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Winners (And the Other Guys Too)
2006-03-13 09:54
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Book Excerpt

Dayn Perry is one of the more genuine and easy-going guys you are ever likely to meet. The fact that he's also a gifted writer and analyst makes his personal charm even more appealing. I've met Dayn on several occasions and while he's exceeingly bright, he isn't a show-off or interested in making you look dumb. In addition to his work for Fox and Baseball Prospectus, Dayn's first book, "Winners: How Good Baseball Teams Become Great Ones (And It's Not the Way You Think)" has just hit the shelves. Perry looks at all of the playoff teams between 1980 and 2003 and examines what makes for success and failure. Combining traditional storytelling--there are absorbing stories about Pedro Guerrero and Cesar Cedeno, for instance--with statistical analysis, Perry's book is a page-turner.

I found a good, Yankee-related excerpt in the chapter:

The Deadline Game (or, Why It's Hard to Win a Pennant in Two Months)

Each year, Major League Baseball circumscribes—or perhaps hurries along—its clubs with a pair of trade deadlines. The first, which occurs on the afternoon of July 31, marks the end of the period in which teams can trade players without first passing them through revocable waivers. The second, on August 31, marks the deadline for teams to acquire players and still be able to place them on postseason rosters. In that block of calendar from July 1 to August 31, some of the most memorable (or forgettable, depending upon your partisanships) trades have unfolded. It's a frenzied time for fans, execs, and league organ grinders alike. Rumors scamper about like astonished cockroaches, and saturation-level media coverage causes deep-vein thrombosis in many a fan.

If it's not a tacit requirement that a playoff team make an acquisition at the trade deadlines, then it's certainly de rigueur; of the 124 teams I've looked at, 108 (87.1 percent) made a trade at or around those annual deadlines for a player or players who saw action for the team at the major league level that same season. However, for all the deadline activity we've witnessed over the years, these deals, by and large, aren't all that important in terms of winning ball games during the regular season in question.

However, of course, there are exceptions, as the Yankees discovered back in 1995:

From "Winners: How Good Baseball Teams Become Great Ones (And It's Not the Way You Think)"

By Dayn Perry

Coming into the 1995 season, the Yankees hadn't made the postseason in 14 years—the longest such drought for baseball's most dynastic franchise since Babe Ruth was acquired. What made it all the more rankling for Yankee fans is that, in the unfinished 1994 season, they had a comfortable 61/2-game lead in the AL East at the time of the players' strike and were on pace for 100 wins. Needless to say, the run-up to the 1995 campaign brought with it the usual Yankee mishmash of haughty optimism tempered by trickle-down urgency with the organization. It was time for the Yankees to get back to being the Yankees.

In 1994, staff ace Jimmy Key had gone 17–4 with a 3.27 ERA and paced the AL in wins and starts. Obviously, he was critical to Yankee fortunes in '95. However, Key, barely a month into the '95 season, went on the DL with tendonitis after making two straight painful starts. That case of tendonitis turned out to be a torn rotator cuff, and by the All-Star break he had undergone season-ending shoulder surgery. It also didn't help that Scott Kamieniecki, the Yanks' highly capable fifth man from the year before, regressed badly in 1995. A trade that December with the White Sox brought Jack McDowell into the fold, and he was effective, if not of ace quality. (Of course, McDowell's contributions were not without some standard-issue Yankee Sturm und Drang. Following a particularly rough home outing in July that season, "Blackjack" responded to the booing throngs by extending his middle finger to the already profoundly displeased Yankee Stadium crowd. Not to mention the unblinking eyes of the camera. The following winter, McDowell, a free agent, would opt for the more staid shores of Cleveland.)

At the close of play on July 28, the Yankees were 41–42, in third place in the AL East, and 51/2 games behind the division-leading Red Sox. Most assuredly, it was time for action. (In recent seasons, participants in the "Sons of Sam Horn" online Red Sox forum have taken to lampooning the Yankees' countless afterthought personnel additions and manifest weakness for conspicuous consumption by calling those players, as a group, "Raul Whitecock," a derisive amalgam of Raul Mondesi, Rondell White, and Sterling Hitchcock, three notable and largely fruitless recent acquisitions by the Yanks.)

On that same day, GM Gene Michael pulled the trigger on a pair of deals. First, he sent a troika of utter forgettables (Marty Janzen, Jason Jarvis, and Mike Gordon, who would combine for 27 games in the majors—all courtesy of Janzen) to the Blue Jays for David Cone. Toronto GM Gord Ash originally angled for a deal that would have sent Cone to the Yanks for Bob Wickman, Matt Drews, and a promising minor league hurler named Mariano Rivera. Michael passed and wound up getting Cone for an infinitely lower cost. As Don Mattingly said of the Cone deal, "We got him for nothing. I don't even know the other three guys."

