Welcome back, Woody! While some Cubs’ fans might be hesitant to get excited about Kerry Wood’s return to Chicago due to the injuries that haunted him during his first tour of duty, I am not one of them. Sure, Woody was plagued by injuries in the past but those days are gone. A skeptical fan need only to look at the year Wood had last season with the Yankees. During the post-season Kerry came out of the bullpen and was lights out. I thought to myself, “He’s back!”
Now, Woody is healthy and has returned to form. Now, he is back with the Cubs and I am excited. He has new life and the Cubs will benefit from his presence in the bullpen. Jim Hendry sought a veteran right-handed reliever to anchor the bullpen and Kerry Wood is the perfect fit. Personally, I was skeptical at the idea of bringing him back, but something dramatically opened my eyes.
Woody wanted to return to Chicago since his family has roots here. His wife is from the Windy City and he wanted to make Chicago his permanent home. That is great, but the reasons why I am excited about his return is that I was watching Chicago Tribune Live and Dave Kaplan was talking about a conversation that he had with Kerry Wood. He jokingly told Kerry that the White Sox were interested in signing him as a free agent and asked Wood if he had considered going there. Kerry Wood’s response, “Never!” Spoken like a true Cub!
Then, when I heard that Jim Hendry was considering signing him and Woody was willing to accept far less money on the open free agent market to come to Chicago to play for the Cubs again I thought, “Hmmm”. In essence, he was willing to take a pay cut to accomodate the Cubs who have had a huge payroll deficiency. He was taking one for the team. Wow, you don’t see that every day. Any player who is willing to turn down millions of dollars to help the team out is definitely my kind of player. Kerry Wood is truly a Cub!
I will never forget the day he struck out 20 while pitching against the Houston Astros in 1998, his rookie season. I have watched a million games and that, I swear, was the best pitching performance that I have ever seen. Better perhaps, than any no-hitter that I have watched. Kerry Wood was in the zone that day. It was incredible! Sure, due to injuries, he has had a disappointing career, but we can take heart that Woody is healthy now and he’s back, back with a vengeance. Kerry is a true Cub, a veteran presence, and a true leader in the club house. I am glad to have him back and wish him the best of luck as the Cubs set forth on their journey to the World Series in 2011. Don’t laugh. It could happen. As Mike Quade has said, “Why not us?”
The Winter Meetings in Orlando have been stalled by Cliff Lee, however, the Cubs have managed to find their first baseman for the upcoming season. Carlos Pena has agreed to a one-year contract worth about $10 Million.
Jim Hendry was running out of options as the search for a first baseman intensified. Adrian Gonzalez was traded to Boston, Lance Berkman was signed by the Cardinals, and Adam Dunn will join Paul Konerko on the White Sox. With available Free Agents dwindling, Hendry had to do something, something fast. Hendry has been talking to Carlos Pena and Adam LaRoche, but has decided to go with former Tampa Bay, first baseman, Carlos Pena.
Pena is the top defensive first baseman in this year’s free agent market. He is a Gold Glove Award winner. Despite his offensive struggles, Pena still managed to hit 28 homeruns last year. He only batted .196, which has some Cubs’ fans nervous, but by coming to Chicago, Pena will have the opportunity to work with Cubs’ Hitting Coach, Rudy Jaramillo. A change in his batting approach should improve his swing. Poor hitting is fixable, especially when a hitter is willing to learn and make adjustments. With a one-year deal, Pena will be motivated to make vast improvements to increase his market value next year. I think Jim Hendry made the right decision by signing Pena. In my humble opinion, Carlos Pena will be a good fit for the Cubs. He will improve a defense that struggled last season, he adds a left-handed power bat to the middle of the line-up, and he is a leader in the club house. The Cubs are in desperate need for all of those things. While I have criticized Hendry for not making any moves up to this point, I will admit that he has done the right thing in signing Pena. He will be a welcomed addition.
In other news, the Cubs have shown interest in some pitchers this week. According to MLB Trade Rumors http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/chicago_cubs/index.html, the Cubs have had discussions concerning Zack Greinke, Matt Garza, and Brandon Webb. There are talks of a trade with the Rangers for Chris Davis, a potential power-hitter, and Darren O’Day, a side-armed reliever with an ERA under 2.00. It has also been reported that the Cubs are shopping Tom Gorzellany around to create an opening in the starting rotation.
Good news! The Winter Meetings are starting to heat up, but the Cubs are just getting warmed up. I can’t wait to see what happens next. With pitching a top priority, look for Jim Hendry to target a pitcher to solidify the starting rotation next.
The BBWAA Hall of Fame ballots have officially been released. One name that is not among the candidates to be enshrined is Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader.
