Cubs

Were the White Sox Kerry Wood's fallback plan?

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Were the White Sox Kerry Wood's fallback plan?

When Kerry Wood agreed to a new deal with the Chicago Cubs last Friday that was announced during the annual Cubs Convention, fans had no idea as they were cheering the announcement of his signing that he nearly left his long-time team to play somewhere else.

While published reports indicated that the teams that were after Wood included the Cincinnati Reds, the Detroit Tigers, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Texas Rangers, multiple sources have confirmed to me tonight that had Wood not re-signed with the Cubs he would most likely have agreed to a deal with the Chicago White Sox.

The Sox and Wood had multiple conversations during this years free agent process and unlike last offseason when he clearly chose the Cubs' 1.5 million over the White Sox' 2-year10 million deal, this winter, Wood seriously considered the Sox and only re-upped with the Cubs after a conversation with Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein that resulted in the North Siders increasing their offer.

Wood had a solid 2011 season when he appeared in 55 games for the Cubs and while he lends tremendous experience to the back end of the bullpen, his leadership in the clubhouse was also a huge factor in the number of teams that were interested in his services.

The Sox have long respected Wood and were interested in having him as part of their revamped bullpen that has a major question mark that needs to be answered after the trade of closer Sergio Santos to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Wood would have had a legitimate shot at closing for the White Sox but in the end, he chose to stay with the organization that was in his heart.

As one source told me, the Cubs were truly the only place that Woody wanted to pitch. However, if the Cubs had not increased their offer, he would have been willing to move.

The biggest hit of your career and how you got there

The biggest hit of your career and how you got there

During the post-game interview of Game 3 of the NLCS in 2003, I was asked the question that is often asked when a player has a special moment on the big stage.

“Was this the biggest hit of your career?”

The 2019 Cubs are down to crunch time. Every pitch, every relay throw, every call to bullpen gets more consequential every day. The cliché of taking one game at a time carries more weight, even when you are peeking at what the other teams in the race are doing.

In 2003, we were watching the Astros and the Cardinals, like our brothers were playing on those teams. This season, it is the Cardinals and the Brewers.

Even though it is natural to look ahead or even over your shoulder, a player’s arrival to these moments is the sum of the moments from the past.

Nothing brought that into focus more than my journey to the 2003 postseason by way of the Texas Rangers.

When I was traded to the Cubs by the Rangers in 2003, it was at the end of July. Before that, I was playing in the American League for the first time, head buried in figuring out new stadiums and opponents in the AL West and light years away from knowing what was going on in the NL Central.

By the time I was traded, the Rangers were dead in the water, even with a lineup that was loaded with great bats. I spent a good chunk of the first half recovering from a torn hamstring, the first serious injury of my big league career. Wrigley might as well have been on Mars.

The cliché of taking one day at a time gets reinforced when you are working on an underwater treadmill hoping your hamstring will be the same as it was before the injury. One day at a time becomes one minute at a time, and life slows down. Even as you are counting down the minutes left on that treadmill, at 32 years old and fully dependent on a game based on speed, you are wondering if this countdown is actually a timer on your career.

I had already tried to choose a different path than the linear one I was offered during free agency the previous offseason. The straight-line choice would have kept me in Philadelphia. The safe choice where I had been for five years already. I lived there, I went to college there, my Mom lived less than two hours away. They even offered a better contract. But I left in the spirit of betting on myself because the Marlon Byrd Era had started in Philly, and the Doug Glanville Era was coming to a close, at least the one that made me a starting centerfielder.

I was determined to sign with a team that would see me as a starter even as I was approaching my 33rd birthday. That was what Texas represented. I could bounce back from a tough year and play for many more years. That was the plan. A torn hammy was not in the plan.

When I finally returned to the Rangers lineup, I was coming off my first minor league rehab assignment, battling Double-A and Triple-A pitchers with a limp. Within six weeks of finally getting healthy and back to my best baseball, I was traded to the Cubs.

