Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Kerry Wood

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/managed/grota/drupal/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

If I didn't know better

If I didn't know better, I could jump to the first conclusion that this is Cubness At Its Finest: like Holtzman, Jenkins, Maddux, Reuschel, Lieber, etc. let's bring back a great old name from the past, because they were good once?  That means they will be good again!

Then, once I got past that notion, then I might consider the presumed mode of operation of the Ricketts Regime, and deem the return of Kerry Wood a stop-gap move.  One that seems far more cynical than bringing in Carlos Pena, since the re-acquisition of Wood most certainly triggers a torrential flood of nostalgia that will result in lots of tickets sold, increased ratings on TV and radio, and big-time sales of #34 jerseys.

And, if I were able to get past the second obstacle, I might go back to his previous season, in which he gave up 2 runs in the entire span of his appearances with the Yankees.  I might opine that he might have been acquired to not only free up Andrew Cashner for a rotation spot (a bit premature IMO: Cashner could not have been much worse last year) but based on his Yankee stint, to possibly fill the closer void if Carlos Marmol loses command of his weapons-grade slider?

Yes, in fact, bringing back Kid K might in some respects be all of the above.  But honestly, I believe it was just a matter of a guy who wanted to be a Cub, at all costs, and a General manager who figured why not.  It is as simple as that.  Kerry Wood is not going to save the Cubs, and if you remember, as I do, when he was going to be the next Nolan Ryan, his return is bittersweet. 

In a sport where so many wrong things happen (hello, Nationals and Jayson Werth?), sometimes it is just so easy to do the right thing.  It is just that Kerry Wood is a Cub.  He never should have been allowed to leave.

Kid K? Well, A Middle Aged Version Close to Return

This is news I can get behind, and it really made my morning as I read that Kerry Wood, AKA Kid K, might be returning to the Chicago Cubs. Wood has always been one of my favorite Cub players and it hurt a little when we let him walk two years ago to Cleveland. while the Cubs turned to Kevin Gregg. 

Gregg pitched well at times, but a terrible weekend in Florida doomed him and the Cubs slim playoff hopes. Wood and the Indians struggled and it was evident that both sides had made a bad choice. This season, Wood was finally shipped to the Yankees, where he turned in two really solid months of pitching.

If Wood has turned the corner and can avoid long stints on the DL, the Cubs get a perfect pitcher to help secure the back end of the bullpen. With Carlos Marmol closing, Wood and Sean Marshall take over the 7th and 8th inning duties. The Cubs never found a Right-handed counterpart to Wood last year, and now the Cubs have a few opitions. Andrew Cashner will likely be be used in the 6th and 7th innings, which might be perfect for his development in low-pressure situations. The Cubs will likely trot out the ghost of John Grabow some, until they finally waive him or find a DL spot for him.


Now, the Cubs will likely be forced to trade or release somebody, because the Cubs have 40 players on the 40-man roster.


Here is just some quick speculation on the 40-man:


Starters


Carlos Zambrano


Ryan Dempster


Carlos Silva


Tom Gorzelanny


Jeff Smardzjia


Randy Wells


Andrew Cashner?


Dempster, Zambrano, and Silva are probably going to start. Other signings pending, that leaves the Cubs with four guys with two spots. Wells probably has a leg up, but I would think that someone is going to get dealt before the Wood signing is made offical.


Relievers


Marmol - Closer


Marshall - 7th/8th


Wood - 7th'/8th


Cashner - RH


Grabow - LH


That leaves two spots for the likes of James Russell, Casey Coleman, Brian Schlitter, Jeff Stevens, Esmailin Caridad, Thomas Diamond and Macos Mateo. Not to mention the Biobic Arm of Angel Guzman.

My guess is that Cubs at least try and give Grabow a chance since they are paying him four million dollars this year.


What do you guys think? I love the Wood idea, so I hope it is finalized.

We read the Shout Box

NEXTyearNOW points out that since I wrote yesterday's post, the Yankees have started talking about trading for Zambrano, and Kid K is negotiating to come back to our bullpen.

So, yes, I will come right out now and say that we DON'T need no stinking Matt Garza.  He has never won 20 in the bigs, and he has pitched most of his games in a dingy wart dome.  He would never be able to adjust to the changing weather conditions in Wrigley.  I don't feel he would be a good fit for us.

