The Chief calls it a Career
Nationals fans will remember him as the “Chief,” the man who was brought into the game as the closer to shut the opponent down. He did it well in 2005, the Nationals’ first year and his best season as a reliever. But Chad Cordero won’t be saving anymore games. On June 20, he announced his retirement from professional baseball at the age of 29.
Cordero was drafted in the first-round (20th overall) in 2003 by what was then still the Montreal Expos. He’d play in a few games in Canada, mostly as a closer, but didn’t come into his own until the team came to DC. In June of 2005, he tied the MLB record for saves in a month with 15. Later that year he’d reach 44 saves, which broke the Nationals/Expos franchise record. For the season he finished with 47 saves, which led all of MLB.
That same year he was selected to participate in the All-Star Game. He faced one batter—coincidentally enough, it was future Nationals catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez—and struck him out. He was named the 2005 Nationals Player of the Year and also won the NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award.
After the 2005 season, Cordero played for Team USA in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. However, partly due to a lack of success by the team as a whole in the 2006 season, he only reached 29 saves that year.
In 2007, his ERA climbed to 4.70, partly due to being distracted by the illness of his grandmother. But after returning from bereavement leave, he didn’t allow a run in a dozen consecutive appearances. He reached 100 career saves that same year.
Things really took a turn for the worse for Cordero in 2008, when he missed nearly the entire season due to a labrum tear that needed to be surgically repaired. He was assigned to Triple-A Syracuse after that season, but rejected the assignment and became a free agent. He went to the Mariners, but didn’t play in a professional game until July 2009 due to his extended recovery from surgery. He was called up on June 3, 2010 to make his first Major League appearance since 2008.
Cordero would float around for the next year, playing in the Mets’ and Blue Jays’ systems before signing with the St. Paul Saints of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball earlier this year. Ultimately, he just decided it would be best to retire, given that the velocity on his fastball never quite returned and he wished to spend more time with his family.
In the Nationals/Expos franchise, the “Chief” pitched to a 2.78 ERA with 128 saves and 292 strikeouts. He still holds the franchise record for saves in a season. Between 2005 and 2007, the only closer who notched more saves than Cordero was future Hall-of-Famer Trevor Hoffman.