A native of Kansas City, Cone came up with his hometown Royals alongside other talented young hurlers such as Mark Gubicza and Danny Jackson. Rather than let the pitching bottleneck sort itself out (a blissful quandary if ever there were one), the club made what owner Ewing Kauffman would later call "the worst trade in Royals' history." Certainly it was also the worst trade in then-Royals GM John Schuerholz's personal history. That trade in the spring of 1987 sent the 24year-old Cone and outfielder Chris Jelic to the Mets for catcher Ed Hearn, who would go on to play 13 games for Kansas City; righthander Rick Anderson, who would go on to post a 4.75 ERA in 96 2/3 career innings; and reliever Mauro Gozzo, who would never appear in a game for the Royals.

Cone, meanwhile, blossomed into an ace in New York. In 1988 he went 20–3 with a 2.22 ERA and finished third in the NL Cy Young balloting. He also became only the fifth pitcher in Mets history to win 20 in a single season, and he tied Preacher Roe's 1951 NL record for fewest losses by a 20-game winner. Cone had worked assiduously to develop command of six pitches and was famous for varying his arm angles and release points as situations warranted. To opposing batters, no matter how many times they'd seen him, it seemed as though Cone pitched with the randomness of lightning. Beginning in 1990, he led the majors in strikeouts for three straight seasons—the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan (1972–1974) to do so—and in '91 even fanned 19 Phillies in a single game (which tied the NL record until Kerry Wood whiffed 20 Astros in 1998).

Over the years, Cone fashioned a reputation as a bit of an eccentric. He would leave game tickets for Wheel of Fortune geisha Vanna White (never to be used) and Elvis Presley (also never to be used). He once held the ball and argued with the home plate umpire over a call while a pair of opposing base runners rounded the diamond and scored. However, as the Mets' fortunes began to decline in the early '90s, Cone's reputation took a harrowing turn. Cone faced two rape allegations within five months. The first involved a woman (whose claims were later dismissed by police) allegedly assaulted by Cone the night before his record-tying performance against the Phillies in 1991. The second linked his name to a teamwide scandal involving Darryl Boston, Vince Coleman, and Dwight Gooden. Cone was not charged in either case, but he also endured a sexual harassment lawsuit from three women who claimed he exposed himself to them from the Shea Stadium bullpen in 1989. The suit was eventually dismissed.

Between 1992 and 1995 Cone would pitch for four different teams. In late August of '92 the Mets dispatched him to Toronto for Ryan Thompson and second baseman Jeff Kent. Cone was thrown into the midst of a heated pennant race. Since the Jays acquired him well after the first trade deadline, he had time to compile only 53 innings. However, he made the most of those innings, posting a 2.55 ERA after the deal. Cone went on to throw a gem in the decisive game six of the World Series against the Braves, allowing only one run in six innings of work.

His combined numbers between New York and Toronto in 1992 (249 2/3 innings, 2.81 ERA, 17 wins) made him one of the winter's most hotly sought-after free agents. Cone wound up signing with his hometown Royals. He would pitch well in '93, but lackluster run support cost him win upon win. In strike-blighted 1994, however, great pitching intersected with good fortune, and Cone wound up winning the AL Cy Young. With Cone's value, perceived and otherwise, at its highest, the Royals that off-season traded him for a second time, in this instance back to Toronto for infielder Chris Stynes and two minor leaguers—David Sinnes and Tony Medrano—who would forever remain two minor leaguers.

Although he pitched well during his second Canadian tour of duty, Cone didn't last even four months before he was traded again, this time to the Yankees. As mentioned, the 1995 season was shortened to 144 games. Even so, as a Yankee, Cone that season put up a VORP of 27.9, which ranks as the third-best post deadline VORP for any pitcher I've studied. Prorate his VORP to a full season, and it comes to 31.0, which is still good for third among pitchers, but, lumping hitters and hurlers together, makes Cone the fourth-most-valuable deadline acquisition since 1980. In 99 innings as a Yankee in '95, Cone posted a 3.82 ERA, but what endeared him to New York fans and media alike is that he went 9–2 down the stretch (partially a function of good run support) in an AL wild-card race that turned out to be decided by a single game. Without Cone, the Yankees very likely would have failed in their bid to fend off the Angels and thus claim the final AL playoff berth.

You can buy Dayn's book here and here.

Comments
2006-03-13 11:32:08
1.   Shaun P
I had forgotten about Cone's legal woes. I guess a person can eventually get a chance to move beyond such things, no?

What a great story. I had no idea that Ash originally asked for Wickman, Drews, and Mo for Cone. That's certainly another feather in Stick Michaels' cap, holding on to Rivera AND getting Cone to boot!