Some names that will appear on the ballots are names connected with steroid use. There is no forgiveness in baseball, unless your method of cheating was by steroid use. Why? Why is betting on baseball a worse crime? Pete Rose never bet against the Reds so it wasn’t like he “fixed” the games to ensure he would win a bet. He lied about his gambling at first, but finally broke down and admitted his wrong-doing. He regrets his mistake. Players like Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro denied any wrong doing despite the evidence that proves otherwise. Roger Clemens will deny his actions till the day he dies and even then, will never admit it. Alex Rodriguez denied reports of his usage, but finally revealed the truth after the evidence was leaked to the press. His reward? He gets to keep playing as if he did nothing wrong. Why? Why does a player that tests positive for steroid use gets to get caught 3 times before he faces a lifetime ban? Why are steroid users allowed to be on the Hall of Fame ballot? Are they not cheaters?
Dear Mr. Selig, I don’t understand why Major League baseball has crucified Pete Rose. Sure, he made a mistake. He bet on baseball and that is strictly against the rules. He made a mistake and is truly remorseful. As the Commissioner of MLB, are you afraid to overturn a previous Commissioner’s ruling? Why? Is there no forgiveness in baseball?
In light of the steroid era, haven’t we learned anything? The steroid users have been glorified. In 1998, fans of MLB enjoyed the greatest homerun race ever. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire slugged it out and the fans went wild. At the time, we thought we were witnessing history, only to discover that it was all smoke and mirors. In hindsight, it was a major disappointment. Then there’s Barry Bonds, who belted 70 homeruns to become the homerun king. Again, it was all an illusion, wasn’t it?
Considering the fact that steroids not only tarnished the game, it destroyed the integrity of America’s past time. So why do players like Palmeiro get rewarded by appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot? I don’t get it. MLB has always taken the stance that baseball is a pure sport, a sport with integrity. Let’s face it, baseball has been stained by steroids. Players looked for an extra edge and found it. They cheated, pure and simple. The problem that I have is that if a player fails a drug test, he gets suspended for 90 days or whatever it is. then, if he tests positive again, it’s a 180 game suspension. The third offense results in a lifetime ban. So why is it, that Pete Rose received baseball’s death penalty for one mistake made after his playing days were over? Pete Rose played the game the way it should be played. He set the example for everyone. He never used steroids or cheated in any way, shape, or form as a player. As a manager, he bet on his team to win. Big deal. Why is his case a greater crime than steroid use? I think there is something wrong with that picture.
Here is my proposal, Mr. Selig. I have an idea that might actually prove to be the right thing to do. I hope that you read this post and seriously consider what I am about to suggest. Why? It is the right thing to do and I am confident that you are a man of integrity. Here’s my idea.
Since Pete Rose bet on baseball while managing the Reds, then he should be banned as a manager. However, since Pete has alot to offer, he should be allowed to coach, mentoring young players and teaching them how to play the game the way it was meant to be played and teaching them about the dangers of cheating. Pete Rose should be allowed to participate in the game of baseball in some capacity. He was the greatest hitter ever. Have some respect and give him his due. Pete Rose has paid the price for his mistake and is sorry. He should be forgiven. Perhaps a little forgiveness would bring back some of the integrity that has been lost in Major League baseball.
In addition, Pete Rose deserves to be in the hall of Fame, period! His numbers speak for themselves. His success came the old-fashion way, he earned it. He worked hard to get where he had gotten. He deserves to be on the ballot to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It doesn’t mean that the writers will vote him in, although I think he deserves it. He should at least have the opportunity to be on the ballot. It’s time to be a leader, Mr. Selig, and give Pete Rose a reprieve. It has been long enough. Don’t you believe in giving people second chances? Steroid users get second and third chances. Pete Rose needs only one second chance and you are the only one that has the power to forgive. There is no forgiveness in baseball, but maybe there should be.
Pete Rose was my favorite player when I was a youngster. He inspired me to play baseball. He inspired me to hustle. He inspired me to dive head first into whatever base I was trying to reach. He inspired me to aspire to becoming a big leaguer some day. Pete Rose was awesome. My very first MLB game was at Riverfront Stadium and Pete Rose was playing third base. He was the reason I wanted to see the Cubs and the Reds play. Rose captivated my imagination and made me realize that a player had to work hard and give 100% all the time. He inspired a strong work ethic in me. Watching Pete Rose chase Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak was unbelievable. Every game was exciting. That was what made baseball so great. He chased the 3,000 hit milestone. Then, the incredible 4,000 hit milestone. He finally broke Ty Cobb’s record for most hits all-time. It was amazing. Pete Rose kept me interested in baseball, no, more like obsessed. Pete Rose deserves some credit. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Have a heart and reinstate his eligibility status. It’s the right thing to do. If it wasn’t for Pete Rose, I would not be the diehard baseball fan that I am today. I hope that somehow you read this, Mr. Selig. I have the utmost respect for you and your integrity and I trust that you will consider doing the right thing. Thank you, Scot Blust.