It’s been a while since fans looked at Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ ace, and viewed him as Gerrit Cole, the lifelong Yankee fan. The faded sign at his welcome press conference feels like a decade ago, his first half-season robbed by the pandemic and the adoring crowds silenced entirely for that very strange campaign.
What should’ve been an electric summer was muted by things beyond anyone’s control, and from 2021 on, Cole has been an extremely good pitcher burdened by championship expectations — and, yes, his fascination with preparation down to the second has derailed a number of games during this very bizarre season. There’s also been a scandal or two.
It hasn’t been just baseball with Cole, but not in the “this means more” way we expected. Rather, he’s been caught up in negativity rather than treacly praise.
On Tuesday, Cole got a chance to show off his softer side to the Yankees’ faithful in a moment from the locker room that got posted to the team’s social channels. In a year where his high-profile struggles have fractured the fan base, this extended moment really worked to foster catharsis.
Cole set the all-time franchise single-season strikeout record in his final start, ultimately settling at 257 in 200.2 innings pitched and passing Ron Guidry’s mark of 248. In the postgame mellow-out session, Anthony Rizzo pulled off de facto captain duties and announced to Cole that Guidry was on the phone to speak with him. Then, Cole’s fandom really came out.
Yankees fan Gerrit Cole got surprised by a Ron Guidry call
This two-minute clip is full of humanizing moments, from Cole breaking his façade to giggle a little bit at Guidry watching the game on his phone, to the current ace cracking when Guidry demanded he call him “Gator” rather than “sir.”
After the quick call, Cole addressed the team, and while some unwholesome rival fans might want to drill down on his, “Aw, shucks” attitude here, the right-hander did remind the quieted room that he was a Yankee fan before he was a Yankee, and thanked his catchers Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka for splitting the record-tying and record-breaking Ks with him.
Soft-spoken the entire time, Cole did seem very deferential to history here, a helpful reminder that perhaps more than anyone else in the locker room, he’s chasing centuries of Yankees baseball and 30 years of his own fandom every time he tries to lead this franchise on an October quest.
Looking at the end-of-season numbers, too, a pattern emerges that indicates maybe we got Cole wrong all along? Maybe he’s more Jack Morris than Ron Guidry?
Pure dominance when the bats don’t show up. Pitching to the score when the Yankees offense affords him the right to.
Game 2 is still where we’d tuck Cole, giving him the chance to pitch in front of the ghosts in a hypothetical home Game 5, too.
Regardless, the numbers — and speech, and reverence — indicate he could be more ready for low-scoring playoff baseball than he was initially made out to be.