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Blue Jays’ Manoah calls Yankees ace Gerrit Cole ‘worst cheater’ in MLB history

Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah’s feelings about New York Yankees counterpart Gerrit Cole clearly run deeper than a heated exchange of words during a late-season ball game.

On a recent episode of Sportsnet’s YouTube show How Hungry are You, Manoah told host and former Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka the Yankees ace is the “worst cheater in baseball history.”

“He used a lot of sticky stuff to make his pitches better,” Manoah said, “and he kinda got called out on it.”

Cole, 32, is one of the pitchers who allegedly used sticky stuff in the past to improve his pitches and never denied it.

In June 2021, Major League Baseball began its on-field examination of pitchers a week after commissioner Rob Manfred announced a crackdown on unauthorized grip substances. 

Earlier in the month, Cole dodged a question about whether he had ever used a Spider Tack, a sticky substance designed for use by Strongman competitors.

“I don’t quite know how to answer that, to be honest,” he said. “There are customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to younger players, from the last generation of players to this generation of players, and I think there are some things that are certainly out of bounds in that regard.”

Cole had been singled out by then-Minnesota Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson, now his teammate, for a drop in spin rate in a June 3 start.

MLB told teams three months earlier it would increase monitoring and initiated steps that included collecting balls taken out of play from every team and analyzing Statcast spin-rate data.

Before the 2022 season, the league reportedly issued a memo to teams outlining an increased crackdown on sticky substances following a suspicious rebound in spin rates late in the 2021 campaign, raising the question of whether some of the league’s pitchers figured a workaround for umpire inspections.

Hit Judge with pitch above left elbow

Earlier in his discussion with Ibaka, now a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, Manoah talked about an Aug. 21, 2022 game between the Blue Jays and New York at Yankee Stadium. In the fifth inning, Manoah hit Yankees slugger Aaron Judge on his arm guard above the left elbow with a pitch after throwing near the six-foot-seven, 282-pound outfielder earlier in the game.

Judge glanced at Manoah as Cole started yelling and a few other Yankees came over the dugout railing.

The six-foot-six, 285-pound Manoah said he told Cole to “come all the way [to the mound] next time and see what happens.”

Cole was intercepted by bench coach Carlos Mendoza before reaching the umpires.

“I think if Gerrit wants to do something, he can walk past the Audi sign next time,” Manoah said, referring to the advertisement stenciled on the grass between the Yankees dugout and first-base line.

Judge, who had one hit in 16 career at-bats against the Blue Jays hurler at the time, didn’t think the plunking was on purpose.

“It was the heat of the moment,” said Judge, who broke Roger Maris’ American League home run record this past season with 62. “Nobody likes to get hit.”

“It was just one too many [dustings] for my taste,” Cole added.

The Yankees right-hander had an all-star season in 2022, logging 257 strikeouts in 200.2 innings with a 3.50 earned-run average and 1.02 WHIP.

Two weeks ago, the 24-year-old Manoah finished third in in AL Cy Young Award voting as the league’s best pitcher in 2022 after posting a 16-7 record, 2.24 ERA — fourth in the major leagues — and 180 strikeouts in 196 2/3 innings.

He went 4-0 with a 0.88 ERA in his last six starts to help the Blue Jays make the playoffs before Seattle swept them in a two-game AL wild-card series.

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