I also see big things ahead for the Fooker this year.  The fourth big league season is usually when Japanese players finally acclimate to the speed of the game.  I no longer advocate trading him for a sack of manure.  This is the year he learns to lay off the low pitches and forces hurlers to pitch to HIS strengths.

Also, let me add that since we have Carlos Pena in the fold, we certainly have no room on our club for Albert Pujols.  It would just be too damn weird to see him wearing pinstripes, anyhow.  We can't afford him, anyhow.

Joey Votto has been extremely dismissive of the Cubs in recent years, and in fact, he's just a whiny little bitch,  We sure don't need him, either.  Nor do we need some quiet, shy, wallflower type like Andre Ethier.  Certainly Soriano and Colvin have more experience manning the corner outfield spots at Wrigley. 

Let me conclude this morning by asserting my support for Jim Hendry and Crane Kenney as Executives For Life.  Both men have stood up admirably during tumultuous times at Clark and Addison, and if the Ricketts family knew what was best, they would call both of them in today and extend their contracts into perpetuity.

Pitching will tell the tale for the Cubs in 2011

The only "impact" hitter the Cubs possess, past, present, or future, is Alfonso Soriano, and his category is, of course, "past".  So, even if he has his current "typical" .800 OPS year, and even if every other member of the offense has an above-average statistical year, the Cubs will still finish in the middle of the pack offensively in the NL.   Considering the salaries being paid, that's not OK, but otherwise, that would be acceptable if we had solid pitching and defense to back that up.

AJ pointed out the other day that, except for third base, the defense isn't going to lose us any games.  The past year or so, an effort was made to replace Soriano in left during late innings.  It might be time to, instead, consider doing that for Ramirez.  It was different when ARam was our most consistent late-inning run producer.  It was also different in his younger days when he was characterized as 'lazy'.  At this point in his life, he may honestly just be this slow.  It is the manager's job to address this situation, and hopefully Quade has these types of late-inning defensive thoughts.

Which leaves the pitching, and well, damn.  I consider myself to know more about hitting than pitching, but I don't think we are very well equipped going forward. 

I think we have Dempster, a #2 starter.  If we are to go with his last 10 starts last year, Zambrano is a nice #3 starter (the slot he held during the "glory" years mid-decade), but there's a catch, and it isn't just that he makes Ace Money.  Personally, I love to watch the man play, but if we are talking about winning, we need consistency and excellence that can be relied on.  You cannot rely on this Toro.  If your lawnmower crapped out as often as Z does, you'd push him to the curb. 

I thought Hendry was going to do just that last month.  The right whispers were there.  Nothing has happened on that front.  Maybe, though, now that Cliff Lee is now with Philly, the Yankees will need to do something big, because that is what they do.  Maybe we'll hear some new rumors soon. (UPDATED)

What else do we have?  One more year of Silva the Hutt, who reverted to his true blobular self in the 2nd half.  There's mediocre lefty Gorzellany, who is being shopped.  There's noted nightlife lover Randy Wells, who early this year I compared to Greg Maddux because he doesn't have a 'big arm', but seems to know how to pitch when all is right.  Wells can be part of a staff if he prioritizes.  To me, he is worth more in a trade than on our staff.

There has been word lately of efforts to get Matt Garza from the Rays.  This would be more exciting if there was, like, any chance in hell it could happen.  The question came up - why would the Rays make this deal?  If it could make their team better!  If somehow the Rays and Jim Hendry could hammer out a good old-fashioned "value" trade, where we sent them something of roughly equal value to what we would receive.

The problem is, to my knowledge, the last time Hendry was involved in a true "value" trade was the big Nomar deal in 2004.  All of Hendry's trades since have either been: desperation dumps of Sammy Sosa and Milton Bradley; favors to players like Ted Lilly and Greg Maddux; or the occasional fire-sale swap with the Pirates.  I doubt Hendry has the ability or the stones to make a straight value-for-value trade, where he gives up, say, Wells and/or Gorzellany, along with top prospects, or something that involves one of our young players with experience, like Colvin or Castro.  At least, I don't trust him to do it right.

