Wood turns page, hopefully Cubs will too

Wood turns page, hopefully Cubs will too

A classy Kerry Wood made the right decision to move on today.

Now I hope the Cubs follow suit and move on as well.

When I wrote about the Cubs using Wood as a mascot and for fans to let go of their Cubbie blankies, it wasn’t anti-Wood. It was more about being anti-“Cubbie”.

This whole “Cubbie” thing really got kicked up a few notches back in 1984 when the Cubs were starting to become a thing under the still new Tribune ownership. Dallas Green was putting a winner on the field and the Tribsters struck daytime gold with Harry Carry simultaneously. The then mighty superstation WGN parlayed all of this into another cash cow TV show.

It was like Bozo Circus meets baseball.

Now I’m all for a little fun, but somewhere between John McDonnough hawking Beanie Babies and today’s spectacle, baseball took a bit of a back seat on the North Side.

The era of Cubs fans before me worshiped guys like Banks, Jenkins, Williams, and Santo, all Hall of Famers.

My generation had daytime matinee idols like “Ryno” and “Gracie” and the latest in “Woody”.  Now at least Sandberg was an actual star, the others just had to be good and popular.

This is a team that never was ashamed of cashing in on a marketing opportunity. They made Fergie Jenkins share his retired number with Greg Maddux who accomplished just about everything in a Braves uniform. I don’t know what was more shameful, the Cubs letting Maddux go or letting him be a part of that ceremony.

We can go on all day about how much was milked out of marketing Wrigley Field, the bleachers, and “Slamming Sammy”, Ron Santo and guest conductors.  We all know there is a bit of marketing involved in sports. It’s just at Clark and Addison it often feels like they have it backwards.

I often find myself actually missing the days of the pre-1984 Cubs years when they weren’t such a spectacle.

I remember hearing Dallas Green talk about an organizational meeting in which he was despondent about the then 12 game losing streak the team was enduring. Green was just flabbergasted to hear club exec Stanton Cook declare organizational success at the meeting and rave about how well the team was doing. Cook could only see the gate and in television ratings, baseball be damned.

It’s that kind of thinking that had me hopeful a family owned Cubs team would bring some change. Tom Ricketts talked the talk at first, then it was like someone got in his ear and reminded him what paid the bills around here. Next thing you know Ricketts is wearing Harry Carry glasses.

I hope I’m wrong and the hiring of Theo Epstein is yet the biggest reason for that hope. However, when I firmly believe Theo kind of got the nudge to get Woody back in time for the wait for it….Cubs Convention, my ultra sensitive radar crashed. It wasn't that I didn't want Wood back, it just reeked of the same old mentality.

I have “Cubbie” fatigue.

I just want it to be more about baseball sometimes. I love Kerry Wood, but do you think the Yankees would be having any sort of event like today for a guy with his career accomplishments?

I understand this team hasn’t given you much to embrace, but let’s raise the bar.  I feel so relieved for Dale Sveum every time another player that doesn’t fit in long term is removed from his roster.

Let’s let “Theo and the Gang” make their moves based solely on winning and not about marketing or sentimentality ever again. I look forward to the very likeable Wood doing something in broadcasting side of things for this team.

It would be a fitting role as it still seems some Cubs fans prefer a TV show. However, there are some of us who just want baseball, oh and can we get winning too?

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  • I just received a hat and T-Shirt from New Era that says Cubbie on it. I think it'll be perfect for you! Just kidding, of course.

    In all seriousness, I know what you mean. There's that Cubbie culture that seems to be more about loving and hyping their players and less about putting together a winning team

    I do think it disappears with Theo and Jed. Wood was one of the last of those guys. Now it's down to Ryan Dempster, who is probably next. I like those guys, and I'm not happy to see them go from a personal standpoint, but it makes sense from a baseball standpoint.

  • Kerry is no hall of famer, but he did help us get further in the playoffs than any of those hall of famers you mention. His 20K game is still immortalized there. I thought today was great. If the Yankees past was as empty as the Cubs, I'm sure that they would have "pulled a stunt like today". Sounds like you just needed to vent, but you missed it with this one.

  • In reply to sltcubsfan:

    Again, I love Wood and I thought his moment today was great. I just wondered if teams like BOS and NY would go that far?

  • Well I disagree with a vast majority of what you had to say here. Eve though I kind of think we're on the same page. Allow me to blather on in an attempt to explain.

