20th anniversary: David Cone-for-Jeff Kent trade

Twenty years ago today, a hell of a trade took place, a trade involving two high-profile players with plenty of talent—and the two guys were traded for each other, too. Well, admittedly, one wasn’t anywhere near high profile at the time of the trade, but it’s still a bigger exchange of talent than you normally see in a transaction.

On Aug. 27, 1992, the New York Mets set star pitcher David Cone to the Blue Jays for Jeff Kent. Well, it wasn’t quite a straight up trade, as Toronto also threw in a player to be named later, Ryan Thompson.

First, let’s get the trivial details out of the way. Thompson was a minor league outfielder who would play in the majors for parts of nine seasons as a backup, never getting a starting job. He provided some value, but the trade was basically Cone for Kent.

Cone was the big name at the time of the trade. In 1988, he had a fantastic season, posting a majestic 20-3 record with a sparkling 2.22 ERA. He hadn’t maintained that level since then, but he was still a quality pitcher. His ERAs were typically in the threes, and he could be counted on to win 14 games a year. In fact, he won exactly 14 games every season from 1989-91 and had 13 wins the day the trade was made.

For his part, Kent was just a prospect. He was a rookie in 1992, but a man without a place in Toronto. Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar manned Kent’s natural position at second base.

Instead, Kent played third, where Toronto already had veteran Kelly Gruber. As it happened, Gruber had a lousy season in 1992, allowing Kent to capture the starting job in June, but by August, Gruber was back in the regular starting lineup, with Kent on the bench and rarely used.

Toronto wasn’t getting much use out of Kent, but he was a well-enough regarded kid to be valuable as trade bait. And Toronto could use another arm in its starting rotation. On Aug. 27, the Blue Jays held a narrow lead in the AL East and could use some frontline help. They needed to win today, not down the road, so why not trade this kid Kent, even if he was talented? The offense was fine; it would come second in the league in runs scored.

So the Jays elected to give Kent to the Mets. For their part, the Mets could use a new second baseman, as 37-year-old Willie Randolph was in decline. Unlike the Blue Jays, the Mets were looking to the future, not the present. They were having a dismal season that would end with 90 losses.

Cone sure was a good pitcher, but his contract was up at the end of the year. In other words, this 1992 trade was a lot like what we see nowadays, a veteran nearing free agency being dealt for prospects.

Both teams got something out of it, though neither team got the best from either player. Cone did a good job in the pennant stretch. He won only one of his four postseason starts but posted a decent ERA, helping Toronto to its first world title. Then he left, off to Kansas City, where he won a Cy Young award. He’d come back to Toronto in 1995, win nine games, and then be off again.

Kent spent nearly four years with the Mets, providing good but not great numbers with the squad. They decided he wasn’t going to amount to much more and so, in a terrible move, traded him to Cleveland for Carlos Baerga. After a half-season there, he blossomed in San Francisco, picking up an MVP Award.

So a future Cy Young winner was traded for a future MVP, though neither team receiving the players got those great seasons from them. But it was an impressive trade that took place 20 years ago today.

Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.

Day-versaries

1,000 days since Atlanta signs free agent Billy Wagner.

3,000 days since Old Reliable Tommy Henrich dies at age 96.

10,000 days since Dave Kingman hits a ball that hits the roof support wire in the Kingdome. It’s caught for an out.

10,000 days since Gorman Thomas hits three home runs in one game.

10,000 days since Roger McDowell makes his big league debut.

15,000 days since Pete Rose last plays in center.

25,000 days since the birth of longtime Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston.

40,000 days since longtime Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey is born.

Anniversaries

1881 Tony Mullane, 280-game winner, makes his big league debut.

1887 King Kelly, the biggest baseball star of his day, gets six hits in one game.

1888 Cap Anson manages his 1,000th game. His record is 647-336.

1896 Rube Walberg, A’s pitcher, is born.

1897 Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan makes his major league debut.

1909 Iron Man Joe McGinnity, now in the minor leagues after his big league career has ended, tosses two complete-game victories in one day in the Eastern League.

1910 20,000 fans see two amateur teams play under temporary lights at Comiskey Park in Chicago. This is the first ever night game of any sort at any AL park.

1910 Yankees pitcher Jack Warhop steals home in a 4-3 win over the White Sox.

1911 Ed Walsh throws a no-hitter in a 5-0 win over Boston. He walks one batter in the fourth inning.

1918 Reds manager Christy Mathewson resigns his post to accept a position as captain in the US Army in the chemical warfare branch.

1920 Art Nehf pitches 17 innings in one game—but fans zero batters.

1920 Claude Hendrix plays in his final game. He had his moments in the 1910s but has been caught up in gambling scandals and will be banned in the offseason.

