On March 27, 1987, the Mets completed one of the greatest trades in franchise history when they traded Ed Hearn, Rick Anderson and Mauro Gozzo to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Chris Jelic and right handed pitcher David Cone. While Hearn, Anderson and Gozzo didn’t amount to anything Cone went on to become one of the best pitchers in Met history winning 80 games over the next six seasons.
But Cone’s Met career did not get off to a great start as he lost his Met debut on April 11, 1987 when he pitched three innings of relief and allowed the winning run to score in the ninth inning. After his first four appearances, all out of the bullpen, his record was 0-1 and his ERA was 4.66 but he was averaging a strikeout an inning. Despite his bad start the Mets decided to move him to the starting rotation. Cone proved to be an effective starter over his next six starts, he posted a 2-1 record. His first victory as a Met came on May 12th against the Cincinnati Reds when he pitched a complete game allowing four hits and two earned runs. However just as Cone was beginning to hit his stride he was sidelined for two months after breaking a finger on his left hand while trying to bunt. He returned in the middle of August and finished the season with a 5-6 record and a 3.71 ERA.
1988 would turn out to be Cone’s best season with the Mets. After starting the season in the bullpen, where he won two games in seven appearances he was moved to the starting rotation in May. He made his first start on May 3rd and pitched a complete game shutout. Cone would go on to finish the month of May winning all five of his starts while allowing just three earned runs. For his efforts, he was named the National League Pitcher of the Month. From that point on Cone was the Mets top starting pitcher as the Mets dominated the National League and coasted to their second National League Eastern Division title in three seasons. He won his final eight starts of the year to finish with a 20-3 record and a 2.22 ERA with 213 strikeouts. In any other year Cone would have been a shoe in for the National League Cy Young Award but he finished third in the voting behind Danny Jackson of the Reds who finished with a 23-8 record and Orel Hershiser who also finished with a 23-8 record but managed to set a MLB record with 59 consecutive scoreless innings.
In the postseason against the Los Angeles Dodgers Cone was tabbed to pitch game two, but he got roughed up and allowed five runs in two innings. He bounced back to pitch a complete game five hitter in game six to send the series to a decisive seventh game. Unfortunately, the Mets lost game seven and the series.
Cone got off to rough start in 1989, his record was just 4-5 in the first half of the season, but he turned things around in the second half. From July 3rd to the end of the season his record was 10-3. He finished the season with a 14-8 record and 3.52 ERA.
Cone would go on to win 14 games over each of the next two seasons while also managing to lead the National League in strikeouts both years. On the final day of the 1991 season against the Philadelphia Phillies, Cone put his name in the record books by striking out 19 batters to tie the National League mark held by former Met Tom Seaver and Hall of Famer Steve Carlton.
In 1992 Cone started the season 9-4 and was named to his second all-star team. But with Cone enjoying his best season since 1989 and the Mets out of the pennant race they traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays on August 27th in exchange for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson. Cone was going to be a free agent after the season and the Mets were fearful they would not be able to resign him. General Manager Al Harazin figured it would be better to get something for Cone than nothing at all in the off-season. It would be a trade the Mets would come to regret as he would go on to help the Blue Jays win the 1992 World Series, then he would win a Cy Young with the Royals in 1994 before moving on to the New York Yankees where he won three World Series titles and even pitched a perfect game. In his final appearance for the Yankees in game four of the 2000 World Series against the Mets Cone pitched just 1/3 of an inning but managed to get Mike Piazza out at a crucial spot in the game. The Mets would lose 3-2 and eventually the series.
David Cone spent the 2001 season with the Boston Red Sox. After sitting out the 2002 season the Mets invited David Cone to spring training in 2003. Not much was expected of Cone but he surprisingly made the team. In his first start for the Mets on April 4th he looked like his old self pitching five innings of shutout ball to earn the win. But that would be the only highlight for Cone in 2003. He lost his next three decisions and with his record at 1-3 with 6.50 ERA Cone decided to retire.
In 187 games for the Mets David Cone won 81 while losing 51 with a 3.13 ERA.
While with the Mets David Cone wore number 44 from 1987-1991 before switching to number 17. When he returned to the Mets in 2003 he wore number 16.
David Cone also played for the following teams:
Kansas City Royals – 1986,1993,1994
Toronto Blue Jays – 1992,1995
New York Yankees – 1995-2000
Boston Red Sox – 2001