About 90 minutes after Theo Epstein said you cant make baseball decisions based on public relations, Kerry Wood walked out onto the balcony and heard the roar inside a Hilton Chicago ballroom.
It was a made-for-TV moment, Kid K returning just in time for the start of the Cubs Convention last January.
It had taken almost three months to reach a modest agreement a one-year, 3 million deal that contained a 3 million club option for 2013 (with no buyout).
Near the end of the 2011 season, Wood had joked about losing all his negotiating power by saying hed either pitch for the Cubs or else retire.
But Wood had built up capital with chairman Tom Ricketts and former general manager Jim Hendry. The talks stalled with Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, the new administration.
Wood said at one point he had come to terms with another team and was waiting to get the call for a physical.
During his farewell press conference on Saturday at Wrigley Field, Wood made a point to thank Epstein and Hoyer for bringing him back. Relations seem to have improved. The Cubs president would do it all over again.
If youve got 3 million, Epstein said, and youre looking for a veteran reliever with swing-and-miss ability who has a chance to really perform and help, you could do a lot worse than Kerry Wood.
It made sense from a baseball standpoint and it just didnt work out. Thats the way things go. Kerry didnt know it wasnt going to work out either. (But) he really handled himself well and I dont really regret it.
Obviously, no one has a crystal ball, but I think you can never go wrong investing in good people as a rule. If it works out or not that particular time you know what well get the next one.
Epstein was in Chestnut Hill, Mass., on Thursday scouting for the draft when he got a call from Wood around 10 minutes before the Boston College-Duke University game was about to start.
This made it official, though for several days Epstein had an idea that Wood was heading in this direction. They had informal discussions about Woods post-playing career last winter, and Epstein would welcome him into the front office as a special assistant.
Thats all whenever hes ready to talk about it, Epstein said. I always recommend the guys take a period of time completely away from the game.
Its important to get that separation to stop seeing the game as a player and start to see it from a little bit of distance. But he knows that the door is completely open, whatever he wants to do. I can only imagine the benefit that hell have for young pitchers in our organization.
It will be cool to show him the scouting side of things, too. You never know when someone might have a knack for that and really like it. Theres scouting, theres player development, theres the daily machinations of the front office. (Hell) continue his big influence on the community here. So theres more than a full plate awaiting him whenever the time is right.
Epstein found fame inside the superstar culture of the Boston Red Sox. The Yale University student was a summer intern with the Baltimore Orioles during the second half of Cal Ripken Jr.s career. He worked for the San Diego Padres during Tony Gwynns final years.
It can be a really tough dynamic, Epstein said. Because of that, I have even more admiration for how Kerry handled himself. Its very hard for players to evaluate themselves clearly and to know when it might be time. (Its being) able to see their careers and their abilities from 10,000 feet instead of from right up close.
We didnt want him to walk away, but he knows himself better than anybody. I think he did it for all the right reasons. He showed a lot of maturity. I have a lot of respect for how he went about it.
Epstein admitted that he doesnt have the same history with Wood as others in the organization, or the fans in the bleachers. The Cubs president is still new to all this.
But Epstein was struck on Friday while watching Wood walk off the mound and hug his son Justin by the dugout.
The part that resonated most with me, and probably most people, is seeing his son, Epstein said. It was such a genuine moment. I think everyone whos a parent can relate to that. It was really special, genuine and authentic.
You hate to see him have to walk away sooner rather than later. But if it had to happen, its hard to script it any nicer.