John Savage knows. The highly respected, longtime head coach of UCLA baseball was at the helm when Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer headlined the Bruins’ rotation for three seasons. Savage has seen the pairing work.
So, even if Cole and Bauer weren’t besties then, and if they’re still on arms-length terms, there’s no reason they couldn’t coexist in pinstripes.
“I think it would work,” Savage said when contacted by NJ Advance Media via phone call Wednesday afternoon.
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Bauer is considered the best starting pitcher on the free-agent market.
The problem? Well, the problem was that there was once a problem. The two flat out didn’t like each other.
According to a Sports Illustrated report from 2018, it all started when Cole ripped Bauer in front of the team in the UCLA weight room for rolling with the team’s training program. Cole and Bauer hardly spoke after that, the report said.
These days, however, Bauer says everything is fine between the two. More than a week ago, Bauer tweeted that it was “non-existent, fictitious beef,” in response to a USA Today report that quoted a former UCLA assistant coach saying that there was a better chance of “the earth burning up” than Cole and Bauer making amends.
Where do the two really stand? Who knows. But Savage thinks they would be able to put whatever differences they have aside for the common goal of winning a World Series.
“You’re talking about two professionals,” Savage said. “You’re talking about two guys that adamantly want their teams to win. they go about it differently, but I think the comparisons of what they’ve been through and their competitive edge and their willingness to do whatever it takes to win — I don’t know why it wouldn’t.”
Savage said that he didn’t think Cole would “have any issues” if Bauer were around. Despite the tension between the two in college, “They both respected each other’s way of doing things. They both ultimately wanted to win,” Savage said.
Of course, it could be a moot point.
Bauer could command big bucks after he posted a 1.73 ERA over 11 starts, striking out 100 in 73 innings for the Reds. The Yankees might not be willing to break the bank again for starting pitching after handing Cole a nine-year, $324-million pact last December, and with the coronavirus stopping the cashflow from fans attending games in 2020. Teams still don’t know whether fans will be allowed back in the stands in 2021. That will be determined by the nation’s response to the virus.
But with Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and James Paxton also set to become free agents, general manager Brian Cashman could have wiggle room — unless owner Hal Steinbrenner demands the Yankees’ payroll drop below the $210-million luxury tax threshold. Still, the Yankees would be without a true No. 2 to go behind Cole, at least until Luis Severino returns from Tommy John surgery sometime in the summer.
When Savage watched Cole and Justin Verlander in Houston in 2018 and 2019, it reminded him of watching Bauer and Cole at UCLA.
“Obviously, on a little lesser scale, in college,” Savage said, “but I thought both motivated each other in their own way. It was a winning environment and ultimately that’s the name of the game.
“They’ve both been through a lot and they have both have had the spotlight on them for a long, long time. They both can handle it. You saw Cole handle it this year, in a shortened season, and Trevor, having his free agent year and the way he performed, he’s very capable. There’s a lot more comparisons than people realize and it’s easy to sit there and say, ‘Hey, these guys don’t get along.’ But I think it’s so much more than that. When you talk about professionalism, when you talk about winning, and you talk about having the best chance to win, you’ve got to take a look at it.”
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