Kerry Wood is no Cubs icon

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By Brad Spencer

Sports Editor

Please, everyone, anyone, whomever, for whatever reason, stop referring to pitcher Kerry Wood as a Cubs icon. He is not a Cubs icon.

I’m sure Wood is a fine person as his charity efforts in and around Chicago indicate, but striking out 20 batters in a single game on May 6, 1998 — over a decade ago — does not make him a Cubs icon. It was a fantastic feat, don’t get me wrong. Only two others have fanned as many batters in a single game — Roger Clemons and Randy Johnson. But it certainly does not earn Wood icon status, or anything more than the one-year $1.5 million contract the Cubs signed him too last season. After yielding 45 hits in 51 innings in relief, he’s for sure nowhere near worth that much this year.   

Why Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and others have referred to Wood as a Cubs icon and praised the right-hander for his loyalty to the Cubs is baffling to me. He came back last season, despite fielding offers for more money by other teams, not solely for his devotion to the Cubs. I’m sure his wife being from Chicago had something to do with it. I assume he would have signed with the Sox if the Cubs ignored his request to return to the team.

Wood’s best season on record was ’98, his rookie year. He went 13-6. His second best season was 2003 when he won 14 games, but lost 11. The biggest loss was Game 7 of the National Championship Series with the Cubs on the cusp of a World Series appearance. In 5.2 innings on the mound at Wrigley, Wood gave up seven earned runs as the Cubs fell to the Marlins 9-6. But the way many people seem to remember the Cubs’ downfall that season is a what-should-have-been meaningless foul ball in Game 6 (you know the one I’m talking about).

I’d take a win from Wood in Game 7 — heck, just a decent five innings would do — over the 20-strikeout performance any day. Any Cubs fan would.   

Icons don’t spend much of their career on and off the disabled list. Wood had a blister on his right index finger one too many times for someone who wasn’t on the mound regularly later in his career. He recently had knee surgery to repair a torn ligament. He’s been on the DL 14 times in his career.   

Yes, the Cubs need a veteran this season amidst a very young group of players, and Wood would be perfect to fill that spot (depending on how much he costs), but a Cubs icon he is not.

So far the icon distinction belongs to guys like Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux, Rick Sutcliffe, Harry Caray …

Wood, as likable as he is, should not be mentioned in the same breath as these Cubs icons. And I bet even he would agree.

Down the road, who knows, maybe he’ll become a beloved Cubs broadcaster. 

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Q from Oak Park  

Posted: January 20th, 2012 12:02 PM

Brad, you do have it right that he is very likable and so is his wife. I was out with both last week and he really does try very hard for the Cubs, but he has also had a lot of injuries.

Angry Birds  

Posted: January 14th, 2012 1:16 PM

Brad -did you compare stats while they both were on the Cubs? Maddux was on the Cubs for 7 years. The first 2 years weren't good he was 2-4 then 6-14. Then 5 years that were good or great. Wood was on the the cubs for 10 years avg/good years. You seem to only remember game 7 which Wood didn't win. He won 2 post season games that year 1.76 ERA, and a no decision after pitching 7 innings. Then didn't pitch well in game 7. Maddux, in post season started 2 games, lasted 7 innings total, 13.50era

Daniel Foley from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: January 14th, 2012 11:39 AM

Greg Maddux is a first ballot hall of fame pitcher, who left the Cubs after having players ask management for more money on his behalf. He played his best years in Atlanta, before coming back to the north side to finish his career. His work with the former GM was valued, and his ties to the organization seem to be personal (Hendry) and he does not generate the emotional response (noted in the comments below) from Cub fans. Gold Gloves (for a pitcher) are nice, but not really a symbol of devotion from fans. I think you should ask the question "Is Greg Maddux a Cubs icon?" and if anyone cared, that would be interesting. He is, however an Atlanta Braves Icon. I'll give you that.

Brad Spencer, sports editor Wednesday Journal  

Posted: January 14th, 2012 9:03 AM

It wasn't a question that they were going to sign Wood. The discussion is whether or not he's a Cubs icon and worthy of more than a 1-year $1.5 million contract. Because they signed him to 1-year $3 mil still does not make him one. He is a class act. I like him. I am a die-hard Cubs fan. But his numbers do not equate to Cubs icon status. Compare them to Maddux's while on the Cubs. Cy Young winner, multiple Gold Gloves. Maddux is a Cubs icon.

