Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chad Cordero


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.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow! SBF, that's a good get. I have always liked Chad Cordero, even with his heart thumping moments. He really is a decent person and I also only wish him the very best in his future professional career.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

I intend to cheer Chad Cordero when he returns to Nationals Park in a visiting uniform---even if that uniform is a Red Sox, Yankees, or even Phillies uniform. I can't blame Chad for not wanting to play here anymore, but he will not be forgotten by us fans.

Old Nats Guy said...

Thanks once again. I applaud your "creativity." This is truly a sad day for all Nationals fans.

dcbatgirl said...

Thanks to SBF and thanks to Chad.

Good luck, Chad, on your continued recovery and with whatever comes next. I look forward to seeing you pitch again soon.

natsfan1a said...

Thanks to SBF for the piece and to Chad both for agreeing to be interviewed and for his time with the team. I wish him all the best with his recovery and congratulate him on his upcoming wedding.

On a more general note, I do find this (business) side of baseball to be difficult as a fan. It can be very hard to see a player leave, particularly a fine young man such as Chad.

Anonymous said...

Ladson's article also said that Chad will be a father in May! Congrats Chad! We miss you already.

Dave Nichols said...

SBF, Good work on the interview.

there's never a good time for a career threatening injury, but this had to be one of the very worst times. it's unfortunate for Cordero to enter the off-season recovering from injury and now have to go into free agency. it took Freddie Garcia until July last year to get a job in a similar situation.

more evidence of front office bungling. first, the player finding out through the media of plans to be non-tendered, then outright waived? no class.

John R. said...

SBF,

Your site is truly the place to go for Nationals news. WTEM mentioned the new uniforms today, 13 days after you had first written about them here, with far greater details than we got from the regular media. Plus, you've got this great interview here with Chad, just hours after the news is announced about his release. WaPo? WaTimes? Nothing from Chad. Thank you for the job you do for us Nats fans.

And it was a great interview -- especially when you asked about potential jealousy about his popularity. I understand that Chad needs to recover from his surgery, but I wish the team could work with him and bring him back at a fair price if he can get healthy. Why let your popular players leave? We fans need to have more than a logo and a pretty ballpark to become attached to!

Softball Girl said...

Wow, SBF, this was an interesting little bomb you dropped in the middle of the interview:

"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)"

Chris Needham said...

"first, the player finding out through the media of plans to be non-tendered, then outright waived? no class."

The first is clearly something they screwed up, but the waiving makes sense. It gets him off the 40-man, which was going to happen anyway. Bowden did exactly what he should've there.

I'm pretty sure he'd had to have cleared waivers to go down, so it's pretty telling that 29 other GMs passed, huh?

Collin said...

Great work SBF and all the best to the Chief. I spoke with him briefly on a few occasions and he's a real class act. It's a shame to see him go with some of the characters we have walking in and out of the clubhouse now.

On another note... SBF, glad you're here and blogging. We would have NO news otherwise... the local media coverage is SHAMEFUL.

paul said...

I went through my mourning period for Chad around the same time that I did for Hill and Patterson. Great competitors, but a pitcher's arm has less lasting power than a politician's resolve.

Thanks for the inside access, as always.

Funny, I almost drove off the road when Tom Seaver was traded from the Mets!

Tom said...

Chris, your a GM, why would you claim Chad and have to trade a player to the Nats when you can wait and get he for nothing?

The winner is Chad Cordero. Don't be surprised if Omar signs him to a Met contract.

Chris Needham said...

Tom -- if he had had to go through waivers (and I'm only 98% sure he did), then the other team would not have to make a trade for him at this point in the season. There are different types of waivers. This likely would've been separate from the type players are put on in August.

So 29 other GMs did pass on him. And for the same reasons the Nats are dumping him now: to take him would require them to tender him a contract at a salary far higher than he'll get on the open market.

janet said...

SBF -- Thanks for posting your interview with Chad. It was very gracious of him to talk with you so openly about his struggles with last season. It’s also good to see that he’s optimistic about his progress. And congratulations to him and his fiancee on his wedding!

I also found yesterday’s news very hard to take. From a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense to clear the roster spot to protect someone in the Rule 5 draft. But baseball is played by people, and Chad has been my favorite National from the time the team arrived in Washington in 2005.

I knew that he’s a class act, and a “high character guy”. But my respect for him increased dramatically last summer. A couple of days after the radio announcement that he would be non-tendered, he was actually having a conversation with Jim Bowden, and accepting his apology. The following week, he was saying that he loved the team, and he wanted to leave the door open for returning. He didn’t have to say those things – he didn’t have to *think* them. But he was more than gracious in response to treatment that was more than a little bit disrespectful.

By contrast, I was NOT impressed with the Nationals at all. We have been hearing over and over that the plan for building the team is to draft well, develop from within, and strategically sign free agents when the team is ready to contend. Chad Cordero was the first round draft pick of this franchise in 2003. He’s developed in this organization, and delivered for it. Is this how the team will treat the players it’s developed? If so, I think the team will end up going in a very bad direction.

So now Chad continues to say that he’s open to returning to Washington, but at this point he needs to find the right fit for himself. I know it’s a lot to hope for, but I’d love to see him make his comeback as a National. But that’s next season. Now, in this offseason, I hope the Nationals make amends by at least sitting down and negotiating in good faith.

Obviously, we don’t know what the outcome will be. But I’ve also found Chad a delight to watch. I agree with your wish that his Major League career continue for a long time, and I wish him all of the very best.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

Let's not mince words about it---Chad was seriously hurt last year, and sending him out for assignment may have been necessary even though it was sad. What I object to is the WAY the Nationals handled this. They should not have treated a player who has meant so much to this team and their fans the way they did. If Chad comes back from his injury and plays again in the bigs, I can't blame him for not wanting to work under Jim Bowden again.

If we mail a letter to Chad in care of the Nationals, will they still forward it? I'd love to send a letter of appreciation to him and thank him for all the great work he has done for us.

LetTeddyWin.com said...

SBF, you are filling a huge void in the DC sports media. I can learn from the Post which 3rd-string lineman for the Redskins is voting for McCain, but I get little to nothing on the Nationals' losing their highest-paid and longest-tenured former all-star player. Chad is a class act and I'm so glad you were able to share his perspective, unedited.

This is in all likelihood the right move for all parties, but it will still be awfully sad if we end up watching him return to top form with another team.