Kerry Wood retired from MLB today. He ended his career with the same team he began with, the Chicago Cubs. He also had some time with the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees. Wood set a single game strikeouts record, had some big postseason moments in 2003, suffered major injuries due to aggravating motions in his mechanics, and still had a fine 14 year career. It was just a career that fell way short of sky high expectations.
Wood needed to retire, it was overdue for him to go. But he couldn’t go out like this. (that would have been embarrassing, and an injustice to the good things he accomplished in the big leagues). And he couldn’t leave with such an ugly media meltdown like that.
There’s already been a million retrospectives written about his career, so I’ll stop here. And plenty of people have already written cheesy sentimental pablum about his final baseball moments today, so I’m not going to describe that either.
But you can watch it below:
Originally selected by the Cubs with the fourth overall pick of the 1995 Draft, just days shy of his 18th birthday, Wood pitched 16 years in the organization, including the first 14 seasons through the 2008 campaign and his final two starting again in 2011. He retires with the third-most strikeouts in team history with 1,470 and as only the fourth pitcher in club history with 12 or more seasons with the franchise, joining Charlie Root (16 seasons), Guy Bush (12) and Rick Reuschel (12). Wood is one of only 14 players in club history to appear on four playoff teams.
Wood made his major league debut April 12, 1998 and, at the age of 20 and five starts into his big league career, etched his name in the major league record books as the first rookie and youngest pitcher to record 20 strikeouts in a game when he one-hit the Houston Astros on May 6 at Wrigley Field. Wood earned the National League Rookie of the Year Award (13-6, 3.40) and helped the Cubs to a 1998 playoff berth.
After missing the 1999 season due to right elbow surgery, Wood returned to make 23 starts in 2000, 28 starts in 2001, a career-high 33 starts in 2002 and 32 starts in 2003, when he went 14-11 with a 3.20 ERA to earn a spot on his first National League All-Star team and lead the Cubs to the postseason. Wood won Games 1 and 5 of the 2003 National League Division Series, including 8.0 innings of one-run ball in the Game 5 series clincher in Atlanta, before he and the Cubs lost to Florida in seven games in the National League Championship Series.
Wood was limited to 22 starts in 2004, 21 appearances (10 starts) in 2005 and only four starts in 2006, ultimately leading to a turning point in his career in 2007 when he reinvented himself as a dominant late-inning reliever. After more than a year removed from the big leagues, Wood returned to the mound on August 5, 2007 with a scoreless relief appearance and helped the Cubs to the 2007 National League Central Division title.
Installed as the club’s closer in 2008, Wood made his second All-Star team and recorded 34 saves, now tied for the eighth-highest single-season total in franchise history. He helped lead the club to 97 wins, the franchise’s most in 63 years, and a spot in the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time in 100 years.
Wood left the Cubs via free agency following the 2008 campaign, first pitching for Cleveland (2009-10) before a 2010 trade deadline move to the New York Yankees that led to his fifth post-season appearance.
The homegrown Cub would return to the organization in 2011, posting a 3-5 record and a 3.35 ERA in 55 relief outings, leading to a return engagement for the 2012 campaign.
Wood, now 34-years-old, retires with a career 86-75 record, 63 saves, 1,582 strikeouts and a 3.67 ERA (563 ER/1380.0) in 446 major league appearances (178 starts), of which 341 outings came with the Cubs. He averaged 10.32 strikeouts per nine innings in his career, the second-highest total of any pitcher in major league history behind only Randy Johnson’s 10.61 mark (minimum 1,300 innings pitched).
Kerry and his wife, Sarah, founded the Wood Family Foundation in June 2011, a non-profit organization that acts as an advocate for children in the Chicago community and inspires others to join them in their mission of giving children the resources they need to succeed. The Wood family has helped raise millions of dollars and counting to improve the lives of children in and around Chicago.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, MSN and Fox Sports
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