I feel for Francisco Cordero. He’s not a very good pitcher right now, and he probably wasn’t last year either, when his peripheral numbers took a nosedive and he got by on smoke and mirrors on his way to 37 saves and a 2.45 ERA that, even a couple of years ago, would have been enough for some hopeless GM to give him a fat contract to be The Closer.
The reality is, he’s an aging pitcher trying to cope with the loss of his velocity while adapting to life in the toughest division in baseball– though it’s not like the Oakland A’s, last night’s non-division opponents, are a goddamned juggernaut– and not doing a particularly good job of it just yet.
And he knows it.
“I’ve got to pitch better or I’m going to find myself either out of that situation or maybe out of the team,” Cordero said last night, when he faced the media in the wake of his latest disaster.
He’s not wrong in that assessment, but it’s unfortunate that he’s even been placed in the role in the first place– nor is it really his fault. In fact, I hate to say it, but what’s most unfortunate is that Cordero was signed by Alex Anthopoulos in the first place, presumably with full knowledge that his club has a manager who believes in the “closer myth” and who, all winter, told anybody who’d listen that his biggest flaw last season was that he was too loose when it came to defining roles for his relievers.
So, we have Cordero as The Guy in the eighth to start the season, and the bullpen pecking order shifted up a peg when closer Sergio Santos went down, come hell, high water, or ina-fucking-bility to get through a clean inning or not look like a goddamn disaster waiting to happen– or, y’know, in the midst of happening.
The situation was asking for a bad ending, and last night we got it. But that said, by Farrell’s– and most of the free world’s– closer myth mentality, the decision to bring Cordero into the game last night was pretty easily justifiable. If you were an Established Closer guy or gal this winter, I’m sorry, but this is precisely where this type of thinking gets you.
Could Farrell have turned elsewhere after Cordero after having blown two of his previous three saves and not pitching particularly well in the ones he didn’t? Well… it’s real fucking easy to say now, but we can’t forget that after not only picking up two saves in the Kansas City series, Cordero should have had another in the game against Seattle that Brett Lawrie threw away, and in the game he coughed up to Texas, as Drew explained at the time, he genuinely didn’t pitch that badly, and was largely foiled by Ian Kinsler fouling off very good pitches like he’s the most underrated superstar in the game or something.
So… calling on him, gut wrenching as it was, and as pessimistic as we all– myself included– were about what we were in store for, was not terribly egregious. A performance on par with those against the Royals, or even the ones against the Mariners and Rangers, with a couple breaks going his way, and we’re having a different conversation right now; the Jays win, and Cordero looks to be right on track– which, if you’re looking for a silver lining to last night, actually may have prolonged this ill-fated experiment. Getting it over with now, I think, is probably ideal… even if I don’t have a shitload of faith in the next guy, who is apparently Casey Janssen.
— Andrew Stoeten (@AndrewStoeten) May 9, 2012
(Note: I joke about the presumed internal scoop, but what the hell is Barry Davis gonna do? Not go with it?)
Sickening a thing to watch as it was, all of that seems about right to me. What’s stuck a fuck-tonne more deeply in my craw is not the fact John Farrell understood full well that, as he told reporters later, ”the three outs in the ninth are pretty tough for us right now,” but that he knew it and still only played for one run in the bottom of the ninth.
I mean, taking out JP Arencibia in a tie game, with one out and runners on the corners? JP Arencibia, who could actually maybe drive the ball to the outfield to score a run? JP Arencibia who has just two GIDPs all season?
For Omar Vizquel?!?!? Who could practically be Arencibia’s father??? So he can just give up a goddamnn out on a safety squeeze that he couldn’t even damn well executed???
This I truly cannot comprehend. I mean, I get that Arencibia is slow, and I get that Vizquel has made comments to the media that could be taken to mean that he’s not entirely happy just being a mascot, but… for fuck sakes! Beyond the fact that he didn’t even get the bunt down that he intended to, or that, y’know, it’s pretty ridiculous to give up your precious outs– when you know full goddamn well that the guy you’re about to send in to close out the ballgame, with no safety valve warming up behind him whatsoever, has been strug-uggling all year– but what if he gets to two strikes and has to swing the bat? You’re sending up a guy with a .660 career OPS in that situation? A guy two years removed from a .341 OBP season that was an outlier among all his years since 2006? A guy whose OPS hasn’t cracked .750 since 2002?!?
The mind fucking boggles. Though, thankfully, not quite as much as last night. We’ll get over it.
Image via Thearon W. Henderson/Getty.