One-time Washington Post Nationals' beat writer Barry Svrluga recounted, in his book on the Washington Nationals' inaugural campaign in the nation's capital, "National Pastime", the story, told by former Montreal Expos' Assistant General Manager Tony Siegle, of how the Expos' scouts convinced then-GM Omar Minaya to draft right-handed reliever Chad Cordero out of Cal State Fullerton with the 20th pick in the first round of the 2003 MLB Draft.
Cordero, then 21, was coming off his third season at Cal State Fullerton, in which the late-breaking-fastball throwing flat-brimmed-cap-wearing closer had gone (5-1) with eight saves, a 1.58 ERA, 68 K's (10.73 K/9) and just eight walks (1.26 BB/9) in 40 games and 57.0 innings. The Washington Post's Svrluga writes in, "National Pastime", that Montreal's scouts thought, "...Cordero was a nice, safe, solid choice," and, "They thought he would sign quickly. They thought he would rise to the majors quickly," and as Assistant GM Tony Siegle is quoted explaining to Cordero and his parents, when he traveled to Chino, California to visit them, the Expos:
"...were unlike any other franchise. They were so bereft of talent they provided premature opportunities to those players who were even halfway decent."
Mr. Svrluga describes in his book the actual moment Chad Cordero's first contract was signed:
"The Expos offer was for a bonus of $1.35 million and an assurance that Chad would be invited to spring training with the majore league club the following year. (Cordero's father) Edward Cordero looked at his son.
"'Chad, what do you think?'
"'Dad,' Chad said, 'that's more money than I ever thought I was going to get.' He looked at Siegle. 'Where do I sign?'"
Tony Siegle was telling Cordero and his family the truth when he spoke about the opportunity the barren Montreal organization allowed for talented prospects to rise through the ranks of the Expos' system. In fact, Chad Cordero would throw just 26.1 innings over 19 games with the Expos' high Class-A affiliate, the Brevard County Manatees, going (1-1) with a 2.05 ERA, 8 saves and 17 K's, in the minors before the Expos brought the right-hander up to make his MLB debut on August 30th 2003 against the Florida Marlins in what was then known as Pro Player Stadium. Cordero threw a scoreless frame in that game, replacing Livan Hernandez, walking the opposing pitcher and throwing his first major league wild pitch before striking Juan Pierre out for his first MLB K.
Cordero would earn his first major league save a few weeks later, retiring the New York Mets in order to close out Javier Vazquez's 13th win of the season on September 18, 2003. By June of 2004, Cordero had replaced Rocky Biddle as the Expos' closer. Cordero was (7-3) with 14 saves that season, walking 43 (4.68 BB/9) and striking out 83 (9.04 K/9) in 82.2 IP. The right-hander also earned the last W in Montreal Expos' history, recording the last two outs of the eighth in a tie game with the Mets before Brad Wilkerson's ninth inning HR won the next-to-last game of the season on the road in Shea Stadium.
Cordero would shock the baseball world by saving 47 games in 2005 as the upstart Nats made waves in the NL East, holding on to first place deeper in the season than anyone thought possible. Cordero would save 128 games total for the Washington Nationals in six seasons as the Nats' closer, walking 117 (3.28 K/9) and striking out 298 (8.08 K/9) in 305 games and 320.2 IP in which he was (20-17) overall.
A torn labrum suffered during the 2008 season effectively ended his career with the Washington Nationals. Then D.C. GM Jim Bowden made the mistake of announcing that the Nats would non-tender the reliever on the radio before ever telling the pitcher himself. The Chief, as he was known, took it personally, and left the Washington Nationals, signing with Seattle as a free agent in March of 2009, but he never would regain the stuff that he had when he first came up with the Expos and eventually became the Nationals' first closer.
Cordero pitched in the minor leagues for the Mariners, making nine appearances at the major league level in 2010, and he pitched in the Mets' organization late last year before signing as a free agent with the Blue Jays this past winter. Cordero was released by Toronto in May. Now 29, Cordero had been pitching for the independent St. Paul Saints before he announced his retirement today.
Cordero spoke to Washington Post writer Barry Svrluga this past March, recounting the heart-breaking story of the death of his daughter. Cordero told the WaPost writer who'd been there, covering the team when he was at his best that he decided to give it one more try in spite of the tremendous sadness he, his wife and family had been through following their loss. Former Expos and Nats' scouting director Dana Brown, now with the Jays, gave him another chance, but Cordero didn't catch on. He retires with only the 128 career saves he collected with the franchise that drafted him, having played a major role in baseball's return to the nation's capital. No one who watched the first few seasons of Washington Nationals baseball will forget Chad Cordero, the flat brim of his cap pulled down low on his forehead, casting his eyes into shadow. The Flat-Brimmed closer will be missed and will be remembered.