Chicago Cubs Signing of Kerry Wood Smacks of Pandering

Darrell HorwitzSenior Writer IIJanuary 14, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 07: Kerry Wood #34 of the Chicago Cubs in the dugout during the Cubs game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 7, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

With a flare for the dramatic, Theo Epstein pulled a Kerry Wood out of his hat, appeasing the throng of Cubs fans on hand at the annual Cubs Convention. Theo really knows how to play a crowd, but this move smacked of the past regime throwing the fans a bone.

Listening to Epstein talk, I thought he was above pandering, but now I'm not so sure.

Cubs fans universally love Kid K, but he's no longer the phenom who struck out 20 Houston Astros in just his fifth major league start.

If you watched him pitch that day, you would have assumed the Hall of Fame would be polishing up a bust of him for his future nomination. Unfortunately, his career was plagued by injuries, and Wood became the poster boy of all the bad luck that is the Chicago Cubs.

Do Cubs fans need a mascot? I thought that was Ronnie Woo Woo.

I love Kerry Wood as much as the next guy, but where are the Cubs going next year?

Was this a Theo Epstein move, or was it dictated by Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, who is a big fan and wants him somewhere in the organization after his career ends?

Since Theo supposedly has autonomy over the roster, maybe he was trying to win favor with his boss, even though he doesn't need to.

Perhaps this was a marketing ploy to keep the fans coming through the turnstiles despite the fact the team will probably not be contending for anything this year.

But isn't the front office the attraction? Do the Cubs have a bigger star than Theo? Won't the fans pay the freight knowing there is now hope for the future?

I know Theo's not performing on the field, but isn't the thought of him there enough to keep the crowds coming?

Maybe because Wood signed below market value last year when former GM Jim Hendry signed him to a $1.5 million contract, the current brass felt they owed him something.

Epstein said he wasn't going to make any moves like bringing back a fan favorite if it didn't help the team on the field.

You can say Wood makes them better, but at what cost? His contract is for $3 million with a club option. That sounds like a lot more than they initially offered him.

Why did the numbers change, and why did it suddenly become so important to bring Wood on board?

Was it done strictly for the buzz and good feeling it created at the convention? You have to admit the timing was perfect.

It could be that Wood is the kind of veteran to teach the young players the right way to be a professional. Management might think that is more valuable than what he contributes on the mound.

There was talk earlier in the week that the Cubs were going to cut ties with Wood and possibly bring in Jason Varitek from the Red Sox for his leadership abilities. When that came out in the local daily, fans were incensed that they would bring in an outsider at the expense of their beloved Wood.

Did Theo buck to the pressure?

I would hope not.

He's shown the guts to finally blow up the team and start from scratch. I admire that, and I've been waiting for the Cubs to do that my entire life.

He's preaching patience, because doing things the right way takes time. It's taken 103 years of doing things the wrong way, so it's not too much to ask for a little patience when somebody's doing it right.

Just don't cry at the trade deadline when Theo sends Woody to a contender for a prospect that might be a part of the Cubs finally winning.