It hit me Friday when I saw Kerry Wood pitching for the Yankees just how close he had come to making the World Series again. But for the second time, Wood was on the wrong side of the upset.
It’s been seven long years since the 2003 NLCS. Wood was then, 26, and coming off his best season to date–(14-11), 3.20 ERA and 266 strikeouts.
Now he’s a well-worn 33-year-old, clean shaven and pitching in a set-up role.
But to make it this far, despite all the setbacks, is a credit to Wood’s character.
He’s handled the highs and lows like a pro, and by reinventing himself from dominate starter to a reliable setup man, he’s carved out a niche to stay in the game.
Wood’s calm demeanor and experience make him a perfect fit in New York. His long road back from arm recoveries has hardened him for the league’s toughest market.
What criticism hasn’t Wood heard about his game, his toughness, his durability that the New York media could say to rattle him? Nothing.
I know not all Cubs fans share my soft spot for Kerry, that the names Wood and Prior are haunting terms in Wrigleyville, names better left unsaid, names to be forgotten. But I still root for Wood, even despite his pindtripes and clean upper lip.