May 20, 2012

K K K K K K K K K K K K K K K K K K K K

A couple of days ago, Kerry Wood announced his retirement from Baseball.  He spent most of his 14-year career with the Chicago Cubs, and is the perfect example of potential derailed.  He was 20 years old in 1998 when he got the call to The Show.  He threw a 100mph fastball, a slider that looked like it was remote controlled, and a curve that didn't so much fall off a table as fall off the top of a very tall building, the sky seemed to be the limit for "Kid K."  Tommy John surgery took the 1999 season, but he came back from that to be just as dominant as before.

Except he wasn't really dominant.  He just couldn't stay healthy, going on the Disabled List 14 times in 13 years (not counting his lost 1999), and his career record reflects that: 86-75.  His best single season was 2003, when he went 14-11, 266 strikeouts, a 3.20 ERA, and was named to the NL All-Star team, leading the team to the NL Championship series.

When he was on, there was nobody better, but as injuries continued to mount (a torn rotator cuff being the worst, but with elbow difficulties and a knee hurt getting out of a jacuzzi thrown into the mix), he was moved into the bullpen.  In 2008, he signed with the Cleveland Indians, being traded to the Yankees in 2010.  Joining the Bronx Bombers for their pennant run on the last day of July, he showed that he still had a bit left in the tank, going 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in 24 appearances as the setup man for the Yankees closer, Mariano Rivera.

He resigned with the Cubs for 2011, then for 2012, but after one last stint on the DL, he came in this past Friday for his last appearance, getting a strikeout to the only batter he faced.  It was 1582nd strikeout in 1370.6 innings, which puts him 2nd all-time in strikeouts per 9 innings (10.317), behind only Randy Johnson (10.609).  He was also the 1998 Rookie of the Year and holds the Major League record for strikeouts in a 9-inning game, with 20.  Below is a video of every K from that particular game, May 6, 1998:


Before you think "Oh, it was just the Houston Astros, big deal," be aware that Houston went 102-60 and won the NL Central by 12.5 games.  This was the season of the "Killer 'B's" (Mike Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Derek Bell), plus Moises Alou to boot.  In short, this was a heckuva lineup that he took on... heck, Bell was leading the NL in batting average when he became the 20th strikeout.  And he made them look silly.  Look at that final pitch.

I was running a RadioShanty when this game took place, and was fortunate enough to have a satellite dish on the roof of the store... that picked up WGN.  Every TV in the place had the game on, and as the innings ticked off, I got less and less work done.  By the time of the 9th inning, there were seven other people watching the game with me: a few customers, a few employees of other stores. 

This game is widely considered the best pitching performance ever.  Yes, better than any perfect game, better than any no-hitter.  The one hit he did give up was an infield single that could have easily been called an error.  He also hit a batter, but Craig Biggio was hit by 285 pitches in his career (2nd all-time).  If he hadn't've given up a hit already, there's no way he would have been pitching that far inside on him.  No walks, 20Ks, zero runs.  If it isn't the best start of all time, it's far and away the best I've ever seen.

It was also his fifth career start.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:29 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 662 words, total size 4 kb.

1 Just imagine how much more successful he might have been if he hadn't had to play his home games in that cursed stadium...

Posted by: Siergen at May 20, 2012 07:24 PM (PuIGa)

2 Siergen, it's not nice to troll a duck when he's down. (heh heh heh...)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 20, 2012 09:18 PM (+rSRq)

3

it's not nice to troll a duck when he's down. (heh heh heh...)

This is why we can't have nice things.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 21, 2012 10:29 AM (OS+Cr)

4 Guys, be nice.  There is a reason baseball still owns a LOT of loyalty - at least in the summer.  The lad was outstanding.  EOS....

Posted by: The Old Man at May 21, 2012 01:01 PM (dBz2M)

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