1932 Hall of Fame pitcher Burleigh Grimes, at age 39 years and nine days old, steals a base.

1933 Jimmie Foxx plays shortstop for an inning at the end of a 9-8 A’s loss to the White Sox. The team must have run out of players, as they were lose 8-3 entering the ninth but scored five to tie it in the top of the final frame only to blow it in the bottom of the ninth.

1934 Herb Pennock, possibly the worst Hall of Famer selected by the BBWAA, plays in his final game.

1935 Ernie Broglio, the guy the Cardinals traded to the Cubs for Lou Brock, is born.

1935 For the only time in his career, Lou Gehrig draws five walks in one game. He never scores, but he does steal a base. Chicago wins, 4-3, over the Yankees.

1935 Van Mungo jumps the Dodgers team after the fielders make four errors in one game behind him. He rejoins the club after talking to the club president.

1937 Fred Frankhouse throws a shortened game no-hitter. He goes 8.2 frames in a 5-0 win for Brooklyn over the Reds.

1938 Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio hits three triples in one game, leading the Yankees to an 8-7 win over the Indians. Then, in the second game of the doubleheader, Monte Pearson throws a no-hitter in a 13-0 Yankees win.

1941 Charlie Root wins his 200th game. He also has a ninth-inning RBI single in the Cubs 6-4 win over the Reds. All of Root’s 201 career wins come with the Cubs. He is still the only man to win 200 games for them.

1941 For the first time in four years and 17 days, Ernie Lombardi steals a base.

1942 Bill McKechnie manages his 3,000th game. His record is 1,579-1,399. It’s an ugly game for the Reds skipper, though. In a 4-4 tie in the ninth inning, the Reds have the bases loaded with no outs, only to hit into a triple play. Then Cub slugger Bill Nicholson hits a home run off the foul pole for a 5-4 Chicago triumph.

1943 Young and promising Tigers pitcher Hal Newhouser loses his ninth straight decision, a career-worst stretch.

1946 Joe DiMaggio lays down his last sacrifice bunt. He’ll have 2,800 more plate appearances without another one.

1946 Baseball lore has it that at an owner’s meeting, a secret study on integration issues its secretive report defending the covert color barrier in professional baseball.

1948 Nice! It’s a walk-off home run by a pitcher, Harry Gumbert to be exact.

1948 A’s batter Hank Majeski has a day to remember, belting six doubles in a double header against St. Louis.

1949 Tiny Bonham plays in his last game. He’ll be dead in fewer than three weeks.

1950 There are two grand slams in one game, as Cleveland’s Ray Boone and Boston’s Clyde Vollmer both do it in an 11-9 Red Sox victory.

1951 Buddy Bell is born.

1951 Del Wilber hits three home runs to guide the Phillies to a 3-0 win over the Reds. Yup, all of his home runs were solo shots, and they accounted for all of the game’s runs.

1954 White Sox third baseman Cass Michaels suffers a skull fracture from a fastball thrown by Marion Fricano of the A’s.

1955 Ted Williams’ 14th career grand slam is a doozy. He goes deep in the top of the ninth to turn a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 lead.

1955 Sandy Koufax shows the brilliance that will later make him a Hall of Famer as the young rookie fans 14 Reds in a 7-0 win.

1958 For the third time in his career, Hank Aaron gets five hits in one game. Though he’ll play 17 more years, he’ll never get a fourth five-hit game.

1958 Senators owner Clark Griffith says he’ll accept a good offer from Minnesota to relocate his team if the state makes such an offer.

1958 Hall of Fame Giants stud Orlando Cepeda receives a walk-off walk from Milwaukee’s Bob Trowbridge in the bottom of the 12th for a 3-2 final score.

1960 Lew Burdette’s scoreless inning streak ends at 32.2 innings.

1961 Despite pitching just 2.2 innings, Lew Burdette somehow allows three triples.

1961 Milt Pappas does it all, homering twice and throwing a complete-game shutout. He only allows two hits, including a leadoff single in the first. Baltimore tops Minnesota, 4-0.

1961 Rocky Colavito hits three home runs in one game. He also gets a fourth homer in the other end of today’s double header.

1963 Willie Mays smacks his 400th home run.

1963 The Mets lose, 2-1, on a very ugly last play that has two official errors and two other unofficial errors. The pitcher does a face plant while trying to corral a grounder at the start, then the ball is thrown away, then it rolls through an outfielder’s legs. When the ball finally gets to the catcher to tag the runner, he goes up the line, taking himself out of position to make the tag.

1964 The Mets sign amateur free agent Jerry Koosman.

1967 Brian McRae is born.

1968 Bobby Bonds enjoys the first of 21 career multi-home run games.

1969 Oscar Gamble makes his big league debut.

1970 Jim Thome is born.

1972 For the third straight game, the Tigers win on an 11th-inning home run. Willie Horton does it today to top the Twins.

