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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS | NEW YORK vs. SEATTLE : NOTES

In This Postseason He's Cone of Silence

October 13, 2000|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

SEATTLE — He has become a $12-million hood ornament, something the New York Yankees can hang in their bullpen and point to when they need a reminder of their glorious past.

David Cone is 8-3 with a 3.85 earned-run average in 18 postseason starts and played a prominent role in the Yankees' 1996, '98 and '99 World Series championships, but he has been reduced to a spectator in 2000 because of a sore left shoulder and a dismal season in which he went 4-14 with a 6.91 ERA.

"I never really anticipated this happening this quickly--I threw a one-hitter in the World Series last year, and now I'm in the bullpen," said Cone, the 37-year-old right-hander. "The only thing that keeps me going is the slim chance that there might be a game where I can help."

The chances of that seem slim. Yankee Manager Joe Torre has acknowledged throughout the playoffs that Cone is not 100%, and it seems odd that the Yankees have kept him on the playoff roster. That is, until you understand what Cone has meant to this franchise and to Torre.

"I knew I'd be on the bubble, and Joe has showed incredible loyalty to me," Cone said. "That's what I'll remember about this year, not the ugly numbers."

Cone has spent this postseason trying to keep his teammates loose in the clubhouse, dugout and bullpen, trying to boost the confidence of teammate Denny Neagle, "just trying to be a good teammate," Cone said.

How he'll spend next season has not been determined, but retirement is a strong possibility.

"I have to take a vacation when this is all over and find out what the heck happened to me," Cone said. "I need to get away."

*

The Mariners and Yankees combined for two runs and 11 hits in Seattle's 2-0 Game 1 victory, yet the game lasted 3 hours 45 minutes. The Yankees' 7-1 Game 2 victory took 3 hours 36 minutes.

"I never thought I'd reach the point where I'd say, 'God, we played a three-hour game, wasn't that great?' " Torre said.

Network television adds a little more time between innings for commercials, but Torre couldn't pin the blame for the longer games on TV.

"We're deep in the count all the time, and very rarely do you see strike one, strike two, strike three," Torre said. "It's always, 'I don't want this guy to hit the ball.' I accuse my pitchers of doing it, and I watch other pitchers doing it.

"You know what I think it is? I think we have too much information, and when we try to put this game in a test tube, I don't think it holds up very well. Instead of saying, 'It's me against you, let's see who's better,' we're trying to find ways to be perfect, and you can't do that in this game."

*

Yankee left-hander Andy Pettitte is 0-2 in two Safeco Field starts this season, and Mariner right-hander Aaron Sele is 0-2 in two postseason starts against the Yankees, when he was a member of the Texas Rangers in 1998-99. Something has to give tonight when Pettitte and Sele, with the ALCS tied, 1-1, face each other in Game 3.

Seattle went 20-11 against left-handed starters in the regular season and is 3-0 against left-handed starters in the playoffs. Edgar Martinez (.357, two homers), Jay Buhner (.320, two homers), and Rickey Henderson (.381) have had success against Pettitte. Yankees Paul O'Neill (.326, homer) and Bernie Williams (.310, homer) hit Sele well.

THE SERIES

Game 1: Seattle 2, New York 0

Game 2: New York 7, Seattle 1

Tonight: New York (Pettitte 19-9) at Seattle (Sele 17-10), 5.

Saturday: New York (Clemens 13-8) at Seattle (Abbott 9-7), 4:30 p.m.

Sunday: New York at Seattle, 1 p.m.

Tuesday: Seattle at New York, 5 p.m.*

Wednesday: Seattle at New York, 5 p.m.*

TV--Ch. 4; *--if necessary

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