Sarah's Take: Injuries derailed Wood

Sarah's Take: Injuries derailed Wood

Sarah's Take: Injuries derailed Wood
Kerry Wood retired from baseball on Friday after 14 seasons. Nearly 35, Wood couldn't bounce back to pitch out of the bullpen practically every day. His career began with a bang, but it was marred by injuries that caused him to be on the disabled list 13 times.

From the beginning of his pitching career, Wood dominated the opposition. Even in high school in Irving, Texas, his blazing fastball racked up strikeouts and caught the eye of professional scouts. In 1995 First-Year Player Draft, the Chicago Cubs selected Wood as the fourth overall pick.

Wood rose quickly through the Cubs' Minor League system, getting strikeouts everywhere he went. On April 12, 1998, Wood made his Major League debut for the Cubs as a starter against the Montreal Expos. While the Cubs lost, Wood pitched well and struck out Mark Grudzielanek for his first strikeout in the Majors. He went on to become the fastest Major League pitcher in history to reach 1,000 strikeouts in both age and innings pitched.

In his fifth start, Wood had the most memorable performance of his career. Against the Houston Astros, who were a terrific offensive team in 1998, the 20-year-old rookie allowed just one hit and struck out 20 batters. This game received national attention. The next game that Wood pitched was against the expansion D-backs, and he struck out 13, setting a Major League record for most strikeouts in two games.

Kerry Wood
Kerry Wood calls it a career

Wood earned the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1998, and many believed if Wood continued his dominance and didn't have many injuries, he would have a long Hall of Fame-worthy career. However, like many rookie phenoms, Wood's career was ultimately derailed by injuries.

When healthy, Wood was one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball history, and he helped lead Chicago to the playoffs four times. This endeared him to Cubs fans. However, his inability to stay off the disabled list represented frustration for those same fans.

Wood experienced all of the usual arm injuries, including an elbow problem that required Tommy John surgery and a partially torn rotator cuff. In hopes of preventing more trips to the disabled list, Wood became a reliever. Although he excelled in this role, it didn't stop Wood from further injury problems.

Wood left Chicago for two seasons to pitch for the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees. Accepting less money, Wood returned to the Cubs in 2011.

This season, Wood hoped to pitch for his beloved Cubs, but he was plagued with various physical ailments, none of them serious enough to put him back on the disabled list. He couldn't bounce back to pitch multiple times per week. On the brink of being released by the Cubs, a team going nowhere but wanting a youth movement, Wood decided to retire.

On Friday, in front of a packed Wrigley Field, Wood faced his last Major League hitter. On three pitches, Wood struck out Dayan Viciedo of the Chicago White Sox for his final out. His teammates gathered on the mound to congratulate him. As a speechless Wood walked slowly off the field, he received a boisterous standing ovation from the sellout crowd. His young son, Justin, ran to meet him.

Wood was undoubtedly a rare talent, but when I look back on his career, I must ask, "What might it have been without his injuries?"

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at sarahmorris27@gmail.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.