Today Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs retired after striking out his final batter in the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox.
Why do I tell you this? Because this is the end of an era, one that has been both generous and frustrating to Brewer fans – Kerry Wood was in many respects a Brewer Killer over his 13 Major League seasons, and I for one am always willing to tip my cap to a worthy adversary.
To really put this in perspective let’s break down some numbers: from the year 2000 to 2005, Kerry Wood struck out 107 Brewer hitters. Granted, those were not cream of the crop Brewers teams back then, but he had our number either way. His record all time against the Brewers is 7-7 in 29 appearances. The record hardly speaks to the way he frustrated Milwaukee every time he took the mound. He had a sort of confidence and intensity in his youth that rivaled any of the greatest pitchers, and it was on full display against Milwaukee during a time when the rivalry was just starting to pick up its fervor. Not that Wisconsin and Illinois residents need a real reason to drunkenly shout at one another, but Kerry Wood was one of the people who could instigate that kind of feud. After all, 162 of his 1581 strikeouts came against the Brewers, for an average of 1.35 K’s per every inning he played against Milwaukee. At times, it seemed downright hopeless to step in against him.
Wood’s career, however, was dominated by injury as much as it was success. He made a grand total of 14 appearances on the DL in 13 seasons. By 2007, Wood had reinvented himself as a bullpen pitcher – taking on roles as a set-up man and a closer. As a matter of fact, Kerry Wood’s first Major League save came against the Milwaukee Brewers, on April 3rd 2008. As a reliever, Kerry went 1-2 against the Crew with two saves, two holds and 17 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched.
For as good as Wood was throughout his career, his pitching style lent to a lot of mistakes as well, and the Brewers were on the receiving end of those gifts as well. He could take away Brewers fan’s hopes with amazing strikeouts and endurance, but his 56 walks and 12 home runs were major factors in the ability to best Wood’s performances from time to time. Those are numbers that most Milwaukee fans will undoubtedly like to remember the pitcher for. But the truth is, in his prime, there were probably few other pitchers in the Central Division that Milwaukee had reason to worry about like Kerry Wood. In his early career he was dominating force – a man who could confidently pitch deep into games and one of a very few group of players who made Cubs fans believe in their team’s success again. And nothing scares Brewers fans quite like an energized Chicago club.
In the end, Kerry Wood’s legacy will be decided more by what could have been than what there actually was, and that’s a shame because there was an awful lot of success. Especially against Milwaukee.
Good luck in retirement Kerry, we here at Reviewing the Brew wish you years of health and happiness somewhere you can’t strike us out any longer.