Kerry Wood's Lost Career and 10 Signs a Chicago Cubs Curse Does Exist
The Curse of the Billy Goat may have just claimed another victim.
While it was a great moment in the history of the Chicago Cubs, one has to wonder what could have been if Wood had not suffered several injuries that have been attributed to overuse during the early seasons of his career.
While there are logical reasons why Wood's demise happened, there is a more popular theory that Cubs fans will point to when thinking of Kerry Wood's career.
As most baseball fans are aware of, the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. With the team unlikely to win the World Series in 2012, it will be 104 years since the North Side of Chicago celebrated a World Series championship.
Of course, there will be some doubters out there that a curse on the Cubs really does exist. However, here are 10 reasons why you should be a believer in anything that might plague the Cubs outside of the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.
The Cubs Haven't Won a World Series in 103 Years
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The Curse of the Billy Goat was made in 1945, but as I mentioned at the beginning of this slideshow, the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. That's officially 103 years without a championship.
To explain the magnitude of how long it's been since the Cubs last championship, you have to consider that there have been two to three full generations that have not seen the Cubs win the World Series.
A streak like this doesn't take talent, bad luck or something of that nature. The truth is that any franchise that goes at least 100 years without a championship is truly cursed no matter what limited success they've had.
Things like this just can't be explained with sabermetrics, so something else has to be going on.
The Cubs Haven't Been to the World Series Since 1945
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It's one thing to not have won a World Series in 103 years, but to not even get to the World Series since 1945 is another.
The Curse of the Billy Goat has lasted for a couple generations, but the only curse that compares to that magnitude is the Boston Red Sox "Curse of the Bambino." At least with that, the Red Sox actually made World Series appearances four times.
Since the last Chicago Cubs championship, the Cubs have made it to the World Series seven times, but have not made it since the Curse of the Billy Goat was established when William "Billy Goat" Sianis was asked to leave the stadium because he brought his pet goat into Wrigley Field.
As Sianis left, he muttered the words "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more." The team would lose the 1945 World Series to the Detroit Tigers in seven games and have not won a National League pennant since.
Cubs Rivals Have Won a Total of 12 World Championships Since 1908
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As a fan of the Minnesota Vikings, I know what it's like to have your rival win a championship. When the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV over the Pittsburgh Steelers, it felt like I had been punched in the gut and been robbed while I was down.
It's not a good feeling to watch your rival celebrate.
Since the Cubs' last World Series victory, the Cubs' two biggest rivals (the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago White Sox) have combined to win 12 World Series championships.
While many generations of Cubs fans have not been fortunate enough to see their team win it all, they have been unfortunate enough to see their most hated enemies celebrate right in front of them.
Free Agency Has Not Been Kind to the Cubs
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When team owner Tom Ricketts first took over the Cubs from the Chicago Tribune company, the first thing he did was open the checkbook for the team to go after high-priced free agents.
The biggest name that the team has acquired over that time has been Alfonso Soriano. Soriano signed an eight-year, $136 million contract with the Cubs prior to the 2007 season.
At the time, he seemed to be worth every penny as he came off a 46-home-run, 41-stolen-base season with the Washington Nationals.
Things didn't go according to plan as one of the best hitters in baseball suddenly lost his way.
It was a curious decline for a guy who could seemingly hit it out of any ballpark prior to his arrival, but he's not the only free-agent signing that has gone wrong for the Cubs.
Cubs management has made numerous mistakes over the past couple of years while trying to keep pace with the other high spenders in baseball. The result has been that the Cubs have many lucrative contracts going to low-quality players.
That's a recipe for disaster no matter what team you're talking about. It's not about how much money you spend, but who you're giving it to.
A Black Cat Passes Ron Santo in the Batters Box in 1969
As a younger baseball fan, the story of a black cat running past Ron Santo in the on-deck circle at Shea Stadium in 1969 just seems completely bizarre.
At the time of the incident, the Cubs held a 9.5 game lead over the New York Mets for the National League East championship. The Cubs had one of the greatest teams in their team history and it looked like they were destined for a trip to the World Series.
Then, on September 9 of that year, a black cat found its way into Shea Stadium and became the scapegoat for another Cubs collapse.
As a younger fan, I wonder how it's possible for a cat to find its way into any baseball park. Yes, other animals such as birds and squirrels have found their way in, but a cat? Then, the fact that it was a black cat just makes the story more bizarre.
This was another perfect storm that would make sense if the team was cursed.
Bill Buckner's Glove Has Cubs Logo on It During Game 6 of 1986 World Series
Photo Courtesy of CubbiesBaseball.com
Another odd reason as to why the Chicago Cubs are cursed is the case of Bill Buckner.
