Mark Madden: Gerrit Cole’s post-Series behavior is sign of the times
We are experiencing a new breed of athletes.
Gerrit Cole’s primary goal in baseball isn’t to win a World Series. It’s to hit free agency.
Antonio Brown cares about branding more than playing, not figuring that the latter facilitated the former. (Brown might realize that now as he sits at home watching his phone not ring.)
Fan outrage is minimal. Millennials largely empathize with such madness. Everybody is his own boss.
Sports have gone off the deep end. Everything is me-first. The name on the back of the uniform matters far more than the name on the front.
Is this payback for the days when rich owners exploited dumb players, giving them an absurdly low fraction of revenue?
Doubtful. Here’s betting Cole has no idea who Curt Flood is.
Cole knows who Scott Boras is, though.
Boras is Cole’s agent. Just minutes after Cole’s Houston Astros lost Game 7 of the World Series, Cole addressed the media wearing a baseball cap bearing Boras’ corporate logo. Cole proclaimed he was no longer an employee of the Astros and was speaking as a representative of himself.
When Cole spoke, he was complimentary of his time in Houston. The next day, Cole went on social media to post a message to Houston that was mostly a thank you but seemed a thinly-veiled farewell.
When Wednesday dawned, what did Cole anticipate most: Game 7, or launching his free agency?
One guesses the latter, because losing the former didn’t clamp on any restraints despite occurring in incredibly heartbreaking fashion. (Cole didn’t pitch. Perhaps that contributed to his petulance.)
Cole’s approach might be shocking, but it’s not surprising. It’s vintage Cole.
The Pirates signed Cole after making him the first selection overall in the 2011 MLB Draft. It’s generally known Cole immediately started marking the days until he could hit free agency, likely to return to his native California.
Nothing is wrong with that. Cole’s attitude wasn’t perfect in Pittsburgh but nor was the way the Pirates used him. He gave top effort.
Cole’s Pirates tenure was solid and served as a launching pad to stardom once he got traded to Houston after the 2017 season and was allowed to lead MLB in strikeouts (326 this year) instead of pitching to contact. This year, Cole went 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA. He likely will win the American League Cy Young Award.
Cole didn’t finagle anything. He conducted himself within the confines of MLB’s system.
But his callous and immediate departure from Houston revealed his long-term intent: Free agency is Cole’s World Series.
Some might not see the harm.
But what about Cole’s teammates, who sweated blood with him for two years only to immediately see him put them at arm’s length in the immediate aftermath of a devastating loss? What about Astros ownership and management, who paid Cole $20.25 million over those seasons? What about Astros fans? They don’t own Boras Corp. caps.
Cole doesn’t care. He always has been in baseball for himself and no one else.
It’s the way of today’s athlete.
At the very least, Cole owed Houston a better look. Maybe wait 24 hours to launch free agency.
Cole grew up a New York Yankees fan.
But that certainly doesn’t mean he’ll sign with the Yankees despite them doubtless making a hefty bid.
In 2008, when Cole was a senior in high school, the Yankees drafted him in the first round (28th overall). But Cole didn’t romanticize his way to his favorite team. He played college baseball at UCLA and ultimately doubled his signing bonus three years later ($8 million instead of $4 million).
Cole sees all the angles. He’s a true mercenary. He plays for himself and the Boras Corp.
That’s no indictment of Cole. It’s a sign of the times.