1972 St. Louis trades Matty Alou to the A’s.

1972 Nolan Ryan throws 12 innings in a complete-game shutout. He fans 10 and walks five while allowing six hits.

1974 Benny Ayala becomes one of the few, the proud, one of the men to homer in his first big league at-bat.

1974 Jose Vidro is born.

1974 In one doubleheader, Hal McRae has six extra-base hits, five doubles and one home run.

1975 Bert Blyleven has the eighth of his 15 career 1-0, complete-game shutout victories. This one is an 11-inning game for Blyleven’s all-time best Game Score (97) and WPA (0.997). His teammate Craig Kusiak is hit by a pitch three times in the contest.

1976 Jerry Koosman loses his 100th decision for a lifetime record of 124-100.

1976 For the first time in a little over five years, Fergie Jenkins picks off a batter.

1976 Frank Tanana has a game Score of 104, a personal best, thanks to this line: 13 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, and 13 K. Despite that, he gets the no decision and his team (the Angels) lose.

1977 Toby Harrah and Bump Wills hit back-to-back inside-the-park home runs for Texas in a 8-2 win in Yankee Stadium.

1978 Eddie Murray enjoys his best game ever according to WPA. He goes 3-for-3 with a double, home run, and a walk in a 4-3 Orioles victory against the Mariners for a 0.929 WPA.

1979 Many Rangers fans show up to today’s game wearing shirts that proclaim, “Trade Chuckles the Clown.” Chuckles is a nickname for the team’s much-maligned owner.

1982 The Dodgers become the first NL team in seven years to have two pinch-hit home runs in one game when Rick Monday and Mike Marshall do it. Incredibly, the last time it happened in the NL, Monday was one of the guys involved as well, back on Aug. 23, 1975.

1983 Joe Torre manages his 1,000th game. His record is 450-547. It’ll get better.

1985 For the 81st consecutive game, Wade Boggs reaches base. That’s his best ever streak. He’s 128-for-322 with 46 walks, a .398 batting averag and .477 on-base percentage in that span.

1986 Nolan Ryan gets his 250th win.

1986 Harold Reynolds ties a record with 12 assists at second base in one game.

1990 Charlie Hough is having a rough day, walking 10 batters in just five innings. It’s tied for the most walks by a pitcher since 1977.

1990 A Brewers-Jays game in Toronto is delayed for 35 minutes due to a swarm of gnats.

1995 Mike Piazza is on the tear of a lifetime. Not only does he hit two home runs in a game for the second straight day, but today he adds a single and a double for a career-best seven RBIs. He also walks once while making no outs.

1995 Mike Cameron makes his big league debut.

1996 David Wells wins his 100th decision for a 100-87 career record.

1997 For Jim Thome’s birthday, the Indians start pulling their socks to just below their knees. They’ll win 17 of their next 27 with this look to clinch the division.

1997 Miguel Tejada makes his big league debut.

1998 Jamie Moyer wins his 100th decision for a career record of 100-92.

1999 Baltimore trades Harold Baines to the Indians.

1999 Cat Mays, father of Willie, dies at age 88.

1999 Wade Boggs appears in his final game.

1999 MLB warns the umpires that they will be fired if they strike next week.

1999 The 31-game hitting streak of Vladimir Guerrero comes to an end.

2000 Bobby Abreu hits a walk-off, inside-the-park home run for a 2-1 Phillies win in 10 innings over the Giants.

2000 Darrin Fletcher of the Blue Jays hits three home runs in one game.

2001 B.J. Surhoff records his 2,000th career hit.

2002 Barry Bonds hits three home runs in one game. It’s the fourth time in his career he’s done that.

2002 Joe Crede gets seven RBIs for the White Sox in a 8-4 win against Toronto in 10 innings. He hits a two-run homer in the ninth to tie it and then belts a grand slam in the tenth for the difference.

2002 Yeesh, what a bad game, as Scott Rolen grounds into three double plays.

2004 Carlos Beltran hits a home run for the fifth consecutive game.

2006 St. Louis batter Gary Bennett hits a walk-off grand slam for a 10-6 win over the Cubs.

2006 Baltimore trades Jeff Conine to the Phillies.

2009 Boston releases Brad Penny.

2010 Jay Bruce homers three times in one game.

2011 For the first time all year, Michael Young of the Texas Rangers hits a pop-up. He really went this late into the year without doing it.

2011 On his 41st birthday, Jim Thome hits his first home run as an Indians since 2002. It’s only his second game with them since being traded back to Cleveland.

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Comments

  1. D Leaberry said...

    Cone was a very fine but not quite a Hall of Fame pitcher. Kent drove in 100 runs in six straight season and eight of nine(he missed 20 games in the season he didn’t reach 100) and over 1500 in his career.  He would seem as a likely Hall of Famer but not on his first try.

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