    I too, am weary of all things "Cubbie". I think Harry Caray might be one of the two most evil things foisted upon any self respecting Cub Fan. ( The second is the advance ticket sales and subsequent price gouging of Bleacher tickets. This turned the best seats in baseball for diehards willing to get to the park 3 hours before game time into a giant Wrigleyville Beer Garden filled with the most obnoxious, oblivious, fraternity of pathetically stupid asshats.......And Al Yellon.) Cub fan Bud man actually drove me to drink Olld Style, maybe one of the worst beers ever made. And don't get me started on what those rooftops have become.

    But I am as equally weary of the immediate backlash that this causes. The amount of "Cubbie-Hate" is every bit as nauseating as the Cubbie love. If I'm happy that Reed Johnson had a good game, I'm immediately accused of declaring him Reed Mantle. George herman LaHair is currently making the rounds now. People get upset that Cub fans sing "Go Cubs Go" when the team wins. And they look at EVERYTHING as some sort of marketing ploy.

    You say your "ultra sensitive Cubbie Radar" crashed. I say you had your finger on the button and you were looking for any excuse to push it.

    Would the Yankees do something for someone's of Wood's accomplishments you ask. Oh God would they!!!! The same Yankees that has held Joe pepitone day? The same Yankee organization that lobbied and campaigned for the marginal Phil Rizzuto to go to the hall of fame AS A PLAYER? Yes they would. Big F&$(*ng A they would. Historic teams love their brand and they love players that embody their brand. And Kerry Wood totally embodied the Cubs. Unfulfilled potential and disappointing warts and all.

    Look the Cubs needed a veteran in their bullpen. Hell, they still do. And Wood was right there. It's not like Todd Coffey or a Jesse Crain type wouldn't have been in the same ballpark financially. And I'm willing to concede that Ricketts might have been willing to cover whatever difference there was between what Kerry wanted and what Theo jed mellencamp were willing to pay. But I think that's all he did. I sure as hell don't think he forced any players on his przed baseball president mere weeks after publicly claiming he has full autonomy over baseball decisions.

    You say you want to move on and just focus on baseball. Well that's what a lot of us have been trying to do. But we didn't bring up any comparisons to 1994. YOU DID.

    Ahhh..... Thanks for letting me rabble. Looking forward to tomorrow's game.

  • In reply to felzz:

    Felzz, maybe I sounded too upset in the piece but it was just one last dig at the old way thinking. Thanks for making the point about event the Yankees loving less than legendary players though, good point.

  • In reply to felzz:

    Also Felzz, the focus will be on baseball when the PR moves stop too.

  • In reply to felzz:

    I'll add that the Yanks let Jeter stay at SS well beyond the years he had any use there defensively. When A-Rod came to the Yanks, he was the better defensive SS -- and it wasn't even close -- but he had to move to accomodate Jeter, who was their "mascot" in a sense. Now Jeter is probably a Hall of Fame player, but he certainly wasn't a Hall of Fame defender at SS. He was well below average. There was no baseball behind that decision.

    We're on the same page in that the front office never had a problem with Wood as a player. Stuff-wise and based on the last few years results, he was as good as any reliever out there. The only issue was that he was being overpaid...but that was all on Ricketts, so it didn't bother me. It's not like that extra million was hampering the Cubs budget. Cubs got their veteran reliever, Ricketts gave his favorite player and paid an extra million or so for it -- which I'm sure he made up for anyway.

    I wish this were always all about baseball but marketing is a big part of it. I just hope it isn't as shameless as it was when McDonough was here.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I really believe that Ricketts knows that the best way to recoup his investment is to win and win often. As I wrote many months ago, when the Cubs win the WS, it will give Ricketts a license to print money. In the meantime, though, there are bills to be paid and debt to be leveraged.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Great points partner, Jeter certainly is propped up a bit more by the Yankees than most players of his skill set would be.

  • In reply to felzz:

    "And Al Yellon.) Cub fan Bud man actually drove me to drink Olld Style, maybe one of the worst beers ever made."

    Hey, it's beer. Beer tastes good.

  • Tom you are a genius. You summed up everything I've been saying and getting slammed for by the Cubbie crowd (I loved the Al Yellon comment above). I asked on another board if anyone wondered if Woody finally had enough with the political news yesterday and that factored into the timing. Dumb question likely, but timing made me wonder. I was torn apart--how dare you ruin woody's day! Huh!? I loved him and everything he does.

