Gerrit Cole is coming to the Bronx. A clean-shaven Cole that is.
The 11-year pursuit is finally over. A press conference was held at Yankee Stadium to formally introduce Cole to the large group of New York media present.
Cole knew that his beard had to become a thing of the past, prior to the presser last Wednesday [December 18]. Yankee players are not allowed to either sport long hair or facial hair.
“I experienced razor burn for the first time,” Cole said with respect to his new look.
Manager Aaron Boone immediately presented Cole with a jersey that rocked the number 45.
“Cleans up pretty well, doesn’t he,” Boone would say of his star ace [starting pitcher].
The New York Yankees have reeled in the biggest fish in the Major League Baseball free agent market, and it cost the organization a pretty penny to do so. Breaking the bank is something that the Yankees are known to periodically do. However, the Cole signing is the type of acquisition that would have made “The Boss” George Steinbrenner proud.
Cole, the 29-year-old right-handed pitcher, who was last seen falling eight outs short of winning a championship [with the Houston Astros], has signed with the ‘Bronx Bombers’ for a record breaking contract [for pitchers] over the next nine years, worth a reported $324 million.
“The Boss’” son, Hal Steinbrenner is confident in the investment the team made. He also made his expectations clear from jump.
“We need to win some championships,” he said. “And I believe we’re going to do that sooner rather than later.” When championships with an “s” was repeated back to him, the Yankees’ principal owner responded, “Plural.”
Continuing, “If we are going to do it [referencing the record contract] then it needs to be a guy [Cole] like this.”
With a record of 20-5, an ERA of 2.50 and a Major League best of 326 strikeouts, Cole is regarded by many of the baseball pundits as the best starter in the game today.
Boone expressed elation at the fact of knowing that he will be handing the baseball over to his stud righty every five days when Cole takes the mound.
“His passion for what he does, his ability to articulate that passion, his understanding of who he is as a pitcher and what makes him a great pitcher is something I was blown away by,” Boone said.
What are Boone’s expectations of Cole?
“I want him [Cole] to come, get acclimated as soon as possible, get comfortable with a new environment, with a new uniform, with his new teammates,” he said. “We’ll try an acclimate him as best we can. But as far as setting goals for him, no, I am not going to do that. We want him to be healthy and we will try and support him as best we can.”
Cole, a native of Southern California grew up as a Yankee fan. He opened the conference by pulling out an 18-year-old sign that he once waved as an 11-year-old at the 2001 New York Yankees-Arizona Diamondbacks World Series.
The faded sign read: “YANKEE FAN TODAY TOMORROW FOREVER”
“I’m here,” Cole proclaimed, after inviting Steinbrenner, his wife Amy and agent Scott Boras to join him at the podium. “I’ve always been here.”
Although Cole may have always envisioned himself in pinstripes. Is he ready and fully aware to embrace the responsibility that comes with wearing the Yankee uniform? Winning isn’t what’s expected it’s a lifestyle. Is Cole the player to help the Yankees end a 10-year-drought without a World Series championship?
“Pressure is a privilege. Pressure comes in situations that you’ve earned,” Cole said with regards to helping the franchise clinch their 28th championship. “You pitch in big games in September and October because you played well all year. With that in mind, you have to have a process that you know you need to stick to, to perform in those games. We can say it’s just another game, but we know when you get to October, it’s really not.”
General Manager Brian Cashman referred to Cole as his “white whale” during the Winter Meetings in San Diego California. Back in 2008 the New York Yankees drafted Cole in the first-round, with the 28th pick. At this juncture the organization was unsuccessful at convincing Cole to turn professional. In the interim, Cole opted to further his education at UCLA, while still honing his craft. And just two seasons  ago the Yankees tried to acquire Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates via a trade, however, the Pirates organization rejected the Yankees’ offer. Ultimately, Cole ended up with the Astros, in which he competed for a title last year.
“I came eight outs away from getting a ring,” Cole said. “I feel like I could see the light under the door and then it was slammed shut in our face. “I’m as hungry as ever to finish that journey, finish that challenge. In my opinion there’d be no better place to do it than New York.”
Many of the baseball experts hinted to the notion on more than one occasion, that the Yankees were one piece away from winning it all last season. Here’s to hoping that Cole is the missing link. As the old baseball adage states, “you can never have too much pitching”. Cole now joins an already impressive starting rotation with Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, and James Paxton.
The New York Yankees won 103 games last year. They are now the clear-cut favorite to win the 2020 World Series.
And after passing up on joining the Yanks in 2008 and having trade talks of coming to New York fizzle out in 2017, would there have been a third time in which Cole’s inevitable ride to the “Boogie Down” been derailed? Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Anaheim Angels threw some big [monetary] numbers at him. How close was he to signing anywhere else?
“I mean obviously, it was pretty close right,” Cole said “It came down to getting offers from three teams that said, I was their number one priority. Ultimately, as we started getting down to the process, the Yankees I think were just in front. In front of everybody by far and away. I just wanted to be cautious, just kind of putting down another club or something like that that, the Yankees did what the Yankees needed to do. And it was ultimately my dream to play here and so I wanted to follow that.”
With that said, does Cole have any expectations or goals for the upcoming season?
“As far as my expectations for next year, I am just getting prepared right?,” he said. “I am in the middle of my offseason training. I am looking forward to maybe taking that next step forward. I learned a lot last year [in Houston] and I think I have identified maybe a couple of things that I can get better at, or at least more efficient at. So, I am keeping the same process I have every offseason. I am not really trying to change anything. I am here for that reason, my process, so I am just going to stick to it.”
In closing, here is a rundown of the richest pitching contracts in Major League Baseball, as it stands now:
1.) Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees: 9 years/$324 million
2.) Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals: 7 years/$245 million
5.) Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals: 7 years/$210 million