Alek Manoah's brutal return to Blue Jays proved Gerrit Cole karma still looming

Try again.
Toronto Blue Jays v Washington Nationals
Toronto Blue Jays v Washington Nationals / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

When Alek Manoah showed the hubris to call Yankees ace Gerrit Cole the "worst cheater in baseball history" after the 2022 season, it wasn't shocking. It was merely an extension of his mound persona -- the type of brash fearlessness a pitcher earns by repeatedly answering the bell.

Who cared, besides Yankee fans, that it was a pathetic exaggeration? That cheating metrics across generations do not exist, and that if they did, a pitcher who benefitted from widespread grip enhancements and once held a press conference where he stuttered wouldn't outrank gamblers who bet on baseball or sluggers who relied on injectables.

At the time, Manoah was the leader of a new generation of fire-breathing aces, prepared to spark a rivalry with New York by any means necessary and setting up an exciting next chapter of his personal DVD.

Baseball has a funny little way of begging for more than one standout season from its next generation, though, as well as humbling those who test fate.

Manoah, at the time, was a media darling famous for taking charge and stealing the mic'd-up show at the 2022 All-Star Game. He was thriving at center stage in a mano-a-mano world where ego is rewarded.

Only problem? He undeservedly looped someone else into his story, and karma doesn't look kindly upon transgression deflection. Who knows what spurred Manoah's 2022 performance, or whether there were any (extremely common) grip enhancers involved? All we know is that the right-hander got high on his own supply in the wake of his Cole comments, showing up to camp out of shape in 2023, relying on past performance rather than elevating himself.

He posted a 5.87 ERA in 19 starts. He walked 59 men in 87.1 innings. He was pasted, during a reset rehab assignment, by the Yankees' FCL team (and, to be fair, they were historically good).

When presented with a chance to exit the spotlight in September, he refused an assignment to Triple-A Buffalo. Guess he wanted his 2022 status handed back to him rather than having to work for it. And isn't refusing to outwork your opponents while hoping divine intervention hands you something another form of cheating?

Manoah returned to MLB last weekend because the Blue Jays had simply run out of viable depth, and while he had an opportunity to begin crafting his redemption arc (again, out of necessity, not viability), he was once again confronted with what it looks like when a less-talented team outworks you. These Washington Nationals aren't historically good, but they sure do look better than anticipated thanks to their youth, vigor and athleticism, and even some theoretically washed veterans like Jesse Winker are buying in.

Or maybe Manoah was just that bad. Either way, he allowed seven runs before departing.

Baseball: the only place left in the world that punishes you for lying.

Now, it's up to Manoah. Either his downfall will forever be Exhibit B in Gerrit Cole's rise, or he'll return to prominence and save the Blue Jays from becoming the worst type of trade deadline fodder. He could likely use a fresh start and change of scenery, but when teams speak of "buy low" candidates, they don't typically mean this low.

They also don't mean morally low; baseball doesn't look kindly on mud-slingers.