June 2, 2007


My Right Arm (BUZZ BISSINGER, 6/03/07, NY Times Play)

Inside the clubhouse, the Cubs have worked like mad to make the clichés of springtime rebirth into something real. The team has added new lockers, new carpeting, new players like Alfonso Soriano and Cliff Floyd and Jason Marquis and Ted Lilly and Mark DeRosa — the products of a last-hurrah $300 million spending spree before the Tribune Company announced it would sell the club. There is also a new manager, Lou Piniella, a wise bird who has won a World Series and still smells conspiracy every time he comes near an umpire. The Cubs’ blue-and-white uniform shirts, which have been set out by the staff with the circumspection of English butlers, flow from one locker to another. It is a striking tableau, and you have to look hard to find the single downbeat note — the locker all the way at the end on the right-hand side that is largely taken up by three cardboard boxes.

That locker belongs to Kerry Wood, the Cubs’ 29-year-old right-handed pitcher. Masochism may be a regular condition of Cubs fandom, but even so, no player in the recent history of the team has broken more hearts than Wood. At age 20, he was a hulking, grim-faced fireballer who seemed poised to follow in the footsteps of his fellow Texans Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens. Nine years later, Wood’s career line reads like a gruesome forensics report — torn labrum, torn rotator cuff, torn ulnar collateral ligament, every kind of arm “soreness” imaginable — and nobody in the Cubs organization has any idea when, or if, he will return. “It is tragic, in a way, to see a young man come from a small town in Texas,” Piniella says, “and work his way to the big leagues relatively quickly, and show that type of desire and competitiveness and skill to reach the top of your profession in a very short period,” and then to have it end abruptly. Piniella watched the latest setback this spring when Wood, attempting yet another comeback, had to shut it down because the tendons in his shoulder suddenly felt like they were on fire.

...he can't even bust open a catcher's lip...

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 2, 2007 7:53 AM

Zambrano pitches this year about as good as he throws a punch.

Let's not forget Mark Pryor, the other perennial disappointment, who they were hoping to have the career and durability of Greg Maddux or Tom Seaver.

Posted by: Rick T. at June 2, 2007 9:02 AM

This happens so often to the Cubs, you can't help but feel it's no coincidence. What other club so effectively destroys young arms?

Posted by: Benjamin at June 2, 2007 10:53 AM

Jerry Narron is trying. He already did Harang and now Arroyo is in trouble. Threw him for a hundred thirty pitches the other day and wonders why the last two starts have stunk.

Posted by: oj at June 2, 2007 1:20 PM