The ring isn't everything to Kerry Wood

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The ring isn't everything to Kerry Wood

This is the new Mr. Cub. Kerry Wood has too much invested here to leave now and become a mercenary and chase a ring.

Who knows how long the Cubs will be playing meaningful baseball this summer, or how much Wood will have left when theyre good again. But the 34-year-old reliever has spent almost half his life in this organization, and his family has made this city their home.

Ultimately, that outweighed the interest Wood received from contenders like the Detroit Tigers (before they signed Prince Fielder) and the Philadelphia Phillies. Thats why hes traveling to Arizona this week to begin spring training with a team that has almost no external expectations and is playing for the future.

Even if it took until the middle of January to agree on a one-year, 3 million deal that was synched up to the opening of the Cubs Convention. It was perfect public relations timing, though even chairman Tom Ricketts had to admit: We probably could have done it a little sooner.

One offer from an unidentified team got to the point where Wood thought he was going to take a physical.

It was a three-week rollercoaster there for a little while I was in four different cities, Wood said Monday night before the Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. It worked out perfect. This is where we want to play. But, yeah, its definitely tempting to go win a ring. Thats why we play the game.

If I (had) won a ring with the Yankees in 2010 that would have been great. But I dont think it would have meant as much as spending the time that you spend here on all the bad teams and then turning it around and getting so close. It means more for me (to) be part of a winning organization that maybe turns some things around.

There were veteran guys when I was younger I still remember things that they told me and that still helps. I dont want to be labeled as that guy, but its nice to tell a young kid something and see them go out and figure it out and have success.

Wood can still pitch, but this is a team that will need that presence in the clubhouse.

This winter, the Cubs were content to let the media feed the perception that they were in on all the big-ticket items, and then watch them all the fall off the board: Albert Pujols; Yu Darvish; Fielder; and Yoenis Cespedes, who on Monday agreed to a reported four-year, 36 million deal with the Oakland As.

Looking toward 2014 and beyond, Theo Epstein showed no desire to make a splash, instead buying low on young players with potential upside who are under club control. The new president of baseball operations might be the only one with the credibility to sell a long-term rebuilding process to the fan base.

If these fans are going to be patient, this is the guy theyre going to be patient with, Wood said. Hes got a track record with what he did in Boston and turning that organization around and bringing (that) city (the) championship they desperately wanted and needed for so long.

He was the guy that got it done there. Does it mean hes going to do it here? There (are) no guarantees, but hes got a great owner he works for and hes in the best city, in my opinion, for baseball. He gets the owner on his side and the fans on his side hell do great things.

Epstein has promised that the Cubs will build a sustainable model where theyre playing in October every year. Wood, whos about to begin his 16th season in the organization, has lived through the boom-and-bust cycles at Clark and Addison. His contract includes a 3 million club option for 2013.

At this point, its one year, Wood said. At this stage of the career, I think its a re-assess at the end of the year to take a few weeks off and see where everythings at and see if its something that I want to continue to do. But I feel like Ive got two or three years left. My body feels good.

Theres no announcement or anything (like): This is going to be the last one.

It seems like Wood enjoys not being the story anymore. He understands the pulse of the city better than most players, and knows that right now no ones making big predictions.

Its Chicago, Wood said. Its a result-oriented city. Thats just the way it goes, especially with baseball on the North Side. I dont think anyones expecting us to walk out there and run away with the thing and win the World Series. (Thats) a little delusional. But I think weve got a good enough team to surprise some people and compete in our division.

If any of those future core players emerge in 2012, they might follow Woods example, and ask him about doing your job while handling the spotlight, and what it might be like if the Cubs ever win.

Why Joe Maddon won’t tone down the stunts at Cubs camp

Why Joe Maddon won’t tone down the stunts at Cubs camp

MESA, Ariz. – Joe Maddon teased reporters when pitchers and catchers reported to Arizona one week ago, promising the Cubs wouldn't tone down the gimmicks now that they're World Series champions: "We already have something planned for the first day that you might not want to miss."

A weekend of rain in Mesa postposed the first full-scale full-squad workout until Monday, and the wet grass meant the big reveal had to wait until Tuesday morning, when gonzo strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss drove a white Ferrari onto the field for the team's stretching session.

The bearded man they call "Bussy" rocked sunglasses, a gold chain around his neck, brown dress shoes and the same navy blue windowpane suit he wore to the White House. The overarching message as Buss blew kisses and Cypress Hill's "(Rock) Superstar" and Jay Z's "Big Pimpin'" blasted from the sound system: Humility.

"I hope everyone gets the sarcasm involved," Maddon said.

So, uh, no, the Cubs aren't going to dial it back or turn the zoo animals away or worry about the target they proudly wore on their chest last year.