I fail to see what is so special about Casey Coleman.  I have never seen why the Shark was worth the money he has been paid, although I grasp the concept it had to do with the eventuality that he might have opted to play football instead, it doesn't justify why it was given to HIM.  It is a hope of mine, though, that the new pitching coach has a rapport with him that Rothschild never had.

In the best of situations, we need two of the afore-mentioned starters to step up.  However, we are going to need three, because we don't have a staff Ace.  Therefore everyone steps up a rung.  And, if sometime between now and spring training, Zambrano opens up his ugly mouth and says something unforgivable, which COULD happen at any given moment that he is awake, then Hendry will be forced into another of his patented 'addition by subtraction' dumps, and all we'll have is Dempster and dumpster.

Bullpen?  Thank God for Sean Marshall.  This is about the time of year, typically, when the "Marshall is a good soldier, he deserves a chance to start" refrain is sung.  This year, though, nobody dares.  He has to stay in the pen.  Otherwise, we rely on surgi-zombies Grabow, Caridad, and Guzman, along with Andrew Cashner and Rafael Dolis, two guys with huge arms and absolutely no idea about how to pitch. 

Then of course we have our closer, the Harry Potter of the majors.  Carlos Marmol set records last year for both percentage of pitches swung at and missed as well as strikeouts per nine innings.  Honestly, I thought the 1977-79 Bruce Sutter was the most unhittable force of all time - Marmol crushed his stats, simply crushed them.  Thing is, though, both Sutter and Marmol pitched for fifth place teams.  I have always maintained that the secret of his success is how hard he concentrates on his task.  Can he keep up that level of concentration to close games that matter?  Nobody knows, do we?

So that brings us to the point where we go get some pitching help.  I will come back soon with some possible candidates, but one of them is not Kerry Lee Wood.  Now, I love me some Wood.  Great guy, historical guy, diabolical stuff, cute, perky wife.  Great in the community, loves the Cubs and Chicago.  But he also represents something we need to get away from: unrequited Cub Hope. 

The Ricketts need to pull a 180 in terms of historic direction.  I am afraid Wood represents the way things used to be done here: work hard, not smart.  When at first you don't succeed, throw harder; tear yourself apart, go on the DL.  Suffer the crush of over 100 years of Cubs karma; resign yourself to your fate.  I feel that happened to Wood, as it happened to Grace, Sandberg, Banks, Williams, and on and on. 

If the Cubs are ever going to win it all, it will need to be with new blood.  Could it be Castro?  Soto?  Marmol?  The Korean kids in Peoria?  I dunno, but it won't be with Kerry Wood, God bless him and his 20 Ks and his Game 7 loss and his tattered shoulder and the burden of 102 years on top of him.  We need to find some help elsewhere.

Trade deadline recap

Hi all. Here are some Cub related notes on today's trade deadline:

The Cubs themselves sent Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot to the Dodgers for second baseman Blake DeWitt and two varying degrees of good prospects. Brett Wallach is the jem here and will immediately move into the Cubs' top 15 prospect lists. Good Bye to Ted and Ryan, both of whom have been key parts of the team over the last four years and deserve our respect and honor. I am very interested to see what DeWitt will be able to do for the Cubs.

The Cardinals traded away Ryan Ludwick and received Jake Westbrook in return. Westbrook is an ok pitcher, everyone keeps speculating that he will be fixed somehow by Dave Duncan and while agree that Westbrook is the type of pitcher who has had success working with Duncan, I also think that rookie John Jay is going to be out of his depth and this deal further hurts the Cardinals' offense. I actually think that overall, the Cardinals have not really improved themselves.

The Astros, of course, traded both Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman away in an effort to turn those 2 out of 3's against the Cubs into sweeps.... I don't think they got back near enough and don't consider Bret Wallace to be anywhere near the offensive force that Berkman has been. I wonder if the Astros wouldn't have just better off keeping both players and trying to swap them in 2011. I don't think they did well.

The Reds did nothing. Kind of surprising. If I were a Red fan, I'd be angry. It may not matter. They could win it anyway. Oh and Jonny Gomes is still a huge Ahole. Just saying.

