Category Archives: kerry wood

Goodbye, Kerry Wood: A Cubs Fan’s Farewell

After this afternoon’s Chicago Cubs game against the Chicago White Sox, Kerry Wood officially retired from Major League baseball. He struck out the only batter he faced and went out with a bang.I have been a Cubs fan for all of my life and Wood will always be one of my favorite baseball players. In ’07, I had the privilege to see him pitch, but he wasn’t the dominant pitcher that once struck out 20 batters in a single game. Injuries derailed his playing career in the mid-2000s and was forced to pitch relief. He had success in that role, but he struggled this season with an ERA of 8.31 and twice as many walks as strikeouts.

How will will he be remembered, as a pitcher who once struck out 20 batters in a game or for the mystery of ‘what might have been?’

It is a shame that we will never know how dominant Wood could have been without his injuries. Wood and Mark Prior were going to be the Cubs version or Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, but both suffered career-threatening injuries. Wood was the last relic from the 2003 Chicago Cubs team who were only seven outs from making an improbable World Series appearance. The Bartman play occurred during that series, but most forget that it took place during Game 6 of the NLCS. Wood pitched in Game 7 and even hit a home run. He took the lost the game 9-6 and the Florida Marlins went on to win the World Series.

After the ’03 NLCS disaster, he was never the same. He had a sub-par ’04 season and then suffered injuries that kept him out for the majority of the following three seasons. He returned in late ’07, but came out of the bullpen as a precautionary measure. He turned into a capable relief pitcher. He even moved into the closer role in the ’08 and ’09 seasons, racked up 54 saves. He spent the next two seasons with the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees, but then returned to Chicago for a hometown discount.

Saying goodbye to Wood is a hard thing for me to do. I had to write a similar farewell to Peyton Manning post just two months ago. I am a huge fan of both teams. As a fan, it will be odd to not see either Wood or Manning on my team’s sideline.

Cubs fans always kept faith that Wood would return and contribute to the team. Prior was not so lucky. The fans lost patience with him much quicker. We all know that Wood will not be inducted into the Hall of Fame or even get his number retired. He will always been mentioned in Cubs folklore as a member of the ’03 team and for his amazing rookie season in ’98. He holds a special place in the hearts of Cubs fans.

You will see him around Chicago. He will be a special assistant in the Cubs organization and he has his foundation in the city. He is a devout Christian and does a lot of great things for the people of Chicago.

Wood finishes his career with a 86-75 record and 3.67 ERA. The two-time All-Star also struck out 1581 batters in 1379 innings.

He could have been the next Nolan Ryan or Steve Carlton, but he turned out to be the first Kerry Wood.

Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game vs. Houston Astros in 1998


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I Give Up: A Manifesto Of A Pissed Off Cubs Fan

This post may be epic and wordy, but I have a lot to get off of my chest. I have stuck by the Cubs through thick and thin, but I am at a point where I may sell my “fanhood” to another team, just like the Cubs have tried to sell the team for the past 24 months. In the following post, I am going to explain why I’m pissed, what the Cubs can do to win me back, why I’m allowed to question my loyalty as a fan, and what the future holds for the Chicago Cubs.

Listen, I am 28 years old, I’ve been through some thin years as a Chicago Cubs fan. I know some people older than me have had even worse experiences than me, but you got to enjoy Jack Brickhouse and Harry Carey longer, so we’re even. The last six years, as a Cubs fan, have been probably some of the best years an Cubs fan could realistically ask for. A few division championships, a few playoff wins, but not one World Series appearance. I know that if a Cubs fan rarely believes that his team has a chance to win the World Series. There is always hope, but you have visions of Steve Garvey, Ivan Rodriguez, and even Augie Ojeda go through your head and grounds your hopes.

This is why I am pissed off. Jim Hendry started off his career as a GM very well. He got pieces that the fans wanted and made everyone excited about the future of the Cubs. We finally had someone that wanted to go out and win right now. That may be the underlying problem with everything that is wrong with the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs haven’t manufactured any great talent out of their farm system in years. Mark Grace was the last great player to come through the farm system. They have lacked the expertise to develop their own players, so they traded their young pieces away for mediocre talent in return. If a team is always in the playoff race, young talent will not have the time to develop at the Major League level. My examples are Rich Hill and Felix Pie, I know neither of them are winning post-season awards right now, but they didn’t have time to develop. Rich Hill bounced around the minors and Chicago the last few seasons. He dominated in the minors and had trouble pitching in Wrigley. Pie also bounced around between Iowa and Chicago and was mostly kept around to make Alfonso Soriano comfortable. They were both traded to the Orioles for scrubs and I hope they flourish in Baltimore.

Which leads me to another reason that I am pissed. Why does Jim Hendry always trade with Andy MacPhail in Baltimore? I know that MacPhail was his boss when he was first with Baltimore, but this personal relationship has severely damaged the Chicago Cubs. If they are such good friends, why was it so difficult to pry Brian Roberts away from him? A rumor floated around for about two seasons that they were in trade talks, but nothing ever happened with that, but somehow we ended up with Ryan Freel and Garrett Olsen? Hendry needs to quit being so chummy with MacPhail and talk with other teams when trying to improve the Chicago Cubs.