    My dislike of the Cubbie thing has gotten so deep that if they announced they were selling the ballpark to Sluggers and making it a giant amusement park/beer garden i woudnt care. If they said the new retractable roof stadium was going up at Block 37 and hurrah they we're in playoffs each year? Damn right I never think of wrigley again. It's the sport not the park. But, I'm the idiot. Tom, thank you for smarts and reason.

  • In reply to Dantehicks:

    Thanks Dante, though I still want them to rehab Wrigley rather then turn it into a bar.

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    Rumor has it that Wood has radio and tv broadcast offers on the table already.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    That's not surprising. The Cubs will keep him around in some capacity as long as he wants to stay.

  • It is the sport and the park. Those fans holding up the "this my first Cub game" sign for Tv are having fun and help pay the bills. Why is it that we can not have both? Go Cubbies! Maybe that I hate all things Cubbie is just elitist bullshit.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I DO want both, I said I'm all for some fun I just want focus on baseball first.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Me too.

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    totally agree with felzz and 44slug here, good analysis guys!

  • In reply to Gary Kueper:

    Gary I realize you love Kerry Wood and don't like my slant on it, but i know you love John too and I think John understood where I was going.

  • I also regret using the word stunt, it wasn't meant to be harsh so I updated it.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Thanks for correcting that, Tom, since I failed to see the "stunt". Now, if the Cubs had announced a week prior that "Kerry Wood will pitch his final game against the Sox on Friday, May 18", well, THAT would have been a stunt.

    I have no problems whatsoever about what went on. The Cubs allowed an iconic team member leave on his terms, under what appeared to be just part of the game yesterday..

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    hey tom I love you too man, just don't always agree with your reasoning totally. By the way, I'm also a pompei fan so it was cool to know you're his buddy. I just think the whole Cubbie thing is overblown, and I think it's somewhat irrelevant to whether the Cubs are a winning team or not. I don't really accept that the Tribune company was not interested in the team winning because they just saw it as a cash cow, because as others have pointed out, by winning you get even more cash, so I'm sure they wanted to win for that reason alone. They made an effort over the years to definitely field competitive teams and obviously we had some playoff teams, so we had our chances to win it all, just didn't work out. I don't think the whole Cubbie thing really factored in to it much as to what prevented us from winning. Mainly I'd say it has been a combination of bad luck and poor management/drafting, as well as an outdated organizational focus. There could also be something to the schizophrenic nature of Wrigley making it tougher to field a winning team there. I guess you can blame those things on just focusing on being "Cubbie", I just don't know if I buy that. Well anyway, hopefully we have those things corrected now. And again, it's not like Kerry Wood has been my favorite Cub for years, but I think he was unfairly labeled as a Cubbie mascot by you, for reasons that we all have stated here many times. It was quite an emotional day yesterday and nice to see him leave with some class, and I'm glad you were able to pay him his proper respect. No hard feelings Tom, no worries. you're entitled to your opinion, i just don't agree with it, but it's interesting to read nonetheless.

  • In reply to Gary Kueper:

    Thanks Gary, I'm glad to hear you like me too! I was worried you didn't like my stuff and I thank you for all the great feedback, I may have went overboard a bit, but it's a sore spot for me. I want the Cubs to be a respected team for winning as well as marketing is all. You are one of the reasons our blog is great, you guys are the smartest commenters I have read anywhere and people in the media have told me so!

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    i understand, makes sense!

  • I like the idea that you need both when you're a big market. Felzz mentioned how the Yanks did (as did I with the Jeter example).

    Both Tom and I know that the front office were okay with Wood as a ballplayer, we just disagree a bit on how much influence Ricketts had. For me, it went something like this, "If it's all the same with these available veteran RPs, then let's get Wood back and I'll take care of the extra money." Of course, Wood was awful and it exacerbated the situation.

    I think this sort of Cubbie thing happens anywhere -- even outside of baseball. I've even seen similar things happen at companies I have worked for. It's just something some bosses/owners seem to want to have, like a little pet or something. As long as there's no resentment, I'm okay with it.

  • I feel bad that this piece came on the heels of a great moment Wood had yesterday. Anyone who knows him like I do, loves him and his family and the moment with his kid could make a statue cry. I was just pointing out that this could be the end of an era where marketing was king.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Agree. For a long time the Cubs knew they could sell the park, the experience, and a few familiar faces. That will always be a part of things, but it's time to start selling out the stadium based on winning baseball. I'm optimistic they're on the way there.

