Gerrit Cole gets Yankees relief far away from Astros dumpster fire
TAMPA — Here on the calm side of the Sunshine State, Gerrit Cole shrugged uncomfortably at the five-alarm dumpster fire engulfing his most recent employers.
The rest of the Yankees don’t seem to feel quite as terrible about it.
“Nobody’s getting a win out of this, and it doesn’t look very good,” Cole said, referring to the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, Thursday at George M. Steinbrenner Field. “I guess I’m just fortunate to be able to be here, move past it, and, I guess, get to experience all the great things about coming to a new team.”
The Yankees agreed to pay Cole $324 million over nine years to join them for myriad reasons, starting with his talent, his personality and his age, and it certainly served as an alluring bonus that they directly weakened their top rival by swiping the right-hander directly from the Astros.
And now, as this Astros-hued mushroom cloud keeps expanding thanks to the continued public-relations felonies by Houston’s woefully tone-deaf owner Jim Crane and his merry band of generally insensitive players, all of whom embarrassed themselves as they opened their camp across the way in West Palm Beach, the selection of Cole gains wisdom daily as much by serendipity as anything else.
Think about it: In a vacuum, the Yankees needed an ace most of all, right? It just so happened that the best available ace spent the last two seasons pitching for the Astros. But, critically, only the last two seasons, which means Cole avoided the trash can-banging system of 2017 that served as the centerpiece of Rob Manfred’s recent report.
That report did conclude an illegal system of sign-stealing, apparently not as egregious as the trash-can usage, continued “at least for part of the 2018 season” before petering out, due to perceived ineffectiveness, prior to those playoffs. Hence when Cole said Thursday he wasn’t aware of any illegalities committed by his teammates with bats, it didn’t challenge common sense the way such a denial by a 2017 Astros pitcher would.
As for the suspicions by his new manager Aaron Boone and new teammates Aroldis Chapman and Gary Sanchez that the 2019 Astros used wearable devices, including for Jose Altuve’s pennant-winning homer off Chapman, Cole could follow the crowd (and Major League Baseball’s announcement that it found no such evidence).
“I wouldn’t have seen it or been privy to that information, anyway,” Cole said. “I believe my ex-teammates, I believe those guys.”
The Yankees seem prepared to believe Cole’s disavowal. He has enough cover thanks to his timeline of when the Pirates traded him to Houston, and with that in mind, let’s be honest: Boone and company have nothing to gain by challenging Cole’s pinstriped bona fides. Hence, Cole said he hasn’t discussed the Astros disaster with anyone here, and Boone insisted, despite the strong resentment he and many others still hold toward their repeat vanquishers, Cole need not cross any credibility bridge in order to be fully accepted.
“He’s crossed,” Boone said.
“For whatever reason there’s this buzz permeating through my life, whether I’m looking for it or not, and it feels really good,” Cole said, and the usage of “buzz,” minutes after discussing wearable devices, set off a round of laughter. That wordplay aside, it truly is amazing how much more Cole’s former team factors into his adjustment here than even someone like Johnny Damon, who traveled straight from the Red Sox to the Yankees.
The dumpster fire shows no sign of cessation. Cole can be simultaneously excited about his immediate future and relieved to be far from his past.
What an odd hand Cole has been dealt. What a great one, more than ever, for the Yankees. All that’s left is to play that hand savvily enough to cash it in for a parade.
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