What a difference a year makes.
Only 12 months ago, Kerry Wood was back in the fold and fans couldn't wait for the chance to welcome him home at the Cubs Convention.
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He had returned to play for old friend Jim Hendry at a paltry $1.5 million, mostly because Wood wanted to be back in Chicago, where he and his wife make their home.
It was also a huge public relations victory for the North Siders, something that's always important ahead of the Convention, and Wood received an enormous reception.
But now under Theo Epstein, it seems the days of having mascots are over, and it's about time.
What's good for the fans is not always good for the team and in this case the Cubs are going to sign Wood only if it's good for the team.
So the Cubs are still talking to Wood but he is also talking to other teams.
After saying last season that he would retire rather than play elsewhere, he is now considering several other teams, including at least one in the Cubs' division.
And he should. If Wood still wants to pitch, he should get whatever he can wherever he has a chance to win, especially now that he has no close friends making decisions in the Cubs' front office.
The Cubs are all about the business of baseball now and cute no longer factors into what they offer and to whom they offer it.
Wood owes the Cubs nothing and they owe him nothing. He made the choice to give up several million dollars to pitch here a year ago and now he sees an organization that doesn't seem to care much about him, so he should look to recoup that lost salary.
The reality is Wood is near the end but can help a contending team if he can stay on the field, which is always a risk for any team signing him.
But it's also true that for a team rebuilding, Wood serves very little purpose. This is something Cubs fans might not like to hear, but it also happens to be true.
Of course, Cubs fans were none too happy a year ago when it said right here that Wood with the Cubs made little sense, since the Cubs weren't going anywhere in 2011 and those innings should have been taken by someone growing into the role.
But it was such a cute story and hardly anyone likes reality to get in the way of cute.
So now Epstein and Co. are probably thinking that bringing back Wood for very cheap would again make sense since someone needs to pitch those relief innings.
But as was the case a year ago, having a pitcher near the end of his career taking up those delicate innings prevents a younger player from learning that job, and if they have others in mind to pitch in that spot, then they have no use for Wood.
And since he's an injury waiting to happen, it's possible he's not worth the trouble or the money as far as the Cubs are concerned, unless it's a very small amount again.
Even he leaves, it shouldn't change his relationship with Tom Ricketts, who is clearly a big Kerry Wood fan and wants him to be with the Cubs in some capacity after his career is over.
It wouldn't change the fact Wood and his wife, Sarah, are beloved in the Chicago area. Since 2001, they've raised more than $2 million for Children's Memorial Hospital, Derrek Lee's Project 3000 and the Organic School Project through their charity work (WoodFamilyFoundation.org).
That's all wonderful, but it has nothing to do with baseball and Theo Epstein is all about baseball, even just days away from the Cubs Convention and thousands of screaming fans.
If he doesn't bring back Wood, it will be a baseball decision. If he signs Kerry Wood, you can be certain that it will only be for baseball reasons.
Cute will have nothing to do with it.
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