By Dan Martin in Minneapolis and Ken Davidoff in New York
Gerrit Cole sticks to his story that he has bigger concerns than the accusations of abuses from opponents.
The ace of the Yankees held by far the least comfortable press conference of his pinstripe period on Tuesday afternoon, as he received a number of questions about allegations that his success stems in large part from faking baseball. Cole tap-danced around several questions and immediately refused to answer a question about whether he had used Spider Tack, a paste that has become popular among pitchers.
“I honestly don’t know how to answer that,” Cole said at a Zoom press conference at Target Field, before the Yankees opened a series with the Twins. “There are habits and customs that have been passed down from older players to younger players from the last generation of players to this generation of players, and I think there are some things that are definitely out of bounds in that regard, and I’ve stood there quite a bit. firmly in, in terms of the communication between our colleagues and all that.
“[T]he is important to many people who love the game, including the players in this room. Including fans. Including teams. If MLB wants to sort out a few more things, that’s a conversation we can have because eventually we should all be moving in the same direction.”
Major League Baseball, concerned about the skyrocketing strikeout rate in the game, plans to significantly increase enforcement of on-the-book rules regarding pitchers using illegal substances soon, as The Post’s Joel Sherman reported last week. .
Manager Aaron Boone said the team was discussing the upcoming increased enforcement.
“It’s something we’ve discussed in our room, as far as, ‘This is stuff coming up,'” Boone said. “If we’re doing anything beyond the pale or undersized plate, we need to clean it up. We talked about that as a group.”
When asked if he saw a difference between long-used substances like pine tar and sunscreen, which pitchers used to improve their grip, and something like Spider Tack, Cole said, “I think there’s precedent for saying that, yes. ..certainly in situations where people have been checked and called before, it’s over the line There’s a difference there, too much, over the line.
“I don’t see why the landscape has changed in that regard. I don’t have all the data or the information to specifically distinguish the substances you mention and what they do or do not have an effect on. But I do believe there are things that are likely to cross the line and cause more emotion and more worry and more stress about some of the bigger things in the industry. But again, it’s not the whole picture.”
Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson caused a stir when he singled out Cole last week, pointing to the righthander’s most recent start on June 3, when he lost to the Rays, 9-2: “Is it a coincidence that Gerrit Cole’s spin rate numbers dropped after four minor leaguers played 10 games? Suspended? Is that possible? I don’t know. Could be. At the same time with this situation they made guys do it.”
On Donaldson’s comment, Cole said: “I thought it was a bit of low-hanging fruit, but he’s entitled to his opinion, to express his opinion. I have other things to keep my attention on. With respect, I can’t be concerned about that sort of thing, but I would say that as a member of the union’s executive council, part of my job, part of my role here is to facilitate communication about absolutely everything. which has to do with the game. I am open to doing that.”
The two face each other on Wednesday, when Cole starts against Donaldson and the Twins.
Cole said his spin rates dropped last week because he “wasn’t 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 suggesting, without making an explicit charge, that the Astros — who had taken over Cole the previous season — were going over the line with sticky stuff to improve their spin speeds.
“It doesn’t make me happy,” Cole said of the allusions and accusations. “I’m not thrilled about it. But for that matter, I just have to leave it where it is.”