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Friday, May 18, 2012

He Brought the Wood

Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood (0-2, 8.64 ERA), age 34, announced that he would retire from baseball today. This brings to a close a career of a very good pitcher who demonstrated the potential to be an all time great. Unfortunately, injuries are a part of baseball. While Wood can hold his head high as he walks away from the game, Cubs fan will have decades to ponder, “What if,” at water coolers and watering holes on the north side of Chicago.


The 1998 National League Rookie of the Year (13-6, 3.40 ERA, 233K in 1998) burst on to the scene, becoming one of a very small number of men in major league history to throw 20 strikeouts in a game, in only his fourth major league start. Unfortunately, the hard throwing right hander may have flamed out his heater as a rookie. Wood underwent Tommy John surgery after his rookie year and missed the entire 1999 season.

Wood made a full recovery, mowing down batter and raking up eye-popping strikeout numbers, including 266 Ks in the Cubs’ National League Central Division championship year of 2003. By 2005, however, nagging injuries further derailed Wood’s efficiency. He started his last game as a major league pitcher in 2005.

Kerry Wood threw 20 strikeouts against the Houston Astros on May 6, 1998. Note that Hall of Fame first baseman Mark Grace was still active with the Cubs. that was a L..O..N..G time ago! 1


Wood honed his skills and transitioned to an effective relief pitcher, assuming a closer role in 2008 with the Cubs and 2009 with the Cleveland Indians. Wood returned to the Cubs, the team that drafted him, last season to conclude his career. He retires with a career ERA of 3.76 and 1,581 strikeouts (career strikeouts/nine innings ratio of 10.3 and a K/BB ratio of 2.37).

Father Time catches up to everyone, sooner or later. It is almost always “sooner” for professional athletes that do not kick a ball or are named “Moyer” or “Vizquel”. I wish Wood the best in his retirement. I also wish I could have seen what would have been had Wood been healthier during his career.

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