Don't Be a Gerrit Cole
By Grant Ainsley | Tips | [comments] | Posted [date]
Every once in a while, there's something that happens in the media that's just too good for me to ignore. It happened last week to New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole.
Talk about not being prepared to answer a simple question. Cole paused for six seconds before stumbling through an answer. That won't come close to Justin Trudeau's record for a very long pause before answering a question several months ago, but it was quite telling.
For a few reasons, this awkward response never should have happened.
Striking Out in the Media
Last week, star pitcher Gerrit Cole gave one of the most cringe worthy responses to a reporter in baseball history.
Video of the response can be seen below, but let me set it up first. A few days before Cole gave the online interview, former Toronto Blue Jay Josh Donaldson accused many pitchers of using an illegal substance to help put more spin on the ball. The stuff, known as Spider Tack, helps produce more movement on pitches, leading to an increase in strikeouts, because the ball is harder to hit. This is something Major League Bsseball has been wrestling with, because fans want to see more action. Donaldson even named Cole as one of the offenders.
You would think Cole would be ready with some sort of response when he was asked a few days later. Apparently not.
What Should Have Happened
This shouldn’t have happened. Cole is the one who looks stupid here. His stumbling response, with six seconds of silence thrown in, makes him look really guilty. He never admitted to using anything illegal, but everything he said, and especially how it said it, makes it pretty clear he was using something to help put more spin on his pitches.
Somebody close to Cole should have had a conversation with him after Donaldson called him out. Perhaps his agent should have informed him of what had been said and had a discussion about how he should answer a question from a reporter if he was asked if he had used anything illegal. If not, a member of the Yankees media team should have had that conversation with him.
Someone should have. Unfortunately, sometimes pro athletes are seen as independent contractors and if the team doesn’t help them, nobody does. Imagine if this was a corporate CEO who was being called out in the media by a big-name politician. I’m sure the company’s communication staff would be working with the CEO on a response within minutes.
Cole, by the way, signed a contract last year that will pay him $324 million dollars. Few CEOs make that much. He should have a media coach on speed dial to ensure something like this wouldn’t happen. He certainly can afford it.
If I would have been the one getting the call, my advice would have been here’s more or less what you should say. “I’m not going to respond to something another player has said. If the league has any issue with my pitching I’d be happy to talk to anyone from the league, but I’m not going to get into a public debate with another player.”
This way he’s not lying, if he was using it. More than anything though, his response needed to be quicker and stronger. If it had been, very few people, other than hardened baseball journalists would be writing and talking about it. I certainly wouldn’t be writing about it, because it wouldn’t have hit my media radar.
Of course, if he's never used any illegal substances, then he should have said so and then be prepared for the next question "What's your reaction to the comments made by Josh Donaldson?"
Be Prepared for the Toughest Question
You don’t have to be the highest-paid pitcher in baseball to learn a lesson from this. Anyone who speaks to the media should.
When you do a media interview, you need to prepare for the toughest question, which can also be the simplest question. “Have you ever used Product X” is a very simple, short question, but it also was clearly the toughest for Cole to answer.
I explain it in this video.
As you prepare for a media interview, take a moment think about the toughest question you could get and figure out how you would answer it. If you’re not asked that question, that’s a good thing. However, if you are asked it, but aren’t prepared to answer, you’ll look very foolish.
Gerrit, you can call me anytime if you need help. I’ll give you my special multi-millionaire rate.
I have a whole page on my website of videos I've done with media tips like the one above. You can check it out here, and if there's anything I haven't covered, send me your question, and I'll provide a response to you right away.