network analyst David Cone today … well, it’s not much of an interview really. Cone did all the talking and basically told a big story. He spoke about his development as a pitcher throughout his playing career and his love for data, something that extends into his broadcasts. It’s no secret that Cone is a personal fave in the booth, so you shouldn’t be surprised that I’m giving this RAB’s highest level of recommendation. Check it out.

Plan F: The Jimmy Key Story

(AP)

Getting spurned by big name free agents isn’t a familiar feeling for Yankees fans, which is why the Cliff Lee decision last winter was so disappointing. We’d grown accustomed to the Yankees just getting whoever they wanted, and that was a shock to the system. Being told no by Lee was nothing compared to what happened two decades ago, however.

The 1992-1993 offseason was highlighted by a pair of in-their-prime superstar free agents: 28-year-old reigning NL MVP Barry Bonds and 26-year-old reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux. The Yankees wanted both, and started the winter by offering Bonds a five-year, $36M contract that would have made him the highest paid player in baseball. Then-GM Gene Michael made the offer the Monday before the winter meetings, but he gave Bonds and agent Dennis Gilbert just two days to accept. When they asked for a sixth guaranteed year, Michael broke off negotiations.

“We wanted him and now it’s off,” said Michael. “We’re going for pitching. Maybe it’s the right thing to do. We will not have Barry Bonds with a sixth year … We have to draw the line somewhere. I have no regrets saying we did not offer him a sixth year. We offered him a fantastic contract for five years. We really went out of our way to make a nice offer.”

The day after making the offer to Bonds, Michael met with Scott Boras about Maddux and presented a standing five-year, $34M contract offer. Maddux was their true number one target that offseason.

“If we are going to step out, we’re going to step out for this guy,” said Michael. “He’s the best pitcher available, and he knows our offer is serious … There is no scare in this kid.”

A few days later, Bonds got his guaranteed sixth year from the Giants and headed to San Francisco for $43.75M. Boras was seeking $7M annually for Maddux, saying “if you’re the Cy Young Award winner and the most durable pitcher in baseball, you deserve the premium salary.” The right-hander had thrown 260+ innings in each of the previous two seasons and 235+ innings in each of the previous five seasons.

Maddux visited the New York area with his wife in early-December, and Michael showed them around New Jersey. The Yankees had acquired Jim Abbott from the Angels for three young players — Russ Springer, J.T. Snow, and Jerry Nielsen — earlier in the week, a move that reportedly impressed Maddux and seemed to boost the Yankees chances of signing him. Ultimately, it did not. A few days later, Greg Maddux was a Brave, taking less money to go to Atlanta and remain in the National League.

“This one hurts,” said Michael. “He’s the best one out there. I never thought I could say this, but he’s a steal at [five years and $28M]. He’s a steal … It’s not over yet for us. We’ll do some things.”

The Yankees had multiple irons in the fire all winter, so Michael turned to Plans C, D, and E after being jilted by his top two free agent targets. He’d offered David Cone a three-year deal worth $17M earlier in the offseason, but the 29-year-old right-hander went home to the Royals for three years and $18M. Doug Drabek and Jose Guzman signed with the Astros and Cubs after being extended offered from the Yankees. Plans C through E were now off the table as well.

While Michael was busy dealing with Bonds, Maddux, Cone, et al., then-managing partner Joe Molloy was serving as the team’s chief negotiator with free agent lefty Jimmy Key. Key was 31 at the time and had a bit of an injury history, but like Cone he had been an All-Star and won a World Series with the Blue Jays the year before. His wife Cindy was his agent, and the two were on vacation when they accepted the Yankees’ four-year, $17M proposal a few days after Maddux headed to Atlanta.

“You can’t dwell on Bonds or Maddux or Cone,” said then-manager Buck Showalter. “I’m excited about getting a player of [Key’s] background and with his track record coming to New York … As important as that is, I’m excited that he wanted to come to play in New York.”

Since the signing was brokered by Molloy, questions about Michael’s job security arose. George Steinbrenner had been banned from the team’s day-to-day management two years earlier by commissioner Fay Vincent for the Dave Winfield fiasco, so Molloy was left to answer questions about who was running the team.

“[Michael is] an excellent general manager … As long as I’m the general partner, Gene should feel confident in his job as the general manager,” said Molloy. “That’s not to say if I get upset with Gene, I won’t fire him either.”

Key joined Abbott in the 1993 rotation, which also included holdovers Melido Perez and Scott Kamieniecki. He was the Yankees best pitcher in 1993 and 1994 (3.11 ERA in 404.2 IP), but he got hurt in 1995 and managed just five starts. Key returned in 1996 and wasn’t as effective as he had been in the past, but he did help the club to the World Series. He got the ball in the deciding Game Six of the Fall Classic, and outpitched Maddux to give the Yankees their first title in 18 years. Not bad for a guy that was Plan F.

The David Cone Years

(Photo via baseball.wikia.com)

David Cone was no stranger to New York. The Yankees acquired the right-hander from the Blue Jays just before the 1995 trade deadline in exchange for three young pitchers — Jason Jarvis, Mike Gordon, and Marty Janzen — three years after his five-and-a-half year stint with the Mets came to an end. Cone, 32 at the time, was a hired gun. A hired gun that just so happened to be a former World Champion and the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner.