Ownership changes have drained this team of any emotion. The players knew that they had to play the entire season with the players already on the team, since they couldn’t add any more payroll because of the sell of the team. Injuries hit the team and Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Carlos Zambrano were all missed time at the beginning of the year. The team lacked emotion and even a Lou Pinella rant couldn’t bring them out of their funk. They attempted to get Jake Peavy from the Padres, but couldn’t take on his salary, which lead to the White Sox getting him at a discounted rate near the trade deadline. I’m not saying that Peavy would have won the NL Central for Chicago, but it could have showed the players that management wanted to do everything to win. With no major additions to the team at either trade deadline (I’m sorry John Grabow doesn’t count), the Cubs slipped down the standings as the Cardinals added Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday. This ownership change happened at the absolute worst time, since this team was a right-fielder and a dominant closer away from at least a Wild-Card spot.

The Cubs have one of the worst farm systems in all of the Major Leagues. They have been signing Type-A and Type-B free-agents the last few seasons and don’t have many blue-chip prospects. Josh Vitters could be their lone future star, but Wellington Castillo and Tyler Colvin both look promising. The problem there is that Vitters plays 3B and Castillo is a catcher, two positions that the Cubs have a small need for. Colvin could turn into a player that they could use, but they are currently tied up in a few bad contracts in the outfield and there isn’t any room for him. John Grabow, Rich Harden, and Kevin Gregg are all Type-A free agents and if they sign with a team, the Cubs could get that team’s first-round draft picks. Jim Hendry was smart in keeping them, even if they have no interest in re-signing the trio. This could help restock the farm system and build this team from the ground up. If only they had the minor league managers and instructors that could develop any of that talent.

I am allowed to question my loyalty to the Chicago Cubs. They are the only team that I have ever rooted for, but they have let me down in a way that I wasn’t ready for. Selling the team at this point, when their team has elite talent, is such a horrible ending to this team’s arc of improvement. I believe that they need to blow up the team. I said it, I didn’t think that I would get to this point, but just ride out the contracts, trade the pieces away that you can get young talent in return, and give me a product on the field that I can feel good about myself while cheering for you. Milton Bradley’s attitude and racially-filled paranoia added with Zambrano’s lack of focus and his inability to sound like he even cares, has made me dislike this team. Give me players like Kerry Wood, who was willing to take a pay-cut to stay with the Cubs out of loyalty. I don’t know if I am at a point where I can see the greed in the players eyes, but there is something that I don’t like about this team.

I’m not asking for a World Series, I’m not asking for an NL Central crown, just give me a team that looks like they are trying and you will have me as a fan of your team for as long as you’ll have me. If any players read this, go out there, run out ground balls, slide hard into double-plays, dive for foul balls, and have fun out there. The season is officially over at the end of the regular season, you’ll have plenty of time to be lazy this off-season.

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Fire Dusty Baker

I am finally going to take part in the whole blog stereotype by calling for someone’s job. I have yet to do it in all of my time as a blogger, but it needs to be done. Dusty Baker, the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, needs to be fired. To make it even more clear, I’m not even a Reds fan, not at all. I live in Columbus, OH, so I get every Reds game on Fox Sports Ohio, but I usually just watch them if they are playing the Cubs or I see a guy on my fantasy baseball team up to bat.

Dusty Baker is like Godzilla destroying the Reds, one pitcher at a time. Last season, a lot of the experts expected the Reds to have a good season. Their pitching staff was rated as one of the best, since they had young arms like Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto. The mood was high and every Reds fan was excited about the young arms and guys like Jay Bruce waiting in the minors waiting to be called up. Baker had success with the Giants and Cubs as the manager, even making it deep in the playoffs with both teams. After Baker left, it looked like a 100-foot lizard destroyed the entire franchise.

Let’s start with Baker’s destruction of young pitching. I would like to coin a word and say the “Bakerification” of a pitcher, which would be the utter and total annihilation of a young pitcher’s career. In San Francisco, Baker the only elite pitching prospect that the Giants had while he was manager was Shawn Estes. He was teh 11th overall pick in the 1991 MLB amateur draft. He made his pro debut in ’95, and had a great year in ’97 (19-5 3.18 ERA). He had a good 2 1/2 year run as an elite pitcher, but he fell off the face of the earth. Except one decent year in Colorado, he has bounced around as a 5th or spot starter. Baker used him and pushed him over 200 innings and kept him in games in which they were behind by a large number of runs.

In Chicago he had a full plate of young pitching prospects. Kerry Wood and Mark Prior being the best two young pitchers the Cubs had seen since Greg Maddux. They had high expectations and were going to be a great #1 and #2 starters for a long time. After the 2003 season, both pitchers were never the same. They have missed complete seasons each and have had a laundry list of arm problems. Prior hasn’t really pitched in the big leagues since and Wood was converted to a closer, but not as dominant as he once was (he is a closer for Cleveland and has a 4.72 ERA this season). The lone young pitcher that seems to be standing after the Baker era in Chicago is Carlos Zambrano. I think there must be some truth to the rumors that he is actually a zombie.

