Spiegel: Kid K, Take 2, At 33
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By Matt Spiegel, The Danny Mac Show–
Maybe you’ve heard talk of, or even share, my standard reaction to Cubs maneuvers these days. The shrug. No matter the player acquired, I just can’t seem to divorce myself from broader feelings about the roster, and the man left in charge of the baseball decisions. Carlos Pena at 5 mil, with 5 mil deferred? Solid move. But where’s this club going next season? Does Pena really change where I perceive the Cubs’ place among the good teams in the NL might be? No. Does it change my beliefs about the fact that the Ricketts family should have moved past Jim Hendry and clean slated the front office? No.
But the shrug doesn’t happen with the same vigor today. The Kerry Wood re-acquisition, from all angles, is an in-arguably great move.
Wood might have been the #1 set-up man available in a deep and compelling market this year (though I like Scott Downs), and he could easily have gotten 8-10 million more from the Yankees or White Sox. Downs signed for 3 years and 15, Joaquin Benoit for 3 at 16.5, J.J. Putz for 2 at 10. Wood’s money (1.5 mil) is infinitesimal, and at one year, all the Cubs’ flexibility next off-season remains, when 40 million dollars comes off the books in the persons of just 3 men. Let the Albert Pujols dreams persist if you like.
I know it’s awkward to think about selling tickets with a 7th or 8th inning guy who will make 50 appearances or so, but that impact will not be negligible. He remains popular, rightfully, and this adopted hometown discount will only make him more so. What t-shirt or jersey does the signing make you consider fishing out of the back of the closet? “We Got Wood” tops will be worn again, perhaps sheepishly by the 30-somethings who should have outgrown it. I’m going to resist pulling out the “2003 NL Champs” t-shirt I bought as a keepsake from a vendor on Sheffield the night Kerry blew the lead in game 7 of the NLCS, out of respect.
If this move was made in part to convert pessimistic, discerning, frustrated fans, so be it. It makes baseball sense…good baseball sense, in every way. Andrew Cashner gets a much discussed shot in the rotation, after mediocrity in the pen last year. With Wood, Sean Marshall, and Carlos Marmol, the 7th inning leads, as infrequent as they might be, will most often be held and closed. And the money, my god, did Hendry work magic with this contract.
Don’t be dissuaded of acknowledging that this one feels good, in fears of being labeled as overly romantic or sentimental. Kerry Wood may be sold to all of us as the new Mr. Cub, but there’s not really anything wrong with that.