Why have Cubs fans turned on Kerry Wood?

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Why have Cubs fans turned on Kerry Wood?

Kerry Wood is not off to a very good start in 2012. There's no denying that.

He has an 8.64 ERA and 2.28 WHIP in 9 appearances, has blown two saves and disposed of one glove.

Let's rewind a couple months, first, though.

In November and December, it seemed as if Wood returning to the Cubs was imminent. But a deal just never got done. Then, there was talk of interest from other teams, like the Tigers and Phillies.

And Cubs fans were upset at that. Understandably so. As a fanbase, we see Wood as ours. Even when he was on the Indians and Yankees, he was still a Cub.

Then, of course, the Cubs threw everybody a curveball when they announced Wood at the Convention in January. It was a great PR move and the fans went wild.

Now, in mid-May, it seems as if the fanbase has turned on "the new Mr. Cub."

Just about any time Wood comes into the game now, Twitter blows up with people uttering such lunacies as "he's finished" and "isn't it time for him to just retire?"

How did that happen so suddenly?

This is a guy who won't even turn 35 for another month. Sure, he's had a laundry list of elbow and shoulder problems in his career, so his right arm is much more advanced in years.

But last season, he had a 3.35 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, with 57 strikeouts in 51 innings. His 2.71 KBB ratio was his best mark since 2008.

Yet people think he suddenly lost the ability to pitch? Does talent disappear that fast?

Where were all these people saying "he's finished" and "it's time for him to retire" last season? Where were all these people back in December and early January?

How has that all changed after nine bad outings?

Wood only got five innings of work in during spring training and then was forced to the DL just two weeks into the season with shoulder fatigue. He didn't go on a rehab assignment before returning and subsequently gave up two runs in each of his first two appearances off the disabled list.

Since then, he's given up just one run in four innings, even if he has walked five guys in that span.

Why is everybody running so quickly to the fact that Wood is "finished"? Why is it suddenly that Wood lost his talent and can't pitch anymore rather than the fact that the shoulder injury and time off has affected his performance?

Wood isn't really getting hit around, but he is walking the world, with 11 free passes in 8.1 innings. His command is the issue, not his talent. It takes time for a pitcher to get his command, and with the missed time in both spring training and earlier this season, Wood hasn't had that opportunity to develop a good feel for his pitches. There's also talk that his arm slot is off, which is a mechanical issue.

Wood has been able to dial up his famous fastball into the mid-90s since returning from the DL, even touching 95 on occasion. Does that sound like a guy whose career is finished?

Now, I'm not saying Wood will return to his 2011 form and be dominant throughout the rest of this year. Especially considering shoulder injuries have a propensity to linger throughout a season.

And maybe the time is coming for Wood to be "finished" in a Cubs uniform or in MLB. But for a loyal fanbase to turn on the most popular player over the last decade, that just doesn't make sense to me. I don't see how that happened so quickly, especially in a season in which Cubs fans were not expecting their team to challenge for a playoff spot.

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

Bobby Howry wasn't aware of the fact he was part of one of the more infamous transactions in White Sox history until a few years after it happened. 

In 1997, with the White Sox only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, general manager Ron Schueler pulled the trigger on a massive trade that left many around Chicago — including some in the White Sox clubhouse — scratching their heads. Heading to the San Francisco Giants was the team's best starting pitcher (left-hander Wilson Alvarez), a reliable rotation piece (Doug Drabek) and a closer coming off a 1996 All-Star appearance (Roberto Hernandez). In return, the White Sox acquired six minor leaguers: right-handers Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Keith Foulke, left-hander Ken Vining, shortstop Mike Caruso and outfielder Brian Manning. Only Foulke had major league experience, and it wasn't exactly good (an 8.26 ERA in 44 2/3 innings). 

Howry was largely oblivious to the shocking nature of the trade that brought him from the Giants to White Sox until, before the 1999 season, he was featured in a commercial that referenced the "White Flag trade."

"I don't even know if I knew it was called that before then," Howry recalled last weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago at Cubs Convention. 

The trade was a stark signal that youth would be emphasized on 35th and Shields. Both Alvarez and Hernandez were set to become free agents after the 1997 season, and the 40-year-old Darwin wasn't a long-term piece, either. With youngsters like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee rising through the farm system, the move was made with an eye on the future and maximizing the return on players who weren't going to be long-term pieces. 

Sound familiar? 

It's hardly a perfect comparison, but when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December for four minor leaguers — headlined by top-100 prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — it was the first rebuilding blockbuster trade the organization had made since the 1997 White Flag deal. Shortly after trading their staff ace at the 2016 Winter Meetings, the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton — their best position player — to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects featuring two more highly-regarded youngsters in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. 

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And there still could be more moves on the horizon, too, for Rick Hahn's White Sox (Jose Quintana has been the subject of persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings). But for those looking for an optimistic outlook of the White Sox rebuilding plans, it's worth noting that the club's last youth movement, to an extent, was successful.

Only Howry (3.74 ERA over 294 games) and Foulke (2.87 ERA, 100 saves over 346 games) became significant long-term pieces for the White Sox from those six players brought over in 1997. And it wasn't like Schueler dealt away any of the franchise's cornerstones — like Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Robin Ventura — but with future starters in Lee, Ordonez and Chris Singleton on their way the White Sox were able to go young. A swap of promising youthful players (Mike Cameron for Paul Konerko) proved to be successful a year and a half later. 

And with a couple of shrewd moves — namely, dealing Jamie Navarro and John Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin — the "Kids Can Play" White Sox stormed to an American League Central title in 2000. 

"It was great," Howry said of developing with so many young players in the late 1999's and 2000. "You come in and you feel a lot more comfortable when you got a lot of young guys and you're all coming up together and building together. It's not like you're walking into a primarily veteran clubhouse where you're kind of having to duck and hide all the time. We had a great group of guys and we built together over a couple of years, and putting that together was a lot of fun."

What sparked things in 2000, Howry said, was that ferocious brawl with the Detroit Tigers on April 22 in which 11 players were ejected (the fight left Foulke needing five stitches and former Tigers catcher/first baseman Robert Fick doused in beer). 

"About the time we had that fight with Detroit, that big brawl, all of a sudden after then we just seemed to kind of come together and everything started to click and it took off," Howry said. 

The White Sox went 80-81 in 1998 and slipped to 75-86 in 1999, but their 95-67 record in 2000 was the best in the league — though it only amounted to a three-game sweep at the hands of the wild-card winning Seattle Mariners. 

Still, the White Flag trade had a happy ending two and a half years later. While with the White Sox, Howry didn't feel pressure to perform under the circumstances with which he arrived, which probably helped those young players grow together into eventual division champions. 

"I was 23 years old," Howry said. "At 23 years old, I didn't really — I was just like, okay, I'm still playing, I got a place to play. I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into three veteran guys for six minor leaguers." 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox 2016 first round pick Zack Collins joins the podcast to talk about his future with the White Sox, when he hopes to make the big leagues and the doubters who question whether he can be a major league catcher.   He discusses comparisons with Kyle Schwarber, his impressions of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, why his dad took him to a Linkin Park concert when he was 6 years old and much more.