This all circles back to the present-day Cincinnati Reds. It was announced last week that Edinson Volquez underwent Tommy John surgery and could miss the entire next season, as well as the rest of this season. To add more fuel to the fire, Johnny Cueto has had arm troubles this season and he’s now injured with a hip injury. Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang both had great season a few seasons before Baker became skipper, but the last two years they have been horrible. You can’t blame run support for their losses, since they have been sporting ERA around 5.00. So it’s not only the young pitchers who are prone to “Bakerification.”

You can’t blame GM Walk Jocketty for sticking with Dusty Baker. He was the man who hired Tony LaRussa in St. Louis, so he likes guys with winning experience. I think it’s time to let Baker go and find a man himself. The former GM Wayne Krivsky hired Baker as a last-ditch effort to save his job, kind of a desperate man’s final meal. He needed to make a splash, but he clearly had no plan for the future of the club. He was hoping that Baker could catch lightning in a bottle, but I think he more or less caught something else that needs some penicillin to clear up.

Once again, I would like to reiterate that I am not a Reds fan, I’m a Cubs fan, but I would like to see them competitive again. I have the same feeling about the Pirates too, but if both of those franchises ever get to a point where they are actually contending for the NL Central, I may not be too pleased. The Reds need to be blown up and get rid of guys like Harang and Arroya and build around some guys like Bruce, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and future-star Yonder Alonso. The start this process, fire Dusty Baker!

Gregg Makes Cubs Lose Wood

It looks like the Kerry Wood Experiment is officially over in Chicago. The Chicago Cubs acquired Kevin Gregg from the Florida Marlins for the minor-leaguer, Jose Ceda. Gregg has been the closer in Florida the last two seasons and he will be the set-up man for Chicago next season with Carlos Marmol assuming the closer role. This is a cost-cutting move by the Cubs in hopes of landing a left-handed power bat this offseason and re-signing Ryan Dempster. Wood is looking for a three-year deal in hopes of receiving $10 million a season.

GM Jim Hendry didn’t close the door to Wood in the future but thinks he should go get what he deserves in the open market. The New York Mets and Texas Rangers appears to be a good fit for Wood and have the money to sign him.

Kevin Gregg isn’t as good as Kerry Wood, but for a team that is cutting a few corners while spending large amounts of money, they feel like this is needed to keep Dempster and get a power left-handed bat to replace Fukudome in right-field. Gregg will have an ERA around 4.00 and give up a few extra homers in Wrigley Field. If he stays healthy, which he couldn’t do last season, he could help Chicago this year.

Jose Ceda has been in the Cubs farm system for a few years. The Padres traded him to Chicago when he was 18 years old for Todd Walker. Many baseball experts believe that Ceda could be a future closer and could become a Lee Smith type of pitcher. It looks like the Cubs could get the best out of this trade this season, but Ceda could be a beast for Florida for many seasons to come, until he hits arbitration, then they’ll trade him for another future star.

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Big Z, That Was A Close Call

The Chicago Cubs should be popping champagne bottles in celebration that Carlos Zambrano won’t need season-ending surgery for his shoulder. He was diagnosed with tendinitis and inflammation in his shoulder, which is much better than what the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times was hinting at the last few days. The Cubs will only go as far as Zambrano can make it.

Rich Harden is having some issues and will have a start pushed back, Dempster hasn’t thrown this many innings since he was on the Florida Marlins, Lilly kind of imploded at the end of the season last year, and I will never trust Jason Marquis. The replacement starters for the Cubs would either be Sean Marshall or long-reliever, Jon Lieber. Marshall seems to pitch one good game and followed it by two awful outings. I don’t think Lieber would be a sufficient addition either, he has been hurt for most of the season. Angel Guzman could possibly start a game, but he has been hurt for nearly the entire season and has yet to win a start in his limited history as a starter.

I think that Zambrano and Harden should make it to the post-season, but their ability to go on 3-days rest on a few occasions isn’t an ideal situation. Zambrano hasn’t been good on 3-days rest and would fear Harden would be over-worked. My theory would work and think it would be best. I know Kerry Wood has been a great closer, but he has post-season experience and seems to be pitching really well. If they were to convert Wood back to a starter for the rest of the season, they would have to start building up his arm strength right now. I know Jeff Samardzjia was a starter in the minors this season, but his ERA wasn’t great and doesn’t have the ability yet to get guys out the 2nd or 3rd time through the lineup.

If Zambrano or Harden can’t make it through their next start, you have to think that starting Kerry Wood would at least make it through Pinella or GM Hendry’s thought process. He is a free agent after this season, so Wood may not want to risk injury, but it may be the Cubs’ best option to winning their first World Series since 1908.

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