It certainly feels that the marriage between Cole and the Yankees will be a lengthy, happy one, potentially with many successes by way of championships. After all, Hal Steinbrenner made it clear that the Yankees plan to win championships — plural — with Cole anchoring the rotation. Calling back to Cashman’s fully operational Death Star quote last December, maybe the Bombers are getting back to their Evil Empire ways.”What do we love about baseball?” Cole asked. “We love its narrative and we love competition. We like the storybook ending, we like the underdog.”We also like the villain.” “I’m here,” Cole said to the media. “I’ve always been here.”Gerrit Cole brings out this sign. “I’m here. I’ve always been here.”#Yankees pic.twitter.com/yi4G5TaoD7— Joe (@JoeRiveraSN) December 18, 2019FAGAN: Reds as playoff contenders? Maybe it’s time to believeWinning the press conference is very much a New York thing, and Cole, nearly a third of a way to a billion dollars, kept the same sign from when he visited World Series Game 6 in 2001, reminding fans, ownership and teammates alike that his heart is at the corner of 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx. While that win won’t come up on Baseball Reference, it reinforced why the Yankees were so sure to give Cole a nine-year, $324 million pact this winter.The press conference was won. Tears were shed. Babies were made. Astros fans were (and are) mad. But inherent cheesiness aside, it was a gesture that went beyond a guy signing for the most money (though, that had a lot to do with it).In the Yankees’ words, that was a special moment, shared by a “special” guy.”Special” was a word repeated ad infinitum on Wednesday, with somewhat diminishing returns every time it was uttered among Boone, Brian Cashman and Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner. “Special” doesn’t mean anything without qualifiers. It’s like calling a movie “entertaining” or my tweets “interesting.” They’re empty adjectives with no weight the more you used them.So what sets Cole apart?”I think his drive, athleticism, intelligence, lack of injury history, those kinds of things,” Boone said. “Part of the reason I think he’s got that lack of history is because of the way he’s prepared, the way he’s taken care of himself, the way he understands himself, the mechanics with which he’s very efficient with. All those things lend itself that he should do well, well into his contract.”Boone wore the excitement on his face during Wednesday’s festivities, like a kid waking up on Christmas morning and frantically ripping off the wrapping paper on the Turbo Man action figure he wanted for the better part of a year. (Insert Cole/stocking joke here.)Now, the Cole train is going to jingle all the way to spring training, and it’s a welcome gift under the tree for the Yanks. They swung and missed twice before on Cole’s services — first, when they drafted Cole out of high school but he chose to go to UCLA instead; the second time, the Yankees and Pirates couldn’t strike a trade deal. Cole’s “specialness” wasn’t going to escape the Bronx a third time.”We’re talking about elite stuff, athleticism and a tremendous delivery,” Boone said. “In speaking with him, his understanding of who he is as a pitcher, his ability to articulate it, the fuel, the passion that drives him. This is a guy that clearly loves what he does, and has an understanding of what he does and what makes him great.”I think we’re gonna see a guy that continues to push himself and probably never be satisfied, and that’s the kind of guy you want leading the rotation.”There’s a lot that makes Cole (arguably) the greatest free agent pitcher of all time. His age is one. His lack of true injury history is another. More than anything, though, his past two seasons of dominance make the case. He featured a 2.68 ERA over 65 starts with Houston, striking out 602 batters in 412 2/3 innings. His 326 strikeouts in 2019 led the majors, as did his 13.8 K/9.”This is not a guy that comes around very often,” Boone said. “The fact that he was sitting out there, I think you saw ownership and Hal’s level of commitment that we realize what a special person this is out on the market.”There’s that word again: special. MORE: Sporting News’ MLB All-Decade teamCashman, Boone and others lauded how unique and well-positioned Cole is. He understands his role as a player and a potential leader, and as a stopper and a fighter when the team needs it. Now with Cole in pinstripes, they’ll see how he reacts to New York and being the “bad guy” around baseball.But it’s not just about the recency of Cole’s domination or his reputation that precedes him. It’s the perfect storm of pitching knowledge cultivated throughout his pitching career.Cole reinforced that what he knows now as a pitcher is what he learned over his last seven years in The Show. Fastball command, a hallmark of his pitching repertoire, is something he learned from his Pirates days. Through A.J. Burnett, Cole learned how to throw a devastating curveball. Cole stressed how instrumental Astros teammates Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel were to his evolution of a pitcher; Through Verlander, he learned how to refine his four-seam fastball. Through Keuchel, he learned how to frustrate a hitter and approach each at-bat as a “process.” Cole also understands the value of analytics to try to further his career.”I like to make adjustments and then watch the analytics prove me wrong or prove me right,” Cole said. “I don’t really like to look at the analytics and try to make an adjustment or make a craft that way. I like to focus on the art first, and let the data back it up.”Throw all the ingredients in a pot and couple that with a certain intangible grit and gutsy attitude — “Pressure is a privilege,” Cole professed during the press conference — and you’re starting to see what exactly makes Cole that S-word.While there’s little doubt that Cole makes the Yankees better in the immediate, the question remains: What happens in six or seven years? Is Cole still that unique, one-of-a-kind starter that the Yankees signed?”The thing that gave us the most comfort with him over the nine years is that, it’s a full arsenal,” Blake said. “He can create shapes to all quadrants, he has a flexible plan of attack, he takes care of his process in-between, his mindset is really good. So he’s not a one-trick pony that only has one tool. He has a multiple-weapon arsenal and he has the ability to execute that on a consistent basis.”MORE: It was an easy choice for SN MLB Athlete of the Decade NEW YORK — It’s Dec. 19. A squall just pushed through New York, dusting the streets of the Bronx. But Gerrit Cole already has his first win as a Yankee.Sure, he might be months away from taking the mound on the (hopefully) warm, inviting and familiar feeling of Opening Day — even though Aaron Boone won’t commit to that yet — but Cole’s first W in pinstripes came just after he donned them for the first time, when he took the dais in Yankee Stadium and unfurled a sign that hadn’t seen the sunlight in years.