Thursday, October 30, 2008
When I first heard the words on WTOP late this afternoon--I Nearly Drove Off The Side Of The Road. Then, I hurried home to find out that Bill Ladson at Nationals.com had broke the story. Finally, at 5:35PM, Our Washington Nationals confirmed everything. "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" was No Longer A Washington National. "Hail To The Chief" would no longer be played again in the 9th Inning of any home ballgame. Chad Cordero had declined an assignment to The Minor Leagues and had elected Free Agency. Our Now Former Number 32, with The GREAT Flat Brim Cap, may never trot out for one of his "Chief Cardiologist" Saves Again. First thought: How am I going to break the news to The African Queen? She loves "The Chief". To say "adore" would be an understatement.
Many Fans of Our Washington Nationals may live on every Win and every Loss, but as much as Sohna wants to see DC's Team win each and every game, she just as much wants to see Quality Personalities. And Chad Cordero is one of the VERY BEST. Off & On The Field Of Play, this young man has The Right Stuff. Chad showed up for every Charity Event in Washington. And he has spent his own time, and money, to help others. That Fact is well documented on Nats320 and should never be understated.
Yeah, we both knew that Chad Cordero was going to be Non-Tendered by Our General Manager Jim Bowden. The Flap over that incident is well known. But as is always the case, AS A FAN, you can only WISH everything turns out for the better. We can only hope that "The Chief" returns healthy donning a Nationals' Uniform, once again. But, as A Fan, we don't control the roster moves. And as Sohna and I have come to learn over the past four years since Baseball Returned to The Nation's Capital--Major League Baseball Is A BIG BUSINESS. Deserved Opportunity, Or Not, does not always factor into the final team decison.
So sadly today, arguably, The Most Popular Face of Our Washington Nationals, not named Ryan Zimmerman--and you could debate "The Chief" has more fans--is no longer a member of Our Team. Yes, I know, The Baseball Operation's Decision has merit.
But it still hurts. It really does.
The losing of a beloved player is the HARDEST PART OF BEING A FAN. When you spend so much time getting ATTACHED to A Player, it is very hard to see one go. That is why it became very important to get in touch with Chad Cordero this evening to see if he would talk to us about his, in essence, newly found Free Agency.
As always, it takes a little creativity for that to happen on our part. Fortunately, it did. A few phone calls later this evening, Chad Cordero spoke to me from his home in Southern California. For 20 Minutes we chatted about today's announced decision, his recovery from shoulder surgery (torn labrum) and what is in store for his future as a Major League Player. Gracious as always to The African Queen & I--he answered every single question I pondered.
With that, here we go with My Conversation With Chad Cordero.
How are you doing after all this? (SBF)
“I am not doing too bad. I’m OK. I am just getting something to eat right now.”
What is your reaction to basically being put on waivers and now having declined an assignment to The Minor Leagues? (SBF)
“I was kind of shocked to be put on waivers. I was just expecting to be non-tendered in December. This makes everything (business wise) kind of move up. I am a Free Agent now. It will be very interesting.”
Are you upset to be leaving Washington? (SBF)
“Yes, I am. This is the only Organization I have ever known. And I have had some great years here. I have made a lot of good friends. For the organization, and me this year was a little bit tough. I am going to move on, but I am not going to close the door. So, who knows, I still might be back in Washington.”
So just to make sure that Washington Fans know this—you are not closing the door on DC? (SBF)
“Right, exactly. I am not going to close a book on it. I am not going to say I am definitely not going to go back there, because—hey—I would love to go back there. I just need to find the right fit for myself, and what my agent thinks too. So, we shall see.”
You told me before we started you visited with Dr. Lewis Yocum for a check up today (Dr. Yocum performed Chad’s surgery in Los Angeles a few months ago). What were the results? (SBF)
“Everything is looking good. He actually talked to my agent (Larry Reynolds) today while I was in the office and Dr. Yocum said everything is looking good. He said my arm strength is excellent right now and my recovery is going really well. So basically, from what he was saying, I am on schedule (for recovery), if not a little bit ahead. So, everything is looking good.”
When do you think you can possibly start to work out again? (SBF)
“I can start doing some of that stuff right now. I just can’t do a whole lot. I still can’t do bench press and real heavy lifting. But, I can start running now and I start throwing in about two weeks. So, in about two weeks, I should have everything going again.”
With everything that has gone on—with Jim Bowden inadvertently saying you will be non-tendered this summer and this waiver wire maneuver that, even when they possibly contacted you earlier, came out of the blue, how does that leave you feeling? (SBF)
“Honestly, it’s a little shocking. And it’s kind of hard to take. But, this is the business side of baseball. I wish they could have handled it a little bit differently. This is baseball and that is just the way it is. But, I don’t hold any hard feelings and anything like that. This is an organization that treated me very well, up until this year.”
You just touched on something that Sohna and I have come to realize in the past couple of years—the business side of baseball is far different than being on the field—isn’t it? (SBF)
“Exactly, it’s the hardest part. It’s stuff that you just don’t realize, or even think about when you first come up. And then when you get up there (to The Majors), you realize just how much of a business it is. You have to understand what teams must do to compete, the types of moves they have to make in order for them to stay under budget and then how you (Chad Cordero) factor into that equation. It’s very important to understand that.”
Does all that make playing baseball less fun? (SBF)
“No, not at all. Baseball is still fun. I am still playing the sport for a living. It’s the greatest thing ever. Anytime you have the chance to be a professional athlete or do anything like that, it’s a great thing. I would never say baseball is not fun to play. It’s still a lot of fun to me.”