Daniel Foley from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: January 13th, 2012 9:38 PM

Yeah, maybe you are right. Or, you could read the ChicagoTribune.,0,1330289.story. Or, you could go back to reporting on high schools.

Angry Birds  

Posted: January 13th, 2012 8:06 PM

Brad - Kerry Wood was 4-1 in September 2003. In the NLDS against Atlanta, he was 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA The Cubs won game 3 in the NLCS, but Wood didn't get the win because Farnsworth then Borowski couldn't finish his start. His 20k game has only been accomplished by 2 others. He is a class act, and his work ethic is a model for other players. Maddux won the Cy young, but didn't win in the NLCS, then left. But he is a bigger symbol? Sorry your class act and Sox symbol Ozzie just left town.

Cubs Sign Kerry Wood  

Posted: January 13th, 2012 7:27 PM,0,1330289.story

Mares from River Forest  

Posted: January 13th, 2012 7:20 PM

Good for Wood, he deserves it! With the amount of young pitchers the Cubs recently signed he will be a great clubhouse leader along with Dempster.


Posted: January 13th, 2012 7:18 PM

$900,000- 1M. My guess

Daniel Foley from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: January 13th, 2012 7:11 PM

And, he got $3.0M and turned another team down. So, guess what guys, market based economics wins. If you still think he is not worth $1.5M, you are right, it was proven today he is worth more. Call it leader, call it icon, denying it only makes the case. Hell, the very fact that Spencer chose to write the column as opposed to his weekly worship of Shumpert, makes the case. I feel like I am talking to Trainor.

Mares from River Forest  

Posted: January 13th, 2012 7:07 PM

Guaranteed he will get at least 2.5 million.


Posted: January 13th, 2012 5:16 PM

Wood is only in Chicago becasue his WIFE is from here. Lets get real. He pitched 51 innings in 2011 and his era was 3.35??? He had 5 loses. He played in 55 games. The market for relievers is like any other position. The better you are the more your paid. Kerry Wood is NOT worth $1.5 Million.

Daniel Foley from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: January 13th, 2012 2:51 PM

Treating players as a business is fine in a market oriented sport. But, the comment below that he is not worth $1.5M is silly. Frankly, it assumes that the writer knows what the market rate for a reliever is; and, I'll bet he does not. You assumed the home town discount because he had no other options or his family is here. Very naive. Being held accountable? Really? Did he screw up surgery? It is still just a ballgame, and he is still a major league pticher with the guts and grit to save close ballgames in the late innings. His current status is a function of the continued loyalty he has shown the organization despite many options to make more money elsewhere. Accountable? In sports? Where did you learn about that?

Brad Spencer, Sports Editor Wednesday Journal  

Posted: January 13th, 2012 1:33 PM

Daniel, I hope you've been resuscitated by the correction of two letters in the names of those Cubs icons, but I hold Wood and the Cubs accountable for blowing it in 2003. Game 7 at home most certainly should have been won. Ep and Hoyer are treating Wood as if true Cubs fans can't do without him next season, and that's certainly not the case. They'll sign him. But he has yet to gain icon status. I will not take that back.

Dave Coulter  

Posted: January 13th, 2012 12:15 PM

Good post. It always amazed me how he parlayed that one (the 20 K game) really good pitching performance into million$!


Posted: January 13th, 2012 11:40 AM

Kerry Wood is OK, but NOT worth $1.5 Million that the Cubs paid him last yr. He has NEVER had an injury free season with ANY ball club.His lifetime pay has been $72,595,000. Are you kidding me? All but $20 Million of that came from the Cubs since 1999. Hes not worth anything north of a million( in my book)

Daniel Foley from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: January 13th, 2012 11:32 AM

Brad, your ignorance is breathtaking. First, its Maddux abd Caray. Second, the very need to write such a column as if someone had been pestering you. Kerry Wood has been a symbol of intense competition and determination as both a starter and reliever for the Cubs since day one. Pitching through injuries, giving a home town discount, returning to the team after surgery, when he could have signed as a free agent elsewhere. Your dwelling on game 7 - a game that noone thought they were going to win, is a mistake. Luckily, you have this comment board to take it all back.

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