When the New York Yankees signed Gerrit Cole to that massive nine-year, $324 million contract, fans were predictably excited. They hadn’t had anything even resembling a true No. 1 starter since CC Sabathia at the beginning of the decade.
But there were some concerns about Cole. Before arriving in Houston in a trade between the Pirates and Astros, the right-hander was inconsistent in Pittsburgh and his strikeout numbers weren’t great. Then came the “doctoring balls” allegations, and Cole led the league in strikeouts in his second season with the Astros … after recording a career high the year prior.
Were the Yankees about to get hosed on the free agent market after two (what seemed to be, at the time) inflated years from someone who may have benefitted from unsavory practices encouraged by a new coaching staff and a career 3.50 ERA before joining said staff?
It wasn’t insane to question that in the back of your mind, especially after he became the league’s highest-paid pitcher after the 2019 season. But Cole has already quelled any concern that may have existed during his 2021 campaign.
And his latest outing against the Los Angeles Angels is living proof of it. Cole took the bump and needed to save the Yankees from a four-game losing streak. How many times have fans been looking for him to stop the bleeding this year?
Well, he stopped the bleeding, alright, and actually caused some bloodshed of his own — by striking out FIFTEEN batters.
Gerrit Cole is the ace of the New York Yankees. You better believe it.
This guy likes Southern California, eh?
He overpowered Shohei Ohtani THREE times. He was daring the opposition to hit his fastball. That’s simply what aces do. And it’s not like he’s been unable to shut down some of the league’s best offenses, either (because we know you’re saying “uhh, this is the Angels without Mike Trout”).
Cole’s dominated Oakland, Houston, Boston, Toronto, Chicago (White Sox) and Tampa all at different points this season. He leads the AL in wins, FIP and WHIP. He has 215 strikeouts in 155 innings pitched. And he’s making Yankees history on that front.
Remember when the haters tried to make Cole the face of the “sticky stuff” controversy? That was fun. All it took was a couple of outings for him to find his footing and only become arguably the best pitcher in the American League.
How about that, Josh Donaldson?
And at some point, whether it’s this year or in the future, Cole is ready to lead an epic postseason run. He wasn’t able to do that in Houston because of Justin Verlander ahead of him in the pecking order (in addition to ALCS and WS losses). It pained us, but we saw his energy and big-game ability with the Astros when he held onto a 2.17 ERA in seven postseason starts.
Now it’s his turn to do it with the Bombers. At the front of the pack. Further honing his arsenal without a foreign substance. With quite possibly the most threatening offense he’s ever had behind him.
Thirty-seven starts into his Yankees career, and Cole has proven he’s worth every penny, but his true mark on the franchise will come when he puts the team on his back in must-win games when the pressure’s at its apex in October. And a majority of the fan base has never been more confident he’d be capable of getting the job done.