Gerrit Cole has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball over the last four years. He was an important piece in turning the Houston Astros into a World Series team during his two-year stay. Now with the New York Yankees for the past two years, his overall dominance on the pitching mound has continued. He has clearly proved that he is in the elite class of starting pitchers, but the Yankees signed him to be even more than that. Despite his great success, he still has much more to prove.
Being the Ace
Gerrit Cole had a ton of success in his two years with the Astros. He finished in the top five of the AL Cy Young Award voting in both seasons but he wasn"t even the best starting pitcher on his own team. Justin Verlander was the ace of the Astros pitching staff. That doesn"t discredit any of Cole"s success, as he would have been the best pitcher on just about any other team, but it"s a different dynamic when expectations are changed. Verlander was the ace, with Cole not far behind, and they made an excellent pitching duo.
When Cole signed with the Yankees, he was not only asked to be the ace of an otherwise mediocre starting rotation, but he was expected to be the piece that would get the Yankees over the hump and into the World Series. The Yankees are currently on a championship drought, especially for their own high standards. They make the postseason push every year but have fallen short of ultimate glory for more than a decade now. The massive contract that GM Brian Cashman and the Yankees organization gave Cole was with the thought that he would be the difference-maker.
Gerrit Cole was not signed by the Yankees to keep them in the postseason every year, but to turn them back into an annual threat to win the World Series. Despite some excellent results in the regular season, Cole has not exactly delivered what the Yankees were hoping for. He finished in the top five of the AL Cy Young voting in both seasons with the Yankees but hasn"t brought them added postseason success. In fact, a strong case can be made that he was the main reason why the Yankees lost the 2021 AL Wild Card Game to the Boston Red Sox.
Gerrit Cole"s Disappointing Conclusion to 2021
The Wild Card game is a do-or-die situation. There is no series involved, just one game to determine which team advances. These types of postseason situations are the exact reason why the Yankees gave Gerrit Cole a mega-contract. In theory, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball and provides a huge advantage in a winner take all game against just about any other team in all of baseball. With Cole on the mound, the Yankees should always expect to win.
Rather than being the biggest difference-maker for a victory, Gerrit Cole heavily contributed to the Yankees" demise. He could only finish two innings while allowing three runs including two home runs. To say the performance was disappointing is a complete understatement. For as good as Cole can be, and what he is being paid to be for the Yankees, it was simply unacceptable.
Something to Prove
Gerrit Cole has proven that he can be a dominant pitcher, but he still has more to prove if he wants to be loved in The Bronx. Yankees fans have a high standard, especially when players are brought in on huge contracts. Regular season performance is irrelevant in their eyes if it"s not leading the Yankees to the World Series. Cole has never won a Cy Young award in his career and has never been the ace of a pitching staff who has won the World Series. He has an opportunity to do both of those with the Yankees. The latter, of course, is the top priority.
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