  • it's ll good.

    Like I said earlier, I'm pretty much on the same page with Mr. Loxas. But I'm a sucker for sports "moments". Especially in baseball. There are just times when a small action or scene can transcend normal fare for me. Kerry Wood striking out his last batter then walking off the field to his overjoyed son jumping into his arms just stopped time for me. Aaron Sorkin couldn't write a scene as genuine as that. Tom Hanks ( No wait Larry Crowne sucked, I'm mad at him......) or any other actor would not get an effect that genuine. It's why we watch. So I probably wanted to keep that "moment" as pure and as awesome as it was and not tie it to all the junk that Mr. Loxas, myself, and several others find so offensive.

  • In reply to felzz:

    I'm a sucker for that kind of moment too. Will always remember that and it's part of the reason we watch.

    I think the whole experience is why I like baseball. If it were just about hard stats and being as coldly efficient as possible, then I might as well just watch computer simulations.

  • Winning without the schmaltz ... This era's building a new tradition?

  • Tom, how ever I am with you on this issue as I have posted before. I love the Chicago Cubs, not the "Cubbies." So let's conclude the Cubbie era by creating a Harry Caray Beanie Baby that sings Take Me Out to the Ball Game and let some asshat like Jeff Gordon wind Jim up and hold him by the microphone at the seventh inning stretch, and then detonate both of them. Then bring the rubble into the booth with Len and Bob so they can plug their wrestling match/movie/TV sitcom/charity and lifelong love for the Cubbies one final time. Thereafter, Gary Pressey will just play the organ during the stretch and the ushers will pass the hat across the corporate seats to make up for the alleged lost revenue. Then it will be about baseball. Uh oh..... I just woke up :)

  • I don't know if marketing will ever NOT be king in baseball again, and a lot of the stuff you mentioned is unavoidable in a business.

    I do agree that the nickname "Cubbies" needs to go away forever, and I have thought that way ever since I read Crazy '08 by Cait Murphy. I want a team that will scratch and claw to do whatever it takes to win, even if it is ugly. The franchise hasn't won the series in over 100 years, and much of that has to do with the attitude of the fans, players, organization, etc. Just look at some of the quotes from the papers back with that club. Chance's club was confident bordering on arrogant. They believed they were better, and that they should win each game. And they would be ashamed of what has happened to the team over time

    Sure, you can't really compare generations, and PR is more important than ever. However, there is something to be said for playing with the same type of intensity, creativity, and intelligence that the team played with all those years ago. The defense (other than pitching) does seem greatly improved this year. The team is a little easier to root for because they are more aggressive on the base paths. It's a switch in the right direction.

    By the way, I don't really lump Kerry Wood into the group of "Cubbies." He always seemed like someone who gave his all, probably even tried to come back early from injury because he wanted to do whatever he could to help the team win. Nor would I put Grace in that group - that was a guy who went out and hit, played gold glove first base, and was the type of ballplayer you rarely see these days. When I think of "Cubbies," I think of borderline players like Doug Dascenzo or Auggie Ojeda. Those guys really didn't have much business playing in the bigs during their time, but were fan favorites despite their obviously limited potential. That's one of the reasons why I am so torn with Campana. I love his speed and drive, but he is a marginal ballplayer - a fifth outfielder at best.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    Great points as always Urge, I always like your takes.

  • Here's a nice article by Doug Glanville:

    http://espn.go.com/blog/chicago/cubs/post/_/id/10233/kerry-woods-talent-inspired-awe

  • Tom and John, your articles are great. Keep up the good work! Reading everyone's responses touches, everyone has good points. Overall, I couldn't root against Wood. I thought he brought it when he played. I didn't agree with everything about him, but he certainly had the tools, as Glanville alluded, and was a good teammate.

  • In reply to Greg Shuey:

    Thanks Greg and I can appreciate your love for Wood.

  • I want the Cubs to win more than anything, but I don't see anything wrong with them bringing Wood back or letting him leave on his terms. It's not like his re-signing was totally based on marketing/sentimentality; he was still a decent reliever, and he looked like one of the surer things in that bullpen (though it didn't work out that way). He might not have HOF stats, but he has meant a lot to the team and the fan base for a long time and represented the team well on and off the field. It's not every day that a player like that decides to hang 'em up. Some things are just meant to be, and I think that moment yesterday was meant to happen in a Cubs uniform.

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