“What’s not to like?” said Don Mattingly after the trade. “I don’t even know the other three guys … It’s kind of like with John Wetteland. We got him for nothing.”

The Yankees were six-and-a-half games behind the division-leading Red Sox at the time of the trade, but they were on a six-game winning streak and had surged from ten-and-a-half back with an 11-4 stretch. Cone went 9-2 with a 3.82 ERA after the trade but the Yankees were unable to move past Boston in the standings. Instead, they were the first AL Wild Card team in baseball history. Cone got the ball in Game One of the ALDS against the Mariners, and led his team to a win by allowing four runs in eight innings. The decisive Game Five did not go as well, as Cone’s 147th and final pitch of the night was ball four to the light hitting Doug Strange, forcing in the tying run in the bottom of the eighth.

The Yankees went on to lose the game and series in extra innings, and Cone became a free agent after the season. Jimmy Key was slated to come back from injury, but they were still in a position to lose both Cone and Jack McDowell that offseason.

[Read more…]

Mailbag: David Cone

(Photo via baseball.wikia.com)

Kurt asks: I was just curious about how David Cone came to the Yankees, and if you considered him underrated?

Cone is by far my most favorite analyst on YES, and he was also one of my most favorite players on the team during his 5+ seasons in pinstripes. He won the Cy Young Award with the Royals in 1994 (16-5, 2.94), but they traded him to the Blue Jays shortly after the strike ended for Chris Stynes and two minor leagues. After 17 very good starts for Toronto (9-6, 3.38), the fifth place Jays sent him to the Yankees just before the 1995 trade deadline for Marty Janzen and a pair of minor leaguers (Jason Jarvis and Mike Gordon). Intra-division trades weren’t as frowned upon back then.

Cone stepped right into a Yankees’ rotation that included Jack McDowell, Sterling Hitchock, Andy Pettitte, and Scott Kamieniecki. Shoulder problems sent Opening Day starter Jimmy Key to the DL after just five starts, so that’s essentially who Cone replaced. The fill-in starter whose job he took after the trade? Some skinny kid from Panama named Mariano Rivera, who had a 5.40 ERA in 40 IP across eight starts before giving way to Cone.

The Yankees were 41-42 and in third place on the day of the trade, but Cone helped them to a 38-23 finish by going 9-2 with a 3.82 ERA in his 13 starts. Cone, 32 at the time, pitched okay against the Mariners in the ALDS (eight runs in 15.2 IP), though he infamously walked Doug Strange with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth of Game Five to force in the tying run. That game/series was the first time I ever felt true heartbreak as a baseball fan. It was brutal.

Cone became a free agent after the season, but the Yankees eventually re-signed him to a three-year deal worth $18M, the going rate for ace-caliber pitchers back then. He spent most of the 1996 season on the DL due to an aneurysm in his arm, but he threw seven no-hit innings in his first game back. Cone finished the season at 7-2, 2.88 in just eleven starts, then got rocked in the ALDS (6 IP, 6 R) by the Rangers before pitching well in the ALCS (6 IP, 2 R) against the Orioles and in the World Series (6 IP, 1 R) against the Braves. Everyone remembers the Andy Pettitte-John Smoltz matchup in Game Five, but Cone outdueled Tom Glavine in Game Three to keep his team from falling behind in the series three games to none.

During the final two years of his deal, Cone went a combined 32-13 with a 3.20 ERA, helping the Yankees to another World Series title with a 20-win season in 1998. The Yankees re-signed him to a two-year deal worth $20M or so after the 1998 season, and although he pitched well in 1999 (12-9, 3.44 ERA), throwing a perfect game against the Expos in July, he turned in one of the worst pitched seasons in Yankees’ history in 2000 (4-14, 6.91 ERA). During his 5+ years in the Bronx, Cone went 64-40 with a 3.90 ERA, though it was 60-26 with a 3.31 ERA before that ugly 2000 season. He helped them to six playoff appearances and three World Championships, twice going to the All-Star Game (1997 and 1999) and thrice finishing in the top six of the AL Cy Young voting (1995, 1998, and 1999).

I don’t think Cone was underrated during his time with the Yankees, but I think he was easy to underappreciate because he always seemed to pitch well and deep into games. Does that make sense? His high-end production was easy to take for granted after a while, which is sorta like what’s happening with CC Sabathia. Cone was a key part of the most recent Yankees dynasty, and those guys tend to live forever in our memories.

David Cone interview in New York Magazine

Everyone loves David Cone, at least I think everyone does. I’ve made it very well known that he’s my favorite YES announcer because of his affection for advanced stats, his candid stories, and because he occasionally talks before he thinks. He’s great. Cone sat down for an interview with Joe DeLessio of New York Magazine, and it truly is a must read. He discusses those advanced stats and his favorite sites, but also the Jorge Posada situation, the end of his own career, his involvement with the Stars and Stripes cap program, and much more. It gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation, so check it out.