New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) delivers to the Boston Red Sox in the first inning of the American League Wild Card playoff game at Fenway Park, Tuesday Oct. 5, 2021 in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Folding ace

The price tags for elite starting pitchers in the baseball world are astronomical.

There are several dudes who average about $1 million a start. Guys like Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer.

Part of that rationale is ticket sales bona fide aces can generate, both at home and on the road. It's not a wash — whether Scherzer or Buehler is pitching for the Dodgers, I'm not sure you'll get the extra ticket sales to float all of the salary difference — but few things in the astronomical spending frenzy of sports are.

Gerrit Cole is the highest paid of all the pitchers in baseball, making $36 million a year, and regular-season commerce and command aside, that price tag comes with a very critical line item.

Be the best guy on the field in a game that your team has to win.

Cole was out-pitched by Nate Eovaldi, who makes less than half what Cole cashes, as Boston bounced the Yankees 6-2 last night.

Forget the hitters and the like, because this much becomes clear, especially in wildcard games or Game 7s: Stuff is only part of being an ace.

In fact, I'm not sure stuff is even the most important part of being an ace. Guts — and refusing to be beaten — matter every bit as much, if not more.

Cole has arguably the best stuff in baseball and he had allowed two homers in the first 10 hitters, and that was that.Think of the dudes that took the mound through the last half century, and any number of them had the palatable confidence and steely look of invincibility that was noticeably missing from Cole last night.

Something to watch for, especially this week as teams hand the ball to their No. 1 pitchers in wildcard games or to start these series.

Gang, there's a huge difference between being a No. 1 starter and an ace. And Gerrit Cole showed us again last night that he's clearly the former and has a long way to go to be considered the latter.


Match make up?

OK, a couple of months ago, I almost certainly would have been giddy about the announcement that this year's made-for-TNT The Match golf event would include Bryson and Brooks.

Giddy I say.

But since they hugged it out at the Ryder Cup, and the feud has faded, at least in public, this match-up feels meatless now.

Plus, neither of these guys seems like they have the personality to carry this kind of event.

Now, if they get under each other's skin, great.

But if they try to fake it, this could be a disaster, no?


(And is it still too late to get the Mannings involved? Asking for a few million friends.)


Sage advice

So Sage Steele is the latest ESPN personality in trouble.

Sage shared her opinions on a podcast with former NFL QB Jay Cutler on a variety of issues.

She called vaccine mandates like the one Disney issued "sick."

She talked about identifying as biracial and even talked about Obama and his ethnicity.

She discussed female sports reporters and how they dress and shared some stories about how she was harassed by players early in her career.

Reports have circulated that ESPN has suspended her for a week, although some leaks have claimed she has COVID-19.

The relative benign-ness of her comments and the social media calls for her firing are in stark contrast, in my opinion.

A lot of those dismissal calls are from colleagues of hers, including some at ESPN and some former ESPN folks like Jemele Hill and Keith Olbermann.

Some of those, too, have hinted how Steele should stick to sports, which is a hilarious retort from someone like Olbermann and others. That's not sticking to sports, that's don't go off-topic unless you spout exactly what we believe.

And it's amazing that so many folks who so often call for inclusion quite simply refuse to include the ideas, thoughts or beliefs of those who view things differently.

I think it's paramount to read Steele's comments, because a lot of the context is easily lost, especially on Obama.

Steele has offered a very carefully constructed apology that notes she's deeply sorry for the controversy she's caused.

I'm willing to bet if there was one topic she could take back it would be about the harassment stuff and dress, because no one would want to say something that comes across as victim blaming. At least I wouldn't think so.

As for her thoughts on the vaccine — and remember she got the shot because like a lot of us, she needs her job — and the mandates, she's voicing an opinion that a whole lot of Americans share.



This and that

— The next dude in the line for the title of greatest "Jeopardy!" champ of all time is rolling the competition. He's won 33 straight and last night set the single-episode record with $83,000. Hmmmmmmm. From the NASCAR, conspiracy-theory files, this is mighty convenient for the "Jeopardy!" folks because this dude's march up the standings — he's won more than $1.4 million on the show — certainly has pushed all the Mike Richards talk to the back burner.

— Another interesting TB12 stat: He's now one of four QBs to beat all 32 NFL franchises. The other three are Peyton, Brett Favre and Drew Brees.

— Strange NFL news, take I: According to Adam Schefter, the Patriots are releasing Stephon Gilmore. Man, Bill Belichick has always been a year-too-early-rather-than-a-year-too-late guy in terms of releasing players, but that one shocked me.

— Strange NFL news, take II: Dallas released former Pro Bowl linebacker Jaylon Smith and will eat almost $8 million in salary on Smith's guaranteed 2021 contract.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on the UT quarterback du jour — hmmmm, that sounds good, I think I'll have that — and how Hendon Hooker is now the guy.

— Man, if you thought last week's lowdown showdown between Vandy and UConn was a match-up made by the macabre, well buckle up. Winless UConn vs. winless UMass. Loser sacks their program?

— Here's a Morgan Wallen update, and his new single "Sand in My Boots" — which is far from new to those of us familiar with his music — has hit the country charts this week at No. 26. My picks may be currently stinking, but take this one to the bank: "Sand in My Boots" will be at No. 1 at some point.


Today's questions

Which way Wednesday starts this way, which player would you cheer for in a Bryson-Brooks match?

Which part — if any — of the Sage Steele story surprises you?Which all-time great pitcher is the most-fitting definition of a No. 1 but far from an ace? (Is it as simple as Clayton Kershaw?)

Which social media outlet do you use the most?

As for today, Oct. 6, let's review. (And all apologies, because Chas was correct, Tuesday we recycled a hat Rushmore. That's on me.)

On this day in 1882, the first World Series game was played as the Cincinnati Red Stockings beat the Chicago White Stockings 4-0.

Rushmore of socks. Go.