NEW YORK — Gerrit Cole has been a top-10 finisher for the Cy Young Award seven times in his 11-year career. He’s finished in the top five on six occasions, and he placed second in 2019 and 2021. But the Yankees ace had never won the prestigious hardware.
As expected, Cole took home the American League’s award on Wednesday night. Minnesota’s Sonny Gray and Toronto’s Kevin Gausman were also worthy finalists, but Cole was always the favorite. In fitting fashion, he won the award unanimously.
“I’m extremely fortunate for all the hard work that everybody has put in here,” Cole told the New York Daily News at the end of the season while discussing how his incredible campaign came together. “To a certain extent, all of us feel like they share a piece of the success that we’ve had.”
While the Yankees wasted his brilliance by missing the playoffs, Cole put together a dominant season in 2023. The righty went 15-4 as he paced the American League with a 2.63 ERA and 209 innings pitched. Cole, 33, also led the league in games started, quality starts, opponents’ batting average, shutouts, H/9, ERA+ and Win Probability Added while topping all starters in WHIP and bWAR.
Not bad for a guy who was excluded from multiple top-10 lists ranking baseball’s best pitchers prior to the season.
“You try not to let it impact the way you’re communicating with him or the way he’s working,” Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake told The News of the top-10 lists, though he added that they didn’t go unnoticed. “It doesn’t really matter in the end what you are in a ranking. It comes down to how you perform on the field.”
Cole is now the sixth Yankee to win the Cy Young Award. His company includes Bob Turley, Whitey Ford, Sparky Lyle, Ron Guidry and Roger Clemens. Guidry, a Yankees spring training instructor, spent plenty of time talking to Cole about pitching this past spring and season.
“That would be like a feather in his cap,” Guidry told The News before Cole won the Cy Young. “For everything that he has done so far, to win that award would put him in another category. Because when you start talking about the Justin Verlanders and the [Max] Scherzers, you’re going to be talking about the Gerrit Coles.”
But those contemporaries have won three Cy Young awards apiece. Cole has some catching up to do in that regard.
They also have multiple World Series rings. Cole is still searching for his first.
“Knowing Gerrit, he would probably trade off a chance to win a World Series for a personal accolade,” Verlander, a friend and former teammate on the Astros, told The News. “But the thing that’s nice about winning those awards isn’t that you have your name as like the best pitcher that year. I think it’s more of an appreciation for the work that you put in to get where you got, if that makes sense.”
The assumption was that Cole would get another serious crack at the Fall Classic this season, but the Yankees were hindered by injuries, underachieving veterans and poor roster construction. They’re expected to have a busy offseason, as they cannot waste another year of Cole and Aaron Judge’s prime.
“Seeing Gerrit this year has been special,” Judge said toward the end of the season. “It’s honestly a disappointment for me, though, that we weren’t able to back him up and have a better season and take a guy like that into the postseason. The stuff he’s done, the way he’s continued to tweak his arsenal, the way he attacks hitters, the way he evaluates hitters on a nightly basis – it’s just fun to be a part of, fun to learn from him.
“He’s the benchmark right now. He is the standard for what you look for in an ace, so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next year with him and how he continues to improve on this, because it’s been such a treat to watch this year.”
In the National League, Padres free agent Blake Snell beat out San Francisco’s Logan Webb and Arizona’s Zac Gallen. A former Ray, Snell became just the seventh pitcher to win the award in both leagues after recording a 2.25 ERA for a San Diego that also fell short of expectations.