2006-03-13 11:43:26
2.   Cliff Corcoran
And then Bob Watson flipped Wickman for Graeme Lloyd, which seemed like a major bust in late '96, but then Lloyd turned out to be cash money in the postseason (in 15 career postseason appearances with the Yankees Lloyd gave up just two hits and no walks and did not allow a run) and for two seasons to follow.
2006-03-13 12:26:06
3.   gattling
Cliff,

My memory is a little fuzzy, but wasn't the Watson deal with the Brewers for Lloyd originally for Pat Listach? Then, when it was discovered that Listach was hurt, there was some sort of compensation. Was Lloyd in the original deal or the "second" deal?

I vaguely remember Ricky Bones being involved in that deal, too.

2006-03-13 13:12:13
4.   Cliff Corcoran
Lloyd was in the original, I think it was Bones who was the compensation.
2006-03-13 13:51:15
5.   Shaun P
I have to say, Watson did a pretty damn good job his two years running the show too. Getting both Rock Raines and Chili Davis comes to mind.

Didn't Bones end up missing the '96 postseason because he did something to his back while watching TV? I always forget that he pitched for the Yanks.

2006-03-13 14:08:54
6.   wsporter
Does today's so called performance by Wright officially place him behind Chacon and Wang for a spot in the rotation? I know ST games are supposed to be used by pitchers to work the kinks out of stuff, control and command but today just looks plain silly, at least on paper. It doesn't look like we'll need a 5th until Pavano is ready to go. Is there any reason, right now, to start Wright over the other guys?
2006-03-13 14:21:25
7.   Alex Belth
I LOVED Rock Raines as a Yankee. Just the fact that there was somebody with the stature and nerve to bust on O'Neill's ass was worth it alone. And Cone was terrific too--he might have been Mr. Smooth with the media, but on the mound, red-faced, he was some kind of competitor.
2006-03-13 15:13:23
8.   Paul in Boston
Nothing like reading about the 1995 season to make me excited about baseball again. That run they went on to grab the wild card was incredibly exciting (actually not dissimilar to what they did in 2005), and seeing Mattingly in the post-season was priceless. I vividly remember Leyritz' home run and -- painfully -- Cone's finally running out of gas in Game 5 of the ALDS. And I probably don't need to remind this readership, but Randy Johnson was going to be the LOSING pitcher in Game 5 until Martinez drove in Griffey ... what an incredible series.
2006-03-13 17:45:37
9.   Simone
Anyone watching the Puerto Rico/Venezuela game? Did you see that amazing catch by Javy Lopez? I am now convinced that the Puerto Rican fans are the best. They make the WBC totally fun.
2006-03-13 18:48:50
10.   singledd
I feel really badly about the USA/Japan game. I didn't see the film, but all that did think the runner was safe.

I would rather forfeit the game, then win and be perceived at winning on a mistake.

This is not good for international relations.

2006-03-13 19:42:02
11.   Simone
ESPN isn't showing the U.S./Korea game live and Korea is up 2-0. Why are these people making my life so hellish. Come on, Dontrelle. The Puertro Rico/Venezuela game is pretty good so far. Puerto Rico is just not catching any breaks.

singledd, there is no way around the fact that it was a terrible decision by the home plate umpire to reverse that call. I hope that MLB sit him down for the rest of the tournament, but I bet they don't show that type of good judgment.

2006-03-13 19:51:33
12.   Simone
What a home run from Victor Martinez! The ball went a loong way. Puerto Rico is done.
2006-03-13 20:08:15
13.   Simone
Griffey is on fire! If only we could see the game live.
2006-03-13 20:37:52
14.   Simone
Did you just see BK Kim just struck out Wells with the bases loaded? I'm in pain. Why is this happening?
2006-03-13 20:52:06
15.   Simone
And Hee-Seop Choi sticks the dagger in the throat. Welcome to WBC hell. What's the plan now? Take away 5 or 6 runs from the Koreans? Buck Martinez is simply the worse manager. Yes, he is worse than Joe Torre, people.
2006-03-13 21:05:43
16.   brockdc
Rock Raines coming to the Yanks was my dream come true. Prior to that, he'd been my favorite non-Yankee EVER. I still remember holding court in the back of my seventh grade homeroom, detailing all the ways in which Raines was a far better all-around player than Rickey. Okay, so love is blind.

I get depressed thinking about Wright. Something tells me he's going to be Joe's ace-in-the-hole this year, at the expense of another much-needed position player, such as Thompson.

Simone -

You're right about Buck. We bag on Joe, but, really, how many halfway decent managers are there in MLB? Half a dozen? Perhaps fewer?

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