Reports From New York Prove Some Pirate Fans Correct About Gerrit Cole

Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports

I always liked Gerrit Cole when he was a Pittsburgh Pirate.  I’m not sure if it was because I attended his Major League debut or because I so desperately wanted Cole to succeed for the sake of the Pirates, but I always felt like I was one of his biggest defenders during his tenure here.  He was a great pitcher and I could tell he had the potential to be dominant. 

I also never could quite figure out the hatred toward him from some Pirate fans.  There were many fans, even when he was a Pirate, that did not like the guy.  Most of the comments were that, “he was soft” or “he’s mentally weak.”  A lot of fans also felt he should have been performing better with the skillset he had, despite putting up very quality numbers in his time in Pittsburgh.  I think it was also easy, at the time, to compare Cole to fan-favorite, A.J. Burnett.

Burnett was a hard-nosed, in-your-face, someone you did not want to mess with, type pitcher.  Burnett also played some of his best baseball with the Pirates, whereas we have learned now, we did not get Cole’s best.  I, too, even as one of his biggest fans, remember Cole struggling to work his way out of jams.  If an error occurred behind him or a batted ball beat the shift, he would mentally crumble.  His worst innings were when something would go wrong, and he could not recover form it. 

A lot of Pirate fans remember that version of Gerrit Cole.  And that version of Gerrit Cole apparently came to fruition in New York this year in the Yankees locker room.

The incident was first reported by NJ Advance Media’s Bob Klapisch on Sunday.  It is known that when the MLB banned the substance Spider Tack among other sticky substances, Gerrit Cole did not take it lightly.  He had several televised interviews where he appeared to be close to tears over the ban, as if cheating was his only way of ever pitching productively again.

In addition to the laughable interviews, Klapish reports that Cole and teammate Brett Gardner got into a scuffle over the issue.  Gardner was parading around the clubhouse with pine tar on his hat, trying to add some levity to the situation.  Unfortunately, mentally weak, Gerrit Cole, did not laugh.  Instead, according to one of Klapish’s sources, Cole got right up in Gardner’s face and told him to knock it off.  The two later apologized to each other and the incident was put behind them, but it still exposed a lot about Cole.

It is one thing to criticize the way in which a rookie is handling his role in the clubhouse, but Cole has no business getting in the face of 14-year veteran Brett Gardner.  Gardner is 37 years-old and the last active member of the 2009 Yankees World Series team.  Cole is a perennial Cy Young candidate, but there is still a certain amount of decorum in sports locker rooms when it comes to seniority.  Also, it’s baseball.  Cole needs to relax and learn to take a joke.

However, all of this reiterates what many thought about Cole in Pittsburgh.  While his performance and numbers speak for themselves, he has unlikeable qualities.  One of the critiques was always about him being mentally weak and this incident, combined with all of the sticky substances interviews, would certainly make him appear that way.  The Yankees have not won a World Series since 2009 and if Cole keeps disrupting team chemistry like this, they may not get another for a while.