by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
November 28, 2007
The Chicago Cubs re-signed Kerry Wood to a 1-year, $4.2 million deal that
could escalate up to $7.65 million as Wood approaches 55 games finished. Wood claims
that he could have gotten a multi-year deal with several other ballclubs.
It's always good to see a 10-year
one-teamer remain with the
franchise that drafted him, but it should be particularly nice for Cubs fans,
who have enjoyed an entirely different Cubs team whenever Wood has been healthy
Many Cubs fans think of Kerry Wood and mull over what could have been.
Chicago began the 1999 season 33-29, good for second place in the NL Central,
five games behind the Houston Astros. How much closer would the club have
been with a healthy Kerry Wood on the team, and would they have still gone 34-66
the rest of the way had their aging pitching staff been worked less hard?
Were Wood completely healthy in 2004, could the Cubs have made up that three
game deficit to those same Wild Card-winning Astros? Had he pitched more
than 24.1 innings in 2007, would the Cubs have been seeded differently in the
postseason, completely changing their playoff destiny?
I prefer to revel in what Wood has brought to the franchise, rather than what
more he could have brought. In the 10 years that Wood has been a member of
the Chicago Cubs, they have finished with a winning record five times and made
the playoffs thrice. In the previous 51 years, spanning from the end of
World War II until the infamous 1997 season, the franchise only boasted a
winning record eleven times and made the postseason just twice.
|| >.500 %
Actually, any Cubs fan who has only been following the team during these past
10 seasons might have a hard time understanding why the Cubs are known as
loveable losers, given their success. The Kerry Wood era has arguably been
the best span of Cubs seasons since the war, with the possible exception of the
Leo Durocher era of 1966-1972, during which the club finished over .500 six
But Durocher, too, had his share of failures. His 1966 Cubs team became
the first ever to finish behind the expansion New York Mets, and still marks
only the second time the Cubs have endured a triple-digit loss season. His
1969 team became infamous for blowing a 10-game August 14th edge over those same
New York Mets. In 1972, the Cubs went just 46-44 (.511) before Durocher
got fired, then finished 39-26 (.600) when rookie manager Whitey Lockman took
over full time. Indeed, there is some doubt as to how much of the Cubs'
success over this period is due to the influence of The Lip.
With Wood, there is no doubt. He was a huge contributor on the 1998 and
the 2003 playoff squads, and a nice late-season boost for last year's iteration.
In fact, in each of the Cubs' five winning seasons since 1998, Wood has posted
an ERA+ of 118 or higher. In each of the five losing seasons, that ERA+
was 112 or lower (he did not play in 1999).
Is it fair to say that with Wood on the team, the Cubs have a 50% chance of a
winning record, 30% chance of making the playoffs, and a guaranteed October
berth if Wood pitches well? Of course not. But viewed next to the
four-year, $19 million contract that Scott Linebrink received from Chicago's
South Side team, a one-year, incentive laden contract to a homegrown talent who
has been a major part of rejuvenating this North Side franchise looks like quite
a bargain, not just a sentimental gesture.
If Wood enjoys a fabulous year as the Cubs' closer, would he remain loyal to
Chicago, or would the native Texan be lured away by gregarious offers from the
Rangers and the Astros? And would the Cubs be willing to offer him a near
market value long-term contract given Wood's injury history?
While Wood's future is quite uncertain, his present brings a smile to my
face. He reminds me of those 1998 Cubs, easily my favorite team of all
time. I occasionally get visions of Astros flailing haplessly at high
curveballs that defy the laws of physics when I watch #34. And he also
reminds me how lucky I am to be a Cubs fan during this generation of competitive
Thank you, for your part in that, Kerry. Good luck this season.
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.