Mike Wilner is not wrong that Jays fans this year have been way too hard on Francisco Cordero. Fans’ reflexive booing of their own players– which isn’t just commonplace in Toronto, it’s openly and vigorously defended– is something that truly upsets me as I grow older. I’m not sure why it didn’t always– I had a real ugly streak when it came to Eric Hinske during the last doomed years of his Jays career– but now more than ever I can’t escape the suffocating presence of sober, rational knowledge. Knowledge that baseball is the ultimate game of failure; knowledge that players aren’t out there trying to be bad; that failure to execute is due to a confluence of factors– physical, mental, mechanical, external– preventing a result that’s impressively difficult to pull off in one’s own favour in even the most ideal circumstances; that it shouldn’t be beaten over a player’s head when he’s failed in a situation where he was precisely setup to fail, especially while the decision-maker’s reception, even if still full of vitriol, is much more comfortable.
Put simply: it sucks to not just hate-on, but to, en masse, try and pulverize the very soul of a person whose personality we know nothing of, who is simply trying his best to do his job, and whose only wronging of us has been that he happens to not be very good at baseball.
And, hoo boy, Francisco Cordero is not very good at baseball.
Or, actually, technically, Francisco Cordero is pretty ridiculously good at baseball, relative to the general population. For a few years there you probably could have gone as far as to say that Francisco Cordero was great at baseball relative to not just the general population, but even at times, relative to the elitest of the elite in the sport.
That time isn’t now, though, and while Cordero has shown this year that he’s not completely incapable of getting Major League hitters out, he just hasn’t been able to do so with anything resembling the consistency required of not just a Major League pitcher, but one that constantly, inexplicably has been thrown into the high-leverage fire by his manager, John Farrell.
This isn’t exactly a shocking conclusion. Many fans had drawn it very early into the season, and had seen it reinforced with each successive meltdown, regardless of how well he performed for stretches in between– and whether or not you want to believe it, he did have a very nice stretch between May 12th and the disaster on Canada Day, in which he appeared in 25 games, allowing four earned runs over 20.2 innings, with 16 strikeouts, an ERA of 1.75 and an opponents OPS of .667.
Said stretch was so not-putrid, in fact, that seeing those numbers almost makes me want to reassess my coming over to the dark side. Truthfully, though, they’re stripped straight from the pages of the ol’ Arbitrary Endpoints Handbook. And furthermore, there were plenty of red flags about Cordero’s performance at the time he was signed, well under-market for a “capital C” closer– the declining velocity on his fastball, the ugly peripherals in 2011, despite an excellent save-conversion rate and a sparkling 2.45 ERA.
That said, in some ways that run of success may still be enough for a reasonable person– those of us capable of remembering, for example, that the early June loss in Atlanta couldn’t possibly have been hung on Cordero, or used as part of some rage-tinged laughably-illogical “every time he comes in they lose” narrative, or that even the hits he gave up tonight were rather soft– to not be too dismayed by his continued usage.
Even someone thoroughly unmoved by those facts would have to at least acknowledge that he isn’t David Pauley. He isn’t Evan Crawford. He isn’t Ryota Igarashi, Robert Coello or Scott Richmond. Y’know, if you don’t want to set the bar particularly high.
But the fact of the matter is, Cordero has proven himself too unreliable to be used in anything but mop-up duty at this point. And while I feel confident in saying that I’ll be more understanding than most if the Jays– who are so desperate they’re turning to relievers in their first year of pro ball, for fuck sakes– decide that they have no better choice but to keep running him out there; and while I acknowledge that– genius observer that I am– I wrote a post like this last year about Edwin Encarnacion, and damn near one about Frank Francisco too; when it comes to the subject of Cordero sucking, I can no longer be against those of you who were telling me so months ago. Even if some of you are kinda assholes.
But hey, the Jays took a shot. Sure, due to the CBA he didn’t have quite the same potential for value as last year’s veteran bullpen flier guys, Francisco, Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel, but stranger things have happened than a seemingly declining reliever showing that he still has a little bit more left in the tank. It was inarguably a worthy pursuit, had he been used appropriately, it’s just… holy fuck, put it out of its misery already.
Image via Brad White/Getty.