The Blue Jays and Angels played a very entertaining first seven innings on Canada Day at Rogers Centre, and then the roof fell in.
The Jays had rallied from a 3-0 deficit with Brett Lawrie absolutely levelling Angels’ catcher John Hester in a play at the plate and J.P. Arencibia coming up huge the next inning with a game-tying solo shot, but the Jays’ bullpen coughed it up, and in rather enormous fashion.
First it was Francisco Cordero, who entered in the eighth and promptly gave up a leadoff home run to 20 year-old phenom Mike Trout. Three batters later, Mark Trumbo took him deep with a two-run shot and the Angels tacked on four more against Jesse Chavez and Scott Richmond in the ninth to render Colby Rasmus’ three-run bottom of the ninth blast moot.
It’s Cordero I want to discuss, though, because the amount of sheer hate so many Blue Jays fans seem to have for the guy is pretty disturbing, I think. I don’t know when this happened, because it used to be that sports fans hated players on teams other than the ones for whom they cheer, but there’s been a recent trend that is having fans pick a player on their own team upon whom to heap piles and piles of scorn, upon whom to wish ill, whose presence in a game they thoroughly dread. It was Lyle Overbay, then it was Vernon Wells. Edwin Encarnacion was next, then Rasmus, now it’s Cordero, with sprinklings of Adam Lind in between.
I’m overwhelmed by the number of tweets I get every time Cordero comes into a game that say the game’s over, Blue Jays lose, or that John Farrell is waving the white flag, or that he’s got no business coming into any game at any time ever. I have heard fans in the stands actively rooting against Cordero when he comes into a game. And that’s before he has even thrown a pitch!
There are some truths that need to be known about Francisco Cordero, and here they are:
-He was awful on Sunday. Irredeemably so. He came in late in a tie game, faced four batters and gave up two home runs while recording only one out. Unacceptable and terrible.
-He has blown up real good before, as well, at one point blowing three consecutive save opportunities, the exclamation point on those being a walk-off grand slam in Oakland on May 8th.
-He has had MANY more effective appearances than ineffective ones. In fact, in 18 of his last 21 appearances prior to Sunday, he hadn’t allowed a run to score, and in 13 of those, the score of the game was within three runs.
-Since being removed from the closer’s role after that walk-off grand slam, he’s been extremely effective, posting an ERA of 1.74 from that point coming into Sunday’s game. That’s outstanding. He’d allowed his opponents an OPS of .667 over that span, which would rank 135th among 158 qualified big-league hitters.
-The last four times prior to Sunday in which Cordero had come in in a tie game in the seventh inning or later, dating back to May 23rd, he’d gotten the job done.
In short, Cordero has not been a train wreck. He’s not been a white flag and he’s not been a guaranteed loss every time he’s come into a game. He’s allowed runs to score in just five of his last 26 appearances.
Also, let’s not forget that right now there’s no one on an active major-league roster who has saved more games than he has. Many lament his inability to pitch in close games — no one pitching in the bigs right now has pitched in more close games more successfully than he has. As a pitcher ages, he loses velocity and he loses stuff — it’s tough to imagine he loses the ability to be strong mentally.
I know those aren’t the truths most of you want to read, because you seem to be much happier hating Cordero and wishing he were released than actually looking at the job he’s really doing, and I know it’s difficult to see the positives when the negatives seem to be so overwhelming. But try to see through the blinding rage and if you do, you’ll notice that there haven’t been many relievers in the Blue Jays’ bullpen who have done a better job than Cordero over the seven weeks since he was (very rightly) taken out of the closer’s role. It may be an inconvenient truth, but it’s a truth nonetheless.
Also, it might actually be more fun to root against players on the other team.