"I don't know if the mime's coming back or not," Maddon said during the welcome-to-camp press conference. "Could you do a mime two years in a row? I don't know if that's permissible under MLB rules somewhere. I don't think you can bring a mime back two years in a row.

"Magicians are OK. You can anticipate a lot of the same, absolutely."

Before rolling your eyes at a star manager who loves the spotlight, it's important to note that the stunts are largely Buss productions.

"A lot of times, I'm not even aware," Maddon said. "He just knows he's got my blessings. He knows he does not have to clear it with me, unless it's absolutely insane. It works pretty well this way."

While every Maddon dress-up theme trip doesn't get universal love in the clubhouse, Buss has a unique way of getting millionaires to pay attention, almost tricking them into doing work.

"He's got several well-endowed players on the team that support his histrionics," Maddon said.

[MORE CUBS: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred open to idea of Cubs hosting All-Star Game at renovated Wrigley Field]

Since taking over this job in 2001, Buss has survived multiple ownership structures (Tribune Co., Sam Zell, Ricketts family) and the Andy MacPhail/Jim Hendry/Theo Epstein transitions in the front office, working for managers Don Baylor, Rene Lachemann (interim), Bruce Kimm (interim), Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Mike Quade, Dale Sveum and Rick Renteria.

"He must have some good photographs, right?" Maddon said. "He's a different cat. He's a weapon."

Buss can clearly get along with almost any kind of personality. But it took Maddon – and the explosion of social media – to give him this kind of platform.

"No, nothing's changed, man," Maddon said. "It's all the same in regards to 'the same,' meaning the methods, the process. I just got aired out by one of our geek guys for not using the word ‘process.’ It’s true. Last year, I used the word ‘process’ often. I’m going to continue to use it a lot again this year.

"Why were we able to withstand the word 'pressure' and 'expectations' as well as we did last year? Because we weren't outcome-oriented. We were more oriented towards the process. Anybody in your job and your business – if you want to be outcome-oriented – you're going to find yourself in a lot of trouble just focusing on that word.

"It's all about the process. Our process shall remain the same, absolutely it shall. Hopefully, we're going to add or augment it in some ways that can be even more interesting and entertaining."

The irony is that the Cubs have repeatedly used outcome-based thinking in defending Maddon's decisions during the World Series. But the manager obviously deserves so much credit for creating an environment where this team could play loose and relaxed and not collapse under the weight of franchise history.

"Our guys are pretty much in charge of the whole thing," Maddon said. "I love the empowerment of the players. I love that they feel the freedom to be themselves. If they didn't, maybe Jason (Heyward) would not have gotten the guys together in a weight room in Cleveland after a bad moment.

"All those things matter. And you can't understand exactly which is more important than the other. So you just continue to attempt to do a lot of the same things. Process is important, man, and we're going to continue along that path."

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred open to idea of Cubs hosting All-Star Game at renovated Wrigley Field

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred open to idea of Cubs hosting All-Star Game at renovated Wrigley Field

PHOENIX – Rob Manfred is open to the idea of an All-Star Game at a fully renovated Wrigley Field, but the Major League Baseball commissioner won't make any guarantees about the 2020 target date the Cubs have proposed in a joint lobbying effort with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.

"I'm not going to get into specific years," Manfred said Tuesday during a Cactus League media event at the Arizona Biltmore. "Because there's a number of clubs – we're fortunate – that have interest in particular years. And I don't want to say anything that would suggest that I'm anywhere near making a decision."

During last month's Cubs Convention, president of business operations Crane Kenney expressed optimism in a Super Bowl-style bidding process, and not the old way of simply alternating the showcase event between the American and National leagues each year.

The Cubs will point to their starring role in a World Series that beat the NFL's "Sunday Night Football" in head-to-head TV ratings and saw more than 40 million people tune in for Game 7. By 2020, the $600 million Wrigleyville development is supposed to be finished, and Emanuel helped broker the deals that moved the NFL draft to Chicago the last two years after a long run at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

"I will say this: A renovated Wrigley Field would be a great location for an All-Star Game," Manfred said. "Chicago is a great city. And over time, we have tried to go to cities that would be great locations for the game – and to reward cities that had made substantial investments in either new or renovated facilities."

The Cubs still see potential roadblocks, needing City Hall's help with an increased security presence around an urban neighborhood ballpark that hasn't hosted the Midsummer Classic since 1990.

Kenney also acknowledged that All-Star Games have been used as bargaining chips in public negotiations in cities like Miami and Washington – Marlins Park (2017) and Nationals Park (2018) will make it four straight All-Star Games for NL stadiums – while the Ricketts family used private mechanisms to fund the project after striking out on other proposals.