It does not matter what team you pledge your loyalty to, watching Gerrit Cole pitch is must-see baseball. Cole embodies what it means to be a true competitor; in a time of monster contracts, often there’s uncertainty if any player is worth the money and risk. Cole’s deal is for nine years and $324 million, making him the first pitcher in MLB history to earn a $300 million contract. Is a contract of that size a gamble with how susceptible pitchers are to injuries? Perhaps. However, so far, if Cole’s reaction to manager Aaron Boone pulling him from the game Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays in the seventh inning is any indicator for the future, the Yankees have nothing to worry about.
After striking out Rays’ catcher Mike Zunino with a wicked 97.7 mph fastball, Cole needed just one more out in the seventh and was ready to face Austin Meadows. At this point, he had thrown his 109th pitch of the night. A high pitch count for sure, however, after giving up a solo home run to Ji-Man Choi in the top of the second inning, and another in the third to Zunino, it initially appeared Cole did not have his best stuff Wednesday. By the seventh inning, despite the pitch count, Cole seemed as relaxed and locked in as ever, by far the strongest he had looked that night. It was after his fastball to Zunino that Boone stepped in to pull Cole for the evening. Cole seemed apprehensive, to say the least. “I wanted to finish the game,” Cole later told the media that night. As soon as Cole noticed his manager approaching him to finish his night, he let out a loud expletive for all to hear. As Boone took the ball, Cole appeared to yell something at the skipper and then again covering his mouth with his glove. “He [Boone] made the move before he even got out there, so it didn’t really matter whatever I said on the mound. And whatever I said to him in my glove, we’ll leave it at that,” he said when asked about what went down on the field.
In the context of the last week’s dialogue regarding “unwritten rules,” naturally, there was some critique of Cole’s anger with his manager on a public stage and his heated postgame conference after. “There was a question if I was good enough to go back out to the seventh, and the answer was yes. I was in a good position to finish it.” Of course, Cole did not want to just finish the seventh; he wanted to finish the game. “Probably if he had his way, he’d go out there and throw 140 or 150 pitches every five days. He wants to finish the game when he starts the game, so that doesn’t surprise me he was upset about that,” Boone said in response to Cole’s heated postgame conference. Boone had no problem with Cole’s reaction, so should anyone?
Perhaps his teammate Brett Gardner said it best—Gerrit Cole is the ultimate competitor. All baseball fans should love his attitude. There is nothing more exciting to watch than a player who puts it all on the field every time they’re out there. Did Boone make the correct decision to pull Cole? Yes. No matter how locked in he was at that point, you cannot let any pitcher, especially your ace, risk their arm to throw that many pitches in some regular-season game. Not to mention, Yankees reliever Zack Britton was the better matchup for Meadows anyways. Regardless, the genuine anger Cole expressed to being pulled makes him a prime example of a player everyone should want on their team. Dedicated, fired up, and constantly striving to be the best. Now consider the Yankees have this guy locked up for at least the next nine years? He’s going to lead their rotation and entire pitching staff for a loooong time. Young pitchers in the organization will not only have a pitching role model to look up to but also a player who exemplifies what it means to compete. Say what you will about the “Yankee Way” and the idea of the organization’s players “earning their pinstripes,” but men like Gerrit Cole exemplify what their club has lived by for years and years. While maybe the MLB does not need to adhere to the “Yankee Way,” certainly the sport would benefit from more players expressing the same passion Cole does in every start.
Photos courtesy of Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)