The pressures of New York can be overwhelming for the common folk, but when the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole to a record-breaking deal, they knew he could handle the fire. Cole, 29, was the league’s best pitcher in 2019, setting career highs in both ERA (2.50) and strikeouts (326).
Current and past Yankees players took to the media to express their confidence in Cole and his ability to weather the storm in high-pressure situations. He’s not only physically strong but mentally as well, which is an attribute that takes plenty of psychological refinement. James Paxton endured high-stake situations last season, as he was the Yankees’ top pitcher in the playoffs. The mental skills he developed throughout the year and therapeutic sessions all contributed towards his success on the mound.
One former Yankee great, Bernie Williams, has seen his fair share of ardent moments in Pinstripes, and he was one of the first to advocate for Cole’s dominance moving forward.
“He’s a player that has come into the city with a lot of expectations,” Williams said of Cole during an interview with MLB Network. “Obviously, every time he doesn’t do well with that side, kind of expectations, they’re going to throw his contract in. But I think, for me, has just has to stay the course. He, obviously, has a lot of confidence in his ability to play the game and to pitch. New York is going to challenge that ability and that confidence in many ways.
“So I think in order for him to be successful, he just has to kind of go back to what made him successful and stick with that plan. And no matter what happens, no matter the distractions and everything New York can throw at him, he has to stay firm with his course and having that confidence and his ability that have brought him in the first place to New York.”
The Yankees culture will test Gerrit Cole on all levels:
The fans in New York can be some of the most hostile in the world, especially to their own players. Dishing out $324 million over nine-years to a pitcher comes with its restraints, and Cole will face the harsh reality of failure if he cannot live up to expectations. However, he has proven to be successful in high-leverage situations, helping take the Houston Astros to the World Series in 2019 as their ace.
New York in September is a different type of intensity, though, and Bernie knows all too well what that can do to a fresh face.