Goodman: Gerrit Cole's Press Conference Performance Proves He's Up To The Task Of Bringing Championships To The Bronx
It was as if it was all scripted.
From the very moment he was introduced on Wednesday, surrounded by some of the most prestigious members of the Yankees delegation, Gerrit Cole said -- and did -- all of the right things.
Cole brought back the sign he held during the 2001 World Series close to two decades ago -- an eroded relic from his childhood functioning as the ultimate symbol of his indelible fandom and unwavering dream to be a Yankee.
He was composed under the spotlight, answering questions swiftly with candor and passion. He was grateful, thanking and acknowledging countless individuals from Hall of Fame inductee Marvin Miller to his new general manager Brian Cashman -- for "hanging in there for all those years" while the Yankees tried and tried again to haul in their 'white whale.'
Mix that in with Cole's prestige on the mound, coming off an extraordinary season in 2019, the Yankee faithful collectively yearns for Opening Day and the start of what is poised to be a prosperous decade for those in pinstripes.
And yet, of all Cole's comments on Wednesday -- with his capabilities between the lines backing it up -- it was his confidence and motivation to win a championship during his tenure with the Yankees, multiple championships, that stood out the most.
When asked how to make this marriage -- a record nine-year, $324 million engagement -- successful and productive for both sides, Cole didn't hesitate.
"I think we need to win. We need to win a world championship and ideally more than one," he said on YES Network following his press conference. "It's our job to go out there and perform to the best of our abilities and compete for our teammates and our city. So we'll do that and the numbers will fall where the numbers will fall. But we'll be out there on the field competing our butts off trying to bring, let's try to get 30 of them."
It was a moment reminiscent of LeBron James promising several championships in South Beach during his welcome party and first appearance as a member of the Miami Heat. Not one, not two, not three ...
At this point, Cole hadn't made any promises -- as James did with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh laughing beside him in 2010 -- emphasizing that No. 30 is what he wants to shoot for in New York. But a 30th banner in the Bronx means three World Series titles over Cole's next nine years with the club.
It's been done before -- while Cole was growing up a Yankees fan in Southern California, he witnessed the Bombers win the World Series in four out of five years from 1996 to 2000. Now, however, the Yankees haven't even played a game in the Fall Classic in over a decade. Could the addition of one player truly solidify the next Yankee dynasty?
Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees managing general partner -- who will be writing Cole a $36 million check each year for the next nine -- seems to be convinced.
After years of restraint, deciding not to empty the organization's pockets for the most expensive free agents available on the market, the record-high contract for Cole is a small price to pay based on what he is capable of bringing to the Bronx.
"It is a lot of money," Steinbrenner said on YES Network, "but remember this isn’t just for 2020. This is going to be one of the best aces in baseball we’re going to have for a good number of years. I think it’s going to bring us world championships. That’s the hope always, right?"
Again, Cole has proven with the ball in his hand, he's one of the best hurlers in the game. He won 20 games in 2019, falling just short to teammate Justin Verlander in the AL Cy Young Award race. He bullied hitters with his electric arsenal, failing to lose a single game from mid-May to October, while leading the league in several pitching categories including ERA (2.50 -- best in the American League) and strikeouts (326 -- best in all of baseball).
He proved on Wednesday, however, that his ultimate goal is to get a ring, no matter what it takes. And when it comes to fulfilling expectations, which are already sky-high for the right-hander, his experience over his seven-year career has prepared him for this moment.
After his big-league debut in Pittsburgh in 2013, Cole recalled learning from A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton before graduating to becomming the No. 1 option in the Pirates' rotation. He was a former first-overall pick with all eyes on each of his starts. Then, surrounded by former Cy Young Award winners in Houston -- like Dallas Keuchel, Zack Greinke and Verlander -- he continued to grow and gather postseason experience. Now, he's accustomed to pitching under pressure.
"I’ve kind of developed a process for how I go about that and although this situation [in New York] is something I haven’t experienced before, I'm just going to lean on the things I have learned previously and try to adjust and try to take a step left or take a step right whenever I need to," he said.
Cole called pressure "a privilege," explaining that it comes in situations you have earned. His rise to the peak of pitching prowess has him coveting that next step more than ever, culminating with a close call in 2019.
"I came eight outs from getting a ring," he said at the podium, recalling an agonizing defeat for his Astros in Game 7 of the World Series two months ago. "I'm as hungry as ever to finish that journey, finish that challenge, and in my opinion, there would be no better place to do it than New York."
Back in 2010, Miami Heat fans believed LeBron -- the best player in the sport joining forces with two All-Stars to make a legendary Big Three. Not four, not five, not six, not seven.
Yes, the Heat didn't win seven NBA titles, but James won two and took Miami to four-straight appearances in the NBA Finals.
With arguably the best starting pitcher in the game joining forces with a young, talented and high-powered offense, alongside one of the deepest, filthiest bullpens in baseball, Yankees fans should believe Cole's World Series comments just the same.
Not only because of what he's capable of on the field, but because of his drive and aspirations. He's dreamed of being a New York Yankee his entire life -- that came to reality this week. So, what's next?
In an interview long after his press conference on Wednesday -- with Christopher Mad Dog Russo, on MLB Network -- Cole summed up his career in just a few moments. He ran through his time in Pittsburgh, in Houston, his recruitment process this offseason, the resources he can lean on now as a member of the Yankees organization and then closed with a promise.
"Obviously, I hope we win in less than seven games, but if it goes to Game 7, I'll be out there and I'll be ready to go."
A promise that when the season is on the line, he'll be ready to get the job done. A promise that Yankee fans will have no trouble holding him to for years to come.
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