Yes, Buckner's name is referenced more when talking about the "Curse of the Bambino" that plagued the Red Sox for 86 years without a championship. However, there may have been a bigger curse that took place that night.
Recently, a picture was blown up of Buckner right after he made the crucial error that allowed the Mets to win Game 6 of the 1986 World Series (and eventually the whole thing). What the picture showed was that Buckner was wearing a Cubs batting glove underneath his fielding glove.
The logical reason was that Buckner was a member of the Cubs earlier that season, but was traded to Boston in a deal near the trade deadline.
However, we are looking at curses and the presence of anything Cubs-related in a game that didn't even involve the Cubs is something to take notice of.
A double negative usually results in something positive. Unfortunately for Buckner, that didn't seem to be the case.
The Cubs Choke in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS
Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series will be forever known for Steve Bartman reaching over the wall trying to catch a ball, keeping it away from left fielder Moises Alou in the process.
However, Bartman's interference wasn't the only thing that proved there was a curse upon the Cubs.
First, prior to the big rally that swung momentum toward the Florida (now known as Miami) Marlins, comedian Bernie Mac sang "Take Me Out to The Ballgame." During the song, Mac replaced "Root for the Cubbies" with "Root for the champions."
It was as if the baseball gods had been slapped in the face and responded with a big "Oh yeah?"
Mark Prior, who had been pitching a spectacular game up to that point, would start getting blasted around the ballpark. However, with the bases loaded and one out, Prior had a chance to save Bartman from infamy.
He induced a ground ball that was headed toward sure-handed shortstop Alex Gonzalez. The NL leader in fielding percentage in 2003 missed the easy grounder and the rest of the inning summoned the ghosts of seasons past for the Cubs.
What had began as a 3-0 Cubs lead had morphed into an ugly 8-3 loss—and the Marlins won the National League Championship en route to their second World Series Championship.
While many people blame Bartman for the loss, it was just another element that added to a perfect storm.
The Fall of Sammy Sosa
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In the recent wave of Cubs success, Sammy Sosa was one of three Cubs players that saw their career go into a steep downward spiral after the 2003 season.
Sosa wound up with 609 home runs and seemed destined for the Hall of Fame after a memorable battle with Mark McGwire for Roger Maris' single-season home run record in 1998.
What began as a feel-good story turned into a downward spiral for Sosa as he was caught with cork in his bat during a game on June 3, 2003. Then, Sosa's name was listed in an affidavit from former reliever Jason Grimsley as a user of performance-enhancing drugs.
Sosa would leave the Cubs after the 2004 season, but it wouldn't be the last that Cubs fans would hear from their beloved hero. Two seasons later, Sosa would hit his 600th home run as a member of the Texas Rangers. The opponent that day was the Cubs.
Another twist of irony in a curse for the Chicago Cubs.
"Can't Miss" Mark Prior Misses
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In the 2001 MLB Amateur draft, it seemed like the Chicago Cubs got a gift from the baseball gods.
While Kerry Wood was becoming one of the best young pitchers in baseball, Prior, the top prospect in the draft, fell to the Cubs at the second pick when the Twins took Joe Mauer, citing signability concerns.
The early returns for Prior were impressive as he teamed with Wood to form one of the most feared top-of-the-rotation duos in baseball. In the 2003 season, Wood and Prior combined to go 32-17 with a 2.81 earned run average on their way to the National League Championship Series.
The future looked bright for Prior because he was considered to have flawless mechanics that would allow manager Dusty Baker to ride him like a horse without the fear of injury...or so they thought.
After the 2003 season, Prior began having shoulder problems and eventually found himself out of baseball completely after the 2007 season.
Only a curse could bring one of the best pitching prospects in the history of baseball to his knees, and that's exactly what Prior ran into.
The Fall of Kerry Wood
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There can be an argument that Kerry Wood may be one of the most popular Chicago Cubs of all time next to Sammy Sosa. However, Wood has become a tale in Cubs history known more for its disappointments than its achievements.
Wood made his major league debut at 21 years old in 1998. Wood posted solid numbers (67-50, 3.63 ERA) up until his string of major injuries started in 2004.
That was the point where Wood began to struggle as a starter and eventually wound up as a reliever that had stints with the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians.
Wood's fall became the poster child for how an organization could fail at handling a young arm. Even during Wood's rookie season, which included a 20-strikeout game against the Houston Astros, manager Jim Riggleman would routinely let him hit the 120-pitch mark in games.
Wood's circumstances were not the same as Mark Prior's as he was not the "sure-fire prospect" that Prior was, but it's still a shame that Wood never realized the potential that many had predicted for him.