Gerrit Cole was supposed to be the singular force that sent the Yankees over the edge into contention. Instead, though he’s been phenomenal, New York has suffered ding after ding in the wake of his arrival.
Some setbacks have been predictable — ill-timed injuries are a staple of the Yankee Way. Some, however, have been entirely impossible to plan for, like a world-changing pandemic that stunted his first season and removed fans from ballparks, or like a snap judgment to remove the substance that aided his grip midseason without a fallback option in place.
Admittedly, Cole probably shouldn’t have relied so much upon it, but its sudden absence was an unfair adjustment to expect him to make.
The expectations on Cole’s shoulders are understandably high; after all, not every ace comes with a record-setting price tag. But Cole’s mistakes have certainly been more magnified than other equivalent starters. He was brilliant, even on short rest, in the 2020 postseason … but nobody saw it. Therefore, the prevailing imagery remains his 2021 campaign, featuring several prominent failures in Boston during his second-place Cy Young season.
This is the case for both fans and beat writers, as NJ.com’s Bob Klapisch was on Cole’s case again on Wednesday in a roundtable panel regarding what the Yankees can expect from him moving forward.
Though Cole has never admitted exactly how much his hamstring nagged him down the stretch in 2021, most of us have assigned the balky muscle at least some blame for his September and October numbers.
Klapisch isn’t so sure, instead taking Cole’s statements about his health at closer to face value.
Was Yankees ace Gerrit Cole injured during the Wild Card Game?
Cole’s swirling narratives all seem to be battling each other for supremacy right now, and each one can be deflated if you check the data — though there’s always a glowing counterexample to keep Yankee fans on edge.
Was Cole “done” after the sticky stuff? No; he posted an 0.51 ERA in August. As for July and Sept., though … there’s always that worry. Those months did not go so well, featuring 4.71 and 5.13 marks.
Can Cole beat Boston? He dominated the 2020 Sox (an awful team), and posted a representative start mid-hammy rehab, allowing only a Rafael Devers three-run homer in a September win. Then again … he face-planted in the Wild Card Game (for only two-plus innings, with no leash) and posted a 4.91 ERA against Boston in four regular season starts.
And, most pertinently, was Cole done in by his hamstring injury? It certainly seems like he was, as his troubles hit another level in Sept. Klapisch wasn’t so sure, leading the charge to question Cole during his roundtable conversation:
"KLAPISCH: Let me interrupt you, Brendan. If your life depended on it and you had to come up with the correct answer, would you say that Cole pitched the last two months injured or not injured?KUTY: I’d say yes, I’d say that it nagged him. I’d say it wasn’t a splitting or a serious pain, but I think it was a little issue for a guy like Gerrit Cole, who is so exacting on the mound and repeats his delivery so well when he’s right. I think (the hamstring) could have thrown him off. Scott Boras is Cole’s agent and will protect him, but he said at the GM Meetings that the hamstring was an issue towards the end of the year even though Gerrit won’t admit it.KLAPISCH: Gerrit denied it and the Yankees all said he was fine. And with the season on the line like that, winner take all, if all he could give the Yankees was those three terrible innings, then did he do the Yankees a disservice by taking the ball? If Cole knew that he wasn’t 100% … That’s one thing I would have loved to ask him. At some point I will. “What percent of efficiency were you working with that night, and if it was not close to 100 was it the right decision to start?”"
Certainly, there is some level of bias at play here; Klapisch sounded the alarm about Cole in the season’s aftermath, helping unearth anonymous stories to plant the seeds of regret.
He also defended DJ LeMahieu in the above discussion for the same things he admonished the right-hander for.
We’ll learn more about Gerrit Cole, God-willing, if and when the 2022 season resumes.
The rightful ace of the Yankees has faced far too many curveballs in two seasons in New York, and all he wants to do is throw his heater.