Gerrit Cole is sticking to his story that he has greater worries than opponents’ accusations of wrongdoing.
The Yankees’ ace held by far the least comfortable news conference of his pinstriped term on Tuesday afternoon, as he received a number of questions concerning accusations that his success emanates significantly from doctoring the baseball. Cole tap-danced around several queries and refused to directly answer a question whether he has used Spider Tack, a paste that has become popular among pitchers.
“I don’t quite know how to answer that, to be honest,” Cole said during a Zoom news conference at Target Field, before the Yankees opened a series with the Twins. “There are customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to younger players to the last generation of players to this generation off players, and I think there are some things that are certainly out of bounds in that regard, and I’ve stood pretty firm in terms of that, in terms of the communication between our peers and whatnot.
“…(T)his is important to a lot of people who love the game, including the players in this room. Including fans. Including teams. If MLB wants to legislate some more stuff, that’s a conversation that we can have because ultimately we should all be pulling in the same direction on this.”
Major League Baseball, concerned about the skyrocketing number of strikeouts in the game, intends, shortly, to greatly increase the enforcement of on-the-book rules concerning pitchers using illicit substances, as The Post’s Joel Sherman reported last week.
Asked if he saw a difference between long-utilized substances like pine tar and sunscreen, which pitchers deployed to improve their grip, and something like Spider Tack, Cole said, “I think there is precedent to say that yeah,…certainly in situations where people have been checked and called out before, it’s over the line. There is a difference there, too much, over the line.
“I don’t see why the landscape now has changed in that regard. I don’t have all the data or the information to specifically pick apart the substances that you mention and what they may or may not have an effect on. But I do believe there are things that are probably over the line and causing more emotion and more worry and more stress about some of the greater things in the industry. But again, it’s not the entire picture.”
Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson created a stir this past week when he singled out Cole, pointing to the right-hander’s most recent start June 3 when he lost to the Rays, 9-2: “Is it coincidence that Gerrit Cole’s spin rate numbers went down after four minor-leaguers got suspended for 10 games? Is that possible? I don’t know. Maybe. At the same time, with this situation, they’ve let guys do it.”
To Donaldson’s comment, Cole said, “I kind of thought it was a bit of low-hanging fruit, but he’s entitled to his opinion, to voice his opinion. I have other things that I need to keep my focus on. Respectfully, I can’t worry about that type of stuff, but I would say that as a member of the Executive Council in the union, part of my job, part of my role here is to facilitate communication about really all things involving the game. I’m open to doing that.”
Cole said his spin rates dropped last week due to “not being as good or as sharp as I wanted to be. Simple as that.”
In 2018, Cole’s former UCLA teammate Trevor Bauer posted a tweet that implied, without explicitly, lodging an accusation, that the Astros — who had acquired Cole the prior offseason — were going over the line with sticky stuff to improve their spin rates.
“It doesn’t make me happy,” Cole said of the innuendo and allegations. “I’m not thrilled about it. But as far as that, I have to just kind of leave it where it is.”