When I arrived, the Cubs were a .500 team. No guarantee of postseason glory was offered. But we scrapped and battled to a division title and my first (and only) postseason appearance. My one at bat in the NLCS came after Dusty Baker asked me if I could play infield after we clinched the NL Central, correcting my negative answer to help me understand that being the emergency infielder was the only way I could make the playoff roster. Since I hadn’t played infield since I was 11, I wondered… How did I get here?

The big hit finally came on that big stage against the Marlins, in the form of a triple. It makes sense that it was the biggest hit in my career in terms of audience, but then I remembered all of the steps along the way.

I had to leave Philadelphia to arrive. I had to be far from the game during my rehab program to get close. I had to limp through hamstring exercises before I could run again. I had to learn to exist without my father who had passed away the last game of the previous season to be my own man. Just getting in the batter’s box seemed miraculous.

When I signed with Texas, there was no reason for me to think I would end up in Chicago in a batter’s box that I had stood in tens of times as a member of the Phillies. But here I stood.

Today, in my line of work as an baseball Insider, we are often required to make predictions, to weigh the information in front of us and make our best guess as to what will happen. A ballplayer knows the impossibility of such forecasting because of experiences like mine that tells us how little control we have in what comes next. We can do our best to be prepared and ready for opportunity.

A team is often the sum of these personal journeys. Nico Hoerner was drafted barely over a year ago, fresh off of a college experience, trying to adjust to life as a professional and then suddenly, he was in Wrigley Field, 22 years old and a key part of the Cubs chances. Javy Baez had to get hurt, Russell had to get hit in the head, the front office had to do their scouting. All of it mattered to the realm of Hoerner’s opportunity. And now, he could be a difference maker. Ask him if he expected that on draft day.

When Andrew Benintendi, the Red Sox first round pick in 2015, was called up in a similar fashion in 2016, I talked him before batting practice at Fenway Park. I asked him, “Did you think you would be here so quickly?”

He looked at me in the middle of a stretch and just shook his head with this look on his face that said “not a chance.” He was good enough talent-wise, but there is nothing like actually being in the reality of the dream. It still surprises, yet now he is a world champion.

The Cubs are here as the sum of all of their stories. Ben Zobrist had to return, Yu Darvish had to find his best game and get healthy, Nicholas Castellanos had to be the best version of his game, Jason Heyward had to struggle in the leadoff role to thrive lower in the lineup. It all mattered.

In this roller coaster season for the 2019 Cubs, we saw a team with high expectations. A talented team that had one goal. A world championship. By this standard, they declared that they had underachieved last year even after winning 95 games.

In a blink of an eye, a division that the Cubs were struggling to hold on to, looked lost as the Cardinals got hot in August. But all of a sudden it is in reach again. It was not the path planned, but it still has a path to where they want to go. Unscripted, improvisational, and in the final stretch.

And somewhere in these final two weeks, a Cubs player may be asked the same question.

“Was that the biggest hit of your career?”

And I would like to offer this answer.

Yes, because I am here now and that was never guaranteed.

Enjoy the ride and don’t forget to look out the window.

'Yogi' and his hat-balancing act steal the show at Monday's Cubs game

'Yogi' and his hat-balancing act steal the show at Monday's Cubs game

You never know what you are going to find on Authentic Fan Night, including die-hard baseball fans with impressive tricks up their sleeve! 

'Yogi' is the name of the one particular Cubs fan who stole the show on Monday night, and developed his signature tricks in 2005 in a circus show at Bloom High School called "Under the Big Tap".

In 2017 Yogi started doing the hat trick more often and perfected it through much trial and error. 

In our clips, you can hear the Cubs faithful cheer Yogi and our own Kelly Crull on, even she gets in on the fun, trying out Yogi's hat trick for herself!

Hopefully, Yogi's antics bring some good luck to the Cubs, who are in the midst of a fight for a playoff spot in the NL. You can stream Cubs baseball here