The Pirates flipped some of their roster for some potentially nice players and pretty much got more from trading Octavio Dotel, Javier Lopez, Bobby Crosby and Ryan Church than the Astros got for dealing Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. Wow.

Ex Cub Kerry Wood got traded to the Yankees. I wish him well and now I'm rooting for the Yankees to win the World Series. Wood is a Cub and will always be one. As such if he wins a title.... in a way we all do. Go Kerry!

Kyle Farnsworth was traded at the deadline to the Braves along with Rick Ankiel for a whole bevy of interesting prospects. Farnsworth doesn't have anywhere near the same level of respect in Chicago that my man Kerry has, thus I am not particularly concerned with this deal. I do find new Royals prospect Tim Collins particularly interesting.

Other than that, the rest of the Cubs are still here. No Fuku trade, no Zambrano trade, Nady will be passed through waivers I'm sure and could be dealt. I am a fan of Mike Fontenot bug with DeWitt on board, I don't really see what he does for the Cubs so I expect Fontenot be also be passed through waivers and possibly traded. Jeff Baker may still have value on the team.

Overall, a massively interesting day. I'm happy with the deal. I would have liked to have seen the Cubs do more but I don't believe I was ever one of those "Blow up the team" people so I won't complain. I will leave this up for two hours before posting today's gamecast.

(Edit) I forgot to mention Will Ohman traded back to the NL to play for the Marlins. He's still around and is pretty effective.

Trade Moon Rising?

It's been a tumultuous week to be a Cubs fan: a 1-3 start to the road trip, an offense that can't score, and the "ace" off the staff being relegated to set-up duties.  To add more fuel to the fire during the Cubs Post-Game Show, Dave Kaplan stated that his sources have told him the Cubs are discussing "major trades." 

At this time it isn't clear who the Cubs are talking to or about, but it would be safe to bet that any trade talks involve bolstering the club's largely inexperience and (so far) ineffective bullpen.  It has been made somewhat clear that moving Zambrano to the pen is only a temporary fix until the club can promote or trade for a solid bullpen arm.  For now, Z (hypothetically) provides the 'pen with the experience and effectiveness that has lacked through the first 16 games of the season.

So who might some of these mystery trades involve?  In my mind, one player that makes sense for so many reasons for the Cubs is Kerry Wood.  Here's why:

The Indians have been trying to move Wood's contract since the GM meetings ($10.5 MM this season with an $11 MM vesting option if he finishes 55 games).  With Wood starting the season on the DL the option is unlikely to vest.  However, for the Indians it doesn't make much sense to pay that much money for a closer when the team has two younger and cheaper future closers already on their roster in Jensen Lewis and Chris Perez.  If the Cubs come to the table willing to take on all of Wood's contract the Indians may be satisfied with a low prospect in return.  Thus, the Indians make logical trading partners at this point simply for their desire to engage in a salary dump.

Moreover, Kid K makes a lot of sense for the Cubs bullpen situation.  Big Z was demoted to the pen because Lou wanted a power righty that brought experience as well as the ability to get hitters out.  Kerry Wood is a power righty that has more experience in the pen than Z and has proven that he can not only get hitters out, but do so under the Chicago microscope.  Oh, that and the entire fan base is in love with him.

Wood has always been a wild card when it comes to his durability and health.  A second tour in Chicago would be no different, especially as he is recovering from a back injury suffered in spring training at the moment.  However, the Cubs should take a long look Wood's way when assessing the logical pieces that could help resolve the bullpen shortcomings.

Wood & DeRo - Where are they now?

Jim Hendry has deservedly received a lot of flack for his off season moves this year.  He rolled the dice on Bradley -- so far coming up a loser, although time may tell a different story -- he took a risk on Fontenot -- also a loser move -- and he dealt for Kevin Gregg after declaring that Wood had no home in Chicago.

The loss of Wood and Mark DeRosa in particular upset a lot of Cub fans.  How many times have we heard or read this year that "da Cubs would be doin' betta with Da-Rosa!"  How many of us lamented that Kerry Wood -- a certifiable "big game pitcher" -- was to be replaced by Kevin Gregg and his hipster-doofus glasses? 

