The last time New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole toed the rubber at home in Yankee Stadium, it seemed like he’d put his recent (well, persistent, actually) home run troubles behind him.
Staked to a 4-1 lead against the last-place Red Sox, Cole’s changeup was a bit erratic, but the rest of his arsenal was working in tandem with his bravado to keep Boston at bay — until the sixth inning, at least.
Cole put runners on first and second in the frame, and came within a hair’s breadth of escaping with the three-run advantage intact before umpire Brian Knight deferred to Alex Verdugo in the box and called a ball.
Visibly miffed by the supposed injustice, Cole put a few extra MPH on his next fastball, but left the 100 MPH heater middle-middle to Verdugo, who has a penchant for crushing that sort of thing. The game-tying shot sailed into the bullpen, and Cole’s masterpiece was undone once again due to a momentary lapse in concentration.
Yankees fan favorite David Cone was in the booth that night, and watched Cole surrender a pair of home runs to reach 31 on the season, matching his career-high and leading the American League in 2022. Home runs will happen — even in this depressed offensive environment — but the second was more worrisome than the first, considering Cole’s mood shift looked to have had a hand in the ball’s flight.
Cone revealed on Jomboy Media’s Toeing The Slab podcast that he spoke with Cole in Toronto this week, assuring him that there were better ways to absorb the repeated home run blows ahead of the postseason.
Yankees ace Gerrit Cole had a conversation on temperament with David Cone
“I tried to impress upon him that sometimes I had years where … it was just your year to give up more home runs,” Cone said of his chat with Cole this week. “His fly ball-to-home run rate is over 13% this year. That’s over 2% higher than anybody else’s in the big leagues right now. Some of that’s random variance. Some of that’s fly balls leaving the ballpark that normally wouldn’t. Some of it, though, is maybe just the wrong pitch selection, the wrong pitch. And I think that Alex Verdugo at-bat was a perfect example of that.”
Some of it might be Cole’s home stadium, too, but based on a year’s worth of observation … most of it falls on the pitcher and the universe, not the dimensions. Many of Cole’s most famous homers allowed were scalded (and more still were scalded by the Boston Red Sox).
Cone rightly pointed out that Cole doubled down on a fastball to Alex Verdugo instead of exploring numerous other options. What caused that second-guess? Being flustered? An ace’s pride?
The quicker he accepts that his heightened-beyond-belief home run numbers indicate a degree of randomness (it could happen to anyone) and that his varied arsenal affords him multiple options that could work to retire a hitter, maybe the elevated figures will start to regress. There might be many right answers, but there’s always a wrong answer.
Cole might need to work a little harder to eliminate the one bad option before throwing it anyway out of spite.