NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 18: Gerrit Cole pose for a photo at Yankee Stadium during a press conference at Yankee Stadium on December 18, 2019 in New York City.
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Gerrit Cole is the unquestioned ace of New York City, and all Jacob deGrom stans must accept this universal truth and stop complaining.

I’m a lifelong New Yorker, and we have high standards.

It doesn’t matter if you support the New York Yankees or the New York Mets. Wherever your baseball loyalties lie, you expect your team to perform up to snuff. Bronx, Flushing, it doesn’t matter. We will cheer the good times and, more often than not, go full Bruce Banner for the bad.

And when it comes to pitching, both the Yankees and Mets have the creme de la creme of aces. Jacob deGrom has overcome being on some underachieving teams to win two Cy Young Awards with some truly eye-popping numbers.

Gerrit Cole, meanwhile, overcame a slow start with the Pittsburgh Pirates and became one of baseball’s most feared arms with the Houston Astros. In December 2019, he inked a nine-year, $325 million deal with the Yankees and fulfilled a lifelong dream.

This isn’t to pooh-pooh deGrom’s accomplishments, but he isn’t the ace of the greatest city in the world. Maybe on numbers, but there’s no real claim to the throne based on them alone.

Cole, rather, is the ace of New York not by numbers, overall performance, or other accomplishments, but by birthright.


The luck of deGrom

I’ve heard the same argument every time from what seems like every single Mets fan. Blah blah blah Jacob deGrom is great blah blah blah deGoat blah blah blah Cy Young Awards.

Look, we all get it. Jacob deGrom can pitch! He’s great at it! When all of his pitches are working, he’s nearly unhittable.

Furthermore, deGrom absolutely earned those NL Cy Young trophies. There wasn’t any controversy when he won either. He was the hands-down, bar-none best pitcher in baseball both years that he won. The New York Mets might have held him back in the win department, but that’s a meaningless stat anyway.

But let’s talk about Jacob deGrom and the Mets for a second. The team drafted him out of Stetson University in Florida in 2010, he debuted in 2014, and the rest is history. It was a long road, but he is now the unquestioned ace of the staff.

Here’s the rub. When push comes to shove, Jacob deGrom is a great pitcher who just happened to hit his stride with the New York Mets.

Gerrit Cole, meanwhile, was destined to be a New York Yankee from the start.


Born for pinstripes

Okay, fine. So Gerrit Cole isn’t a native New Yorker. He didn’t grow up playing catch in Central Park, arguing whether John’s on Bleecker or Prince Street Pizza has the better slice (Hint: It’s neither), or making midnight trips to Wo Hop.

No, Cole grew up in sunny Orange County, California, basking in the sun and living closer to the Santa Monica Pier than Coney Island’s boardwalk. After starring on the Golden State’s prep baseball scene, he took his talents to UCLA before turning pro. After signing with the Yankees as a free agent, he’s surely more of a hired gun instead of a tried and true Bronx Bomber.

Except it’s a bit more complicated than that. Even though Cole grew up on the west coast, his father, Mark, grew up a Yankees fan in Syracuse.

Some of our Mets readers are probably going, “Syracuse isn’t New York!”

Seriously? Are we going down the “Anything more than 90 minutes north of the city isn’t New York” route? Come on, people. Fandom for both the New York Mets and Yankees is statewide, and we all know it. The Mets even had their Triple-A team in Buffalo for a few years, and the Yankees Single-A team is now the legendary Hudson Valley Renegades!

Not just that, but an 11-year-old Cole attended a 2001 World Series Game with a sign that read as follows: “Yankee fan today, tomorrow, forever.”

It wasn’t until his introductory presser that we learned Gerrit Cole kept that same sign all these years. It’s like he knew he would need it again.

“I’m here,” he said, displaying the sign. “I’ve always been here.”


Final thoughts

Look, I really don’t understand why we’re still having this conversation. I could be really nitpicky and say how since Cole is only 30 and Jacob deGrom turns 33 in June, that puts him over the top.

After all, deGrom’s contract with the Mets runs through as late as 2024, when he’ll be 36 and ready to hit the market. Will he really have that much gas left in the tank? Cole will retire a Yankee at this point, lest he chooses to opt out in 2025.

And this isn’t meant to hate on deGrom either. He’s a great pitcher and deserves to be in this conversation with Gerrit Cole.

But it’s like was said before, Jacob deGrom wound up on the New York Mets by happenstance. He was a ninth-round pick who paid off in spades. It’s a great story and gives him a strong case to be the ace of New York, but doesn’t carry the same weight as Cole’s path.

Cole was born to be a New York Yankee. He’s bled pinstripes from the start. Brian Cashman called him his “great white whale” for a reason.

It was decided long ago that at some point in time, he would be the ace of the Yankees and run this town. Jacob deGrom, meanwhile, just kind of showed up and had a few really good years.

But the party’s over now. deGrom has had his time and it’s time to move on. He was a great opening act, but he’s overstayed his welcome.

Let’s make room for the headliner.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.