While the fan in me still misses Wood considerably, at this point Hendry's decisions look less decisively poor and more ambiguously positive than they did back in May. 

Wood presently has 14 saves and 4 blown, while posting an ERA of 4.93 through 34.2 innings of work.  Not exactly elite.  Compare that with Gregg, who has 21 saves to 3 blown with an ERA of 3.42 in 47.1 innings of work.

DeRosa, meanwhile, is still hitting the crap out of the ball -- he's batting .266 with 18 homeruns so far this year.  Although, since coming to St. Louis, DeRo is hitting a Fontenesque .244.

Speaking of Fontenot, at this point he has me longing for the days of Mickey Morandini.  Font is batting .229 and should never, ever face another left handed pitcher in a game that matters.

As for Milton Bradley, he is doing better but not great.  He's certainly not earning his contract this season.  He was chosen by the Cubs over guys like Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn, and Raul Ibanez, all of whom are either lacking power, defense, or a legitimate "I'm doing it clean" argument. 

Nevertheless, the Cubs are now leading the NL Central.  They'd undoubtably be better off with a guy like DeRosa on the team, but Gregg at least is looking very good.  And Bradley?  Meh.  Let's talk about him again in a year.

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Indians 5 - Whoa

Cubs Win!
Who knew that, when Kerry Wood left the Cubs to join the Cleveland Indians this past season he would still contribute two wins to the 2009 team?

Friday night's victory, achieved through a walk-off homerun by Derrek Lee against Wood is like nothing compared with today's, in which Wood imploded on the mound giving the Cubs the victory in the 13th inning.

For the record, before the start of June the Cubs had played in three extra inning games.  Since June, they've played seven long games out of fifteen possibilities.  That's kind of nuts.

It would never have happened without Derrek Lee and Kerry Wood.  Lee hit another homerun today, this time a 2-run shot, which put the Cubs on the board in the 5th.  That was followed with a homerun by Micah Hoffpauir in the 6th, which briefly gave the Cubs the lead until Carlos Marmol came undone in the 7th (his 3rd straight appearance, by the way), which is how the game would look until the 13th.

Amazingly, the Cubs probably should have lost.  They had 12 total hits and 6 walks, failing to score on 19 separate opportunities, and to add insult to injury Dave "Bonus Baby" Patton served up the go-ahead homer to Luis Valbuena in the top of the 13th.  (Valbuena had 2 homeruns himself today against the Cubs.)  That's when Kerry Wood came into play.

Wood came in and promptly surrendered a single to Fukudome but was able to negate a potential hit-and-run by striking out Three Finger.  The only problem was that Fuku managed to steal second anyway and, thanks to a bad throw by Kelly Shoppach was able to advance to third.  At that point Andres Blanco singled home Fooky, reached third on an Aaron Miles single, and scored on a Wood wild pitch.

Thanks, Kerry.  You managed to let yourself get beat by two of the worst hitters on the Cubs roster, and a third Cubs hitter who hasn't so much as scratched the ball since the beginning of May.  If you were still a Cub we'd be livid.

Actually I'm being a little unfair to Kosuke.  He had a 4 for 5 day against the Indians pitchers and also drew a walk.  But still -- getting beat by Blanco and Miles is sort of like losing a boxing match to your 120 pound girlfriend.  Moy embarassing.

The Cubs play for the sweep tomorrow.  Hey, I'm not one to complain or anything but ... maybe they can try to win before their last at bat of the game for once?  Just a thought.

Arbitratin' Kerry Wood

A random question that has arisen in the past couple of days is whether or not Kerry Wood will be offered arbitration by Jim Hendry in order to secure the Cubs draft picks from the team that inevitably signs him to a multi-year deal.

The thing is, like Greg Maddux before him in his final season with the Braves, it's conceivable that Wood would accept arbitration.  Basically, the key factors here are a) loyalty - if he really wants to be a Cub, you never know, b) the free agent market - if the money's not there once the top free agents get locked up, Wood just might be able to win more cash through arbitration than what's being offered by any team, and c) the insane level of denial that exists within us Cub fans - he's not coming back.

I only mention the possibility because today has been a slow content day and while we wait for Jason's article on Henry Blanco, I thought you might appreciate having something to discuss.

