In the three months since the Wild Card Game disaster (admittedly bad) and pregame Kermit-ing (funny, but also bad), Yankees fans have developed an aggravating sense of inevitability surrounding Gerrit Cole.
“Yeah, he’s great. He’s an ace. But he’s not an ace.”
This is, unfortunately, the disease of fandom. In order to win a ring, you basically have to be “on” for a full month. No mistakes. No gaffes. No off days. It’s very difficult. But, until Cole puts a perfect string together (and gets the support of his teammates), he’ll now be known as one of “those guys” who just wasn’t good enough (by an infuriating sect of the fan base).
You know the guys. James Harden. Lamar Jackson. Clayton Kershaw until, like, a year ago. “Yeah, great, greatest ever, exciting, interesting … but just can’t do it in the postseason!” Until they do, of course.
We’re unfortunately stuck in the “before times” with Cole right now while we wait for the Yankees to get their act together collectively. Smart fans know Cole can win a ring, and smart fans know there’s not something inherently wrong with him, as well as every other free agent and trade target the Yanks have made over the past several years. They just haven’t completed the journey yet.
Which is why it’s helpful, during this offseason spent stuck in the mud, when an MLB peer like the Rays’ Brett Phillips reminds the naysayers that, yes, Cole is actually among the nastiest pitchers in the entire league, and he often takes to the mound in an absolutely unhittable state.
Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is the best pitcher Brett Phillips has ever faced.
And yes, the evidence to back up Phillips’ claim is directly below that tweet. As a Brewer against Pirates Cole, he started their years-long battle with a line-drive single to left.
Then, Cole figured out his fastball. When the pair reunited to tango in 2021, the right-hander got the upper hand all five times, with five overpowering strikeouts on his ledger.
Yeah, feels like if that happened to me, I’d probably convince myself the person that did it was the best pitcher in baseball, too.
Post-sticky stuff and pre-hamstring injury, Cole looked pretty close to the most dominant he’s ever been. It doesn’t take some sort of mental gymnastics to convince yourself that he’d gotten all the way back to his peak, and also that the leg injury sapped a good deal of his strength (as much as Red Sox fans might like to pretend they rocked a fully-healthy Cole at the end of the season).
Now stuck in Lockout Mode, it’ll be a while before Cole gets to rock the rubber and back up Phillips’ comments — though he certainly seems to have had a relaxed holiday spent not sweating the small stuff.
Maybe next year, Cole will have a fire-breathing No. 2 and a reliable No. 3 behind him — oh, and an offense, too — and we can shake these pesky narratives forever.
We won’t have to rely on Brett Phillips the Storyteller to spread Cole’s gospel. It’ll be right there in black ink: World Series champion, Cy Young winner.