Former Nationals closer Chad Cordero announced his retirement today, ending his latest comeback attempt from shoulder surgery that brought his career with the Nationals - and in the major leagues - to a halt.
When the Nationals made their surprising surge to the top of the NL East in the first half of the 2005 season, Cordero was the face of the team. He saved 47 games that season, many of them in daredevil fashion. With his flat-brimmed cap pulled low over his eyes, he looked like a Western gunslinger as he managed to escape trouble despite rarely throwing harder than 90 mph. Cordero made the All-Star team that season, finished fifth in the NL Cy Young vote and 14th in the MVP ballot. Fans adored him, and his nickname, "the Chief," quickly made him a sensation in Washington.
His first year in the District was also his only truly great one. He had just 29 saves in 2006, as the Nationals slumped to 71 wins, and blew nine of his 46 save attempts in 2007. When the Nationals opened their new ballpark in 2008, Cordero was already on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis, and his second appearance of that season was a bizarre scene where he managed to pitch a scoreless inning against the Mets, despite suddenly being unable to throw the ball harder than 80 mph.
Cordero was scheduled for surgery to repair a torn labrum by early July, and later that month, general manager Jim Bowden abruptly announced on the radio that the team would not offer Cordero a contract for the 2009 season. The decision made sense, since Cordero was making $6.2 million in 2008, but the timing of it left Cordero confused, hurt and angered.
He would only pitch in nine more major league games after that season, finally making it back to the majors with the Mariners in 2010. But he allowed seven earned runs in 9 2/3 innings. And last December, his family was struck by tragedy when his infant daughter, Tehya, died of sudden infant death syndrome.
Cordero pitched this spring for the Toronto Blue Jays, trying to put his career back together, and wound up with the independent St. Paul Saints this season before finally deciding to call it quits. As the first player to represent the Nationals in the All-Star Game, still their leader in saves since they came to Washington and the only reliever to thrill home fans in a pennant race, Cordero left an imprint on the Nationals.