So - will Hendry offer Wood arbitration?  If he does, would Wood accept?  If Wood wouldn't, why has he not done it?  Questions abound.

Besides, I think "Arbitratin'" Kerry Wood has a certain ring to it.

Season Recap: Kerry Wood

Recap Wood

I'm bummed that Kerry Wood won't be a Cub next year. Like all Cubs fans, Woody was one of my favorites, even if I bad mouthed him a few times when he was hurt. Unfortunately, the Woody era is a thing of the past, but as part of the season review, we get to revisit our favorite Texas fireballer at least one more time.

Kerry Wood was a first round draft pick by the Cubs. I haven't done any research to back this up, but my suspicion is that he was also the Cubs best first round pick in the team's history.

After a mediocre 1997 season, the Cubs felt they needed a little star power at Wrigley, so they brought up the farm-hand who just wasn't ready yet. At least that's what I would tell anyone who would listen for his first five starts. The sixth start was something different, and although I clung to my stubborn opinion about his readiness for the Big leagues, I was a Kerry Wood fan through and through.

Why visit the ancient history of 1998? Because it's the only context that can explain why a Division championship team would purposefully choose to take their occasionally unsteady, but excellent closer out of the bullpen, insert him in the starting rotation, and move an occasionally healthy starter with no history in the bullpen and make him their closer. (Yes, Wood saw some limited bullpen work at the end of '07, and yes the Cubs gave him some nominal competition for the closers role in 2008, but feel free to comment if you thought Jim Hendry actually had Bobby Howry penciled in the closer's role.)

Anyhow, I digress. Wood won the closer's job out of Spring Training and 65% of Cubdom assumed he would do a great job as closer. That's been the eternal dividends of those wonderful May 1998 starts. Kerry Wood has been the hope of this franchise for 11 years.

  • The Franchise turned to him for game 3 of the 1998 NLDS.
  • The Franchise imploded following his '99 Tommy John Surgery.
  • The only hope of the 2000-2002 dark years was a healthy Wood.
  • The Franchise reached the playoffs in his next solid healthy season in '03.
  • The Franchise put him on the mound for game 5 of the 2003 NLDS.
  • The Franchise put him on the mound for game 7 of the 2003 NLCS.
  • The Franchise put their hope on him in 2004.
  • The Franchise put their hope on him in 2005.
  • The Franchise put their hope on him in 2006.
  • While briefly out of favor, the Franchise put their hope on him again when he returned healthy in 2007.
  • On faith, The Franchise designated him as closer in 2008.

However, the astute Cubs fan will look at this list and realize most of those bullet points ended in disappointment and/or failure. (Even at this point I'm unable to bring myself to blame Wood... it wasn't all his fault.) But, the record doesn't lie and the few Wood successes form a shorter stack than the mound of Wood disappointments.

As a fan base, we were all too eager to expect the unexpected from Wood, and thus it is that I find it a horrible relief to move along, to cut ties with Woody, to ending the tenure of the longest tenured Cub.

Ok, back to the assignment. It is because of those incredibly lofty assumptions and that track record of good performances but disappointing results that I'm not devastated by the loss of a 34 save, 3.26 ERA closer who struck out 84 in 66 innings of work. Yeah, those numbers aren't likely to be repeated in '09 unless Carlos Marmol is truly the second coming of Mariano Rivera, but a warm body (see Borowski, Joe; Beck, Rod; and Jones, Todd) can come close to those numbers on a winning team and GM Hendry apparently feels the proper allocation of scarce resources doesn't involve a 4 year deal for a 31 year old closer with a long history of health problems.

As a fan, I want to disagree with GM Hendry, but I cried uncle after the skillful Rich Harden trade (heist). I don't always like Jim Hendry's style, but no other Cubs GM has ever had a better record when it comes to playoff appearances. (3 of Hendry's 6 full seasons as GM have resulted in a Cubs post-season appearance.)

So, I've forfeited my ability to second guess Hendry, but you're welcome to question the move in the comments.

Kerry Wood, Cubs pitcher
Kerry Wood delivers a strike in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. He pitched the eleventh and twelth innings striking out three and recording a win.
Image courtesy of The Cubdom Photo Gallery

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award