Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs tips his hat to fans during player introductions prior to playing the Pittsburgh Pirates on opening day at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Dear Theo and Jed,
Hi! How are you doing? Enjoying Chicago so far? We haven't had much of a winter here yet, so it's probably been easy and comfortable for you to get to work at the corner of Clark & Addison. I hear you two have been pretty busy working late nights, examining the organization from top to bottom; so far I like all the deals and signings you have made in re-making the Cubs major league roster and acquiring additional depth for the minor league system.
I'm excited about the future. You guys had success together in Boston and I know you know what you're doing and believe me, I understand your method. You can't just go for the quick fix as the Cubs have for the last decade; if the two of you and Jason McLeod and the others you have brought in can build a strong top-to-bottom organization, then the Cubs can become a team that can contend for the postseason every year, and win a couple of times in a decade like your old team in Boston did.
I get it. And I like the way you've begun the process. It's the right way to go.
I have only one question this morning. Why haven't you signed Kerry Wood yet?
Theo, in 1995 when Wood was drafted, you were just graduating from Yale. In 1998, when when Wood struck out 20 in his fifth major league start in what is arguably the most dominant pitching performance in major league history, you were just starting out in baseball with the Padres. Jed, you were still working at your alma mater, Wesleyan University.
Sure, you know all about that. But you didn't feel the energy it brought to the '98 team after a horrific 1997; you weren't there when Wood gutted out five shutout innings on what turned out to be an arm that needed Tommy John surgery in Game 3 of the 1998 NLDS, leaving trailing 1-0 in a game, and series, the Cubs eventually lost.
You and Jed were in Boston, leading your team to the postseason in your first year there, when Kerry won his last four starts in 2003, posting a 0.93 ERA, helping lead the Cubs to an unlikely NL Central championship, and you were watching your Red Sox make the ALCS when Kerry won two games against the Braves in the NLDS that year, including Game 5, which clinched the first postseason series for a Cubs team in 95 years.
And you weren't there when Kerry cried at his locker after failing to win Game 7 of the NLCS against the Marlins, even though he hit a home run in that game too, patiently answering every reporter's questions, and taking full responsibility for the loss, something players rarely do in the 21st Century.
Yes, I know about all the injuries, Theo & Jed; they kept Wood out of baseball for most of 2005 and 2006. But we also know that Kerry came back -- after almost retiring -- in 2007, and was a key part of the 2008 NL Central championship team, posting a save total (34) that coincidentally matched the uniform number that's sold a ton of replica jerseys over the years.
All of these are the reasons I love Kerry Wood. I don't have a lot of favorite players, but Kerry Wood is near the top of the list. Having met the man on a couple of occasions, I also know he's an outstanding human being who would be a credit to any baseball organization. This is what he means to Cubs fans and what he represents to the history of the organization, and also as a transition to the future that you are building.
Yes, I know he's almost 35. Yes, I know he has occasional blister problems that can keep him out of action for a couple of weeks at a time. But he can also still flash the dominant fastball he had at age 20; he's an excellent clubhouse leader, and he can help mentor some of the younger pitchers who will make up the 2012 bullpen. With your trades of Sean Marshall and Andrew Cashner -- both of which were very good trades, don't get me wrong -- the bullpen needs at least one man with experience.
Kerry Wood is that man. Further, with all the new players coming in, Kerry is the face of the franchise.
So what's the holdup? $1 million or so? Seriously, if Wood wants $4 million or $5 million, what does that come to? About 3 or 4% of the payroll? It's a relatively small amount of money that isn't going to damage the longterm future of this team and might get some casual fans feeling good about having a player they genuinely love on the roster.
If you're going to charge marquee prices, you have to have at least one guy who will light up the marquee. Yes, I know Kerry Wood is a middle relief guy or setup man, and he's not going to pitch in every game, and people aren't going to buy tickets based on maybe being able to see Kerry Wood pitch.
But if you blithely toss away a pitcher and man who has meant so much to this franchise and Cubs fans over the last 14 years, thinking you don't "need" him, some of those people might say, "Well, I'm not buying tickets this year."
Kerry Wood has value to the Cubs in many different ways. He's committed to the city and has made it his permanent home. Theo & Jed, can't you squeeze a little extra money out of your budget and get him signed before Friday's opening of the Cubs Convention? Having Wood introduced at the opening ceremony would create some enthusiasm and buzz that you guys very much need. (And incidentally, no matter what you two have been told about the convention, you won't really get it until you're there. Not a single newcomer to the team has ever really understood it until they see it.)
You might not think you need Kerry Wood. But for all the reasons above, yes, you do need him. It's worth a few extra dollars, Theo & Jed. Get it done this week.