Last night, Richard Sandomir of The Times confirmed what had been rumored for some weeks: David Cone won't be returning to YES in 2010. As Jay detailed earlier this week, this is a loss for Yankee fans. Cone had grown into a great analyst and wasn't shy about citing some of the more advanced metrics while calling a game.
Sandomir's piece paints a rosier picture than what's been rumored over the past several weeks. The quotes from both Cone and YES don't indicate any acrimony, a far cry from Bob Kaplisch's earlier report that a heated disagreement took place. Cone states "If I do return to broadcasting, YES would be my first choice.” While Cone states he's leaving to spend more time with his family, the initial report from Phil Mushnick's initial report last month speculated that Cone, who was very active in the Players Association throughout his career, could be headed for a union job.
For their part, YES said that Cone won't necessarily be replaced. Tino Martinez, who was painfully wooden in his year on Baseball Tonight, was rumored as a potential replacement. YES still has Ken Singleton, Al Leiter, John Flaherty, and Paul O'Neill under contract. O'Neill and Singleton intentionally work limited schedules and Leiter juggles his time between YES and MLBN. Lamentably, Jim Kaat, who expressed interested in returning to YES last year only to be rebuffed, cut his last remaining ties to the network last month.
As for Cone, this marks his third less-than-perfect departure from Yankeedom. Following his perfect game in 1999, Cone was never the same. He went 2-5 with a 4.82 ERA down the stretch before rebounding with a solid post-season. His contract expired and after making his desire for a two year deal well-known, he eventually settled for a one year pact. He had an absolutely abysmal 2000, eventually being removed from the starting rotation late in the season. He pitched just 1.1 innings in the post-season.
With the Yankees not interested in guaranteeing him a job in 2001, Cone departed for the Red Sox. He had a decent season for them, going to toe-to-toe with Mike Mussina during the Moose's near perfect game on 9/2/01. Cone was a shadow of his former self, but that night he allowed just nine baserunners and fanned eight in 8.1 IP, allowing just an unearned run.
Cone retired following the season, and joined YES for their inaugural season. Though retired, Cone clearly still had the desire to play. In interviews he routinely dropped hints that he would be willing to return in an attempt to help the Yankees injury riddled pitching staff. When the call from the Yankees never came, Cone crossed the Triboro Bridge and returned to the Mets for one more disastrous go-round.
While his 2003 departure was surprising, it was clear then that Cone wasn't fully ready to hang up his spikes. This time, I'm far more surprised. Though this had been rumored for some time, Cone had deeply ingrained himself into the Yankees organization over the past two years. In addition to his work with YES and his appearances at Old Timers' Day, Cone did a lot of public relations work for the club. Cone was instrumental in moving tickets, calling season ticket holders in an effort to sell high priced seats, and glad handing with the suite dwellers at the new Stadium.
Whatever the reason for his departure, we hope David Cone makes another return to the Bronx sometime in the future. In the meantime we wish him all the best in whatever comes next - so long as it doesn't involve joining the Red Sox or Mets again.