Say what you will about Gerrit Cole — and Yankees fans have said plenty — but the man has accepted both familial pressure and regional pressure. He knew full well what he was getting into.
The hatred he receives comes not because he’s indicated he didn’t know what type of challenge New York would be, nor does it follow him because he’s taken a massive pay check and sat back on it while watching the narrative unfold. Cole receives scorn only because the expectations for his Yankee tenure were through the roof, beyond the sky, and outside the atmosphere.
Instead, he’s merely been a very, very good pitcher — franchise record for single-season strikeouts — whose blow-ups have been magnified, scrutinized and shamed because of their apparently bizarre origins (IKF errors? Billy Crystal?), but mostly because he hasn’t had a real playoff run yet.
In 2020, Cole’s first season with the team, the opportunity was taken away from him due to the pandemic. He played 60 regular-season games, then went on the road to Cleveland and “home” to San Diego and was very good, faltering against Austin Meadows on short rest in the deciding game. 2021? No matter what Boston fans want to spin, he was injured and at less than his best. He has to own his struggles and his decision-making there, but to claim he was at full-strength is farcical.
Now, 2022 brings Cole’s first-ever home playoff start in the Bronx, three years (and two playoff appearances!) into his tenure. It’s almost difficult to believe.
While actions speak louder than words, Cole’s final interview before the contest, with The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler, shows this is exactly what he signed up for, rather than a relaxing early offseason closer to home with the Angels.
Yankees ace Gerrit Cole has right mentality for 2022 ALDS Game 1
Said it before, especially after Cole crossed Ron Guidry’s Yankees record. Will say it again. The right-hander made it clear in this interview that he chose the Yanks in large part because of his personal history, but also because he runs to pressure-filled obligations, not away from them.
Sure, he could’ve been an Angel. His season could’ve been both very relaxing and already over. Instead, though, he’s a history-obsessed pitcher who’d rather be throwing a playoff bullpen session while exploring his upper limits.
Cole’s second half has not been up to code. Littered with Alex Verdugo moments and Rafael Devers memes, he’s been … alright by most standards, but not by his. Since July 4, his ERA is 3.94 and his starts have been coin flips; the Yankees are 9-8 in their ace’s outings.
But the clock has now reset for the team — and pitcher — who won’t take non-competitive starts and seasons for an answer.
If he fails, he’ll need to answer to history. He’ll also need to answer himself. It’s little consolation, but these painful moments hurt Cole as much as they sting any diehard. His goal, moving forward, is to minimize them and embrace the cold chill and the rippling crowd — and he chose exactly this burden.