Chad Cordero, the closer whose high-wire saves and flat-brimmed cap helped define the first season after baseball returned to Washington, announced his retirement yesterday at 29. Cordero had been pitching for the independent St. Paul Saints, his last attempt at a comeback following this spring training, which he spent with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Cordero – known as the Chief – played seven seasons in the majors, but the one he will be remembered for is 2005. Cordero, then 23, saved 47 games, made the all-star team, finished fifth in the Cy Young voting and 14th in the MVP race and, night after night, made the bleachers shake at RFK Stadium.
Cordero’s tenure in Washington ended abruptly and sadly in 2008, when he underwent major right shoulder surgery. General Manager Jim Bowden announced in a radio interview, during the season and before he had informed Cordero, that he the Nationals would not be tendering a contract to Cordero, rankling both the reliever and his fans.
The rest of Cordero’s career was a dispiriting series of sputtering comebacks. He reached the majors at the end of the last season and appeared in nine games for the Seattle Mariners, allowing seven earned runs in 9 2/3 innings. Cordero also endured personal tragedy when his 18-month old daughter died of SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome.
Cordero, a first-round draft pick by the Montreal Expos in 2003, finished his career with 128 saves, 113 of them coming in a Nationals uniform – 87 more than Matt Capps, who is second on the team’s all-time list.