Yes, baseball is definitely not a 9 to 5 Job. (SBF)
“Exactly.” (Both of us busting out laughing)
So, where do you go from here? Do you wait for your agent to make things happen? How does it work? (SBF)
“My agent can start talking to other teams, I think tomorrow (Friday, October 31st). Then, when I start throwing again, he will start talking to teams even more.”
You sound confident? (SBF)
“Yeah. I am very confident. My arm is feeling great. I am in no pain. My arm is feeling a lot better than it did during the year, so there is no reason to think I cannot come back. It’s feeling good and from what Dr. Yocum was saying—everything is right on schedule.”
Just to be clear—whether it’s in Washington or not—you are going to be playing Major League Baseball next year you feel? (SBF)
“Definitely, yes. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be pitching in The Big Leagues. Actually, I just can’t wait to start throwing and get ready for the season again.”
How frustrating has the last year been for you? (SBF)
“It’s been very frustrating. This is the first year I have ever been hurt. There have been times when my arm has felt tired some times in the past, but never had anything quite like this. It’s been kind of tough. To just have to sit on the bench when there is no chance for me going in (to the game) and playing—that was hard. And after the surgery, it was even harder on me. But, at least for me, it’s better that it happened to me now (at 26 years of age) than later because if it happened when I was in my 30’s, who knows? I might not be able to come back from that. I am still in my 20’s. I should be able to come back even stronger.”
Youth is definitely an advantage. If the same thing happens to me at 49 (SBF’s Age), I would NEVER BE COMING BACK!! (SBF)
“Yeah, you got that right!! (Both of us chuckling)
Being on the sidelines, and being popular and not being able to play, sometimes breeds some jealously, and sometimes even some disrespect. I read most everything about The Nationals and I see comments that are borderline disrespectful about you, and some downright out of line. I am sure you have read some of this. How do you take that? I know it’s hard. (SBF)
“For me, I don’t even think about it. If people have that opinion that they don’t like me, or whatever, it doesn’t bother me at all. They don’t know me. Not everybody is going to like me. So, that is just the way I think about it. If somebody doesn’t like me, Oh Well, there are many, many more that do. It doesn’t bother me.”
Looking back and looking at the fact you may not be back in Washington. There has got to be some great moments to cherish in your career here? (SBF)
“Being a part of bringing baseball back to Washington that very first year was great. To be playing in The Nation’s Capital before enthusiastic crowds every night was one of the greatest things ever. And there is so much to do there. Between The Smithsonian (Museums), The Monuments, The Capitol and The White House. DC is a special place to live and to be. For me to play there and be a part of bringing baseball back to Washington was great--real satisfaction.”
Those first 81 Games of 2005 in Washington were pretty unbelievable. (SBF)
“Yes, they were special and a lot of fun.”
I have lived in DC my entire life. I have gone through The Redskins, The Bullets & Wizards and even The Capitals, but I don’t think I have ever seen this city so excited over one unexpected moment in my life, than those first 81 games of 2005. (SBF)
(Chuckling) “Yes, it was cool. Good memories.”
Switching gears a little bit--has it been tough seeing your “Montreal” friends leave Washington, especially now when you are one of those too? (SBF)
“Yes, it sucks to be one of the remaining Montreal players here. I think this past year we only had 5 or 6 of us left. Now, maybe one or two? It sucks to see that, because we all went through so much (during the last years as Expos). There are people from Montreal that still follow us. Now, basically, all of us have been traded away, released or signed elsewhere. Yes, it’s kind of a weird thing to see. But, I also think, when they all leave (Washington), most are all doing pretty well.”
Somebody told me recently that 1/3rd of the hits on the Nationals.com website still come from Canada. (SBF)
“(Chuckling) I actually believe that. There was still a big following in Montreal. They just for some reason didn't come out to watch. The people who were baseball fans were really big baseball fans. They loved the game. And I remember seeing a father and son who sat right behind the dugout in Montreal for every game, they still come down to spring training for a couple of weeks every year and I see them. It’s pretty cool to keep in touch. There was a big following, it just for some reason, didn’t take attendance wise.”
Yeah, I agree. Montreal was a good baseball town that got ruined by all the politics and the stadium issues—the cheapness just killed it. (SBF)
“Yes, you are right.”
Final question—and it’s not too tough. I know you are engaged (to Jamie), is the date anytime soon?
“Yes, a week from this Saturday (November 8th).”
It’s that soon? (“Yes”) Well, Congratulations. (SBF)
“That’s very kind. Thank you very much.”
OK, I will let you go for now. But Sohna and I just want to say one last thing to you: “We will miss you. We find you to be one of the most fun players and we have enjoyed watching you play over the past four seasons. We really mean that. You are fine young man. We are proud to have met you.”
“Thank you so very much.”
You know, this is the hardest thing about being a fan--seeing the players go away--leaving Our Team.
“Yeah, I know and I understand. Give my best to Sohna.”
With that, Chad Cordero and I bid adieu. Our Impromptu Conversation Had Concluded. The African Queen and I can only wish him the very, very best. Because, when Our Washington Nationals have been at their very best--"The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" has many times led the way. More importantly, Our Former Number 32 is a Stand Up Guy. Win or Lose, he stood at his locker every single night to face the music (from the media). And for me, I will be forever grateful. Every single time he ran into The African Queen he stopped to say hello, no matter how rushed he was. "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" is a Professional and we will always remember Chad Cordero for his assistance in helping to bring Baseball Back To Washington, DC.
As far as Sohna and I are concerned--we can induct Chad Cordero as the first member of Our Washington Nationals Hall of Fame--right now. We mean it. He deserves it, because he earned it with his honest efforts. There is no question, "The Chief" is a wonderful young man.
Good Luck To You--Chad Cordero. May your Big League Career continue for many successful seasons.
PS--That interview was totally off the cuff. I had no planned questions. Chad and I just talked for 20 minutes.