Is Wood an all-time Cubs great?

May, 18, 2012
5/18/12
4:25
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The sudden retirement of Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood begs the question of what real status he holds as an all-time Cubs great.

The initial gut reaction tells you by the numbers Wood, who struck out Dayan Viciedo in his final appearance on Friday, may have come up short when comparing numbers of pitchers such as Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux, but as far as popularity goes, he may have surpassed both icons.

Wood, who was only a shadow of himself this season, was "Kid K" only once, on April 11. That was when he struck out the side against the Milwaukee Brewers on just 13 pitches. The rest of this disappointing month and a half Wood spent walking hitters and pitching in pain.

From the time Wood arrived on the scene with perhaps the most dominant pitching performance in baseball history, his status among Cubs fans was elevated to an unrealistic level. Wood after all was one of their own who embraced the city and the fans. The Texas native even married a Chicago girl and made the North Side his home.

Wood only left to play with the Cleveland Indians because the Cubs never made an offer. The Wood family never wanted to leave and now never will, raising their three children in a soon-to-be-built north suburban home.

The numbers (86-75, 3.67 ERA, 1,582 strikeouts) don’t scream out all-time great when you look at a player who spent a large part of his career fighting back from yearly injuries. But don’t tell that to a generation of Cubs fans who relate to Wood’s guts and determination rather than the won-loss record.

Wood never won 15 games and only had two seasons with more than 200 innings pitched. But he will go down as the Cubs’ most popular pitcher of the last 20 years.

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jake Arrieta
WINS ERA SO IP
10 2.53 167 156
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .292
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167