It wasn’t supposed to end this way. The powerful right arm of Kerry Wood was supposed to lead the Cubs to the promise land. Like Ron Santo said more than 10 years ago during Wood’s masterpiece, “If this kid keeps pitching this way we will be playing in October.”
Kerry Wood quickly became the face of the Chicago Cubs on that cloudy May afternoon, and after finding what seemed to be his home as a closer for the team that drafted him, Kerry Wood’s days as a Chicago Cub are over. The former ‘Kid K‘ will don a new uniform with the familiar number 34 on his back next season….and beyond. The Cubs reportedly wanted him back on a one-year deal but would not commit to the three or four- year contract and the $50 million dollars that Wood could command on the open market….so Kerry Wood’s career as a Cub came to an unceremonious end on a Thursday afternoon in November. When Wood took the mound in Game 2 of the NLDS in October, there was a feeling if the Cubs were eliminated from the playoffs that could have been his last appearance on the mound at Wrigley in a Cubs’ uniform. After bursting onto the scene a decade before and waiting for seemingly years for him to fulfill his promise, one of the most beloved Cubs of all-time threw his last pitch as a Cub….something everyone knew was possible, but just not probable.
When it was announced that the Cubs had decided to let Kerry Wood leave, the first emotion was that of shock and disbelief. After all this is Kerry Wood, not some pitcher that signed a free-agent deal for a lot of money and said all of the right things in his first press conference with the Chicago Media. This is a guy that knows what it means to be a Cub and has given his all for the only organization he has ever known.
Many of the conversations over Wood always began with, ‘when he is healthy‘. Well for the first time since 2003, the Cubs had a healthy Kerry Wood. They finally figured out a way to use him and keep him on a mound…and for the most part, he was very effective. Wood did his job and electrified the crowd at the old ballpark every time he took the mound to start the 9th inning….even after all the years of waiting. Think about it, there is half a generation of fans that do not know the Cubs without Kerry Wood.
Wood is the only Cub pitcher since 1908 to win a clinching game in the post-season…and will forever be remembered as the ‘Kid‘ that struck out 20 batters in one of the most dominant pitching performances in the history of the game. It has yet to sink in that the longest tenured Cub will have a new address next season.
Kerry Wood will be missed and maybe it is time to let go of the past and all of the ‘could-have-beens‘. But one thing is certain, Kerry Wood will always be a Chicago Cub….no matter what is on the front of his jersey.