Chicago Cubs: The overlooked, yet unforgettable legacy of Travis Wood
There was so much more to Travis Wood in his Chicago Cubs career than him shirtless, chugging beer. Here’s a look back at his run on the North Side.
One memory that will never fade from my memory is Travis Wood in a cutoff camouflage vest at the World Series parade. I mean, how could anyone forget such a sight? Such an appearance was hardly anything new for Wood, who carved out his own place on that 2016 Chicago Cubs club. But, truth be told, he left a mark far greater than just his contributions that season behind on the franchise.
Before you can appreciate where you are, you have to look back at where you’ve been. Wood, a second-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds back in 2005, came to Chicago in a trade you may have forgotten. In December 2011, Chicago sent big left-hander Sean Marshall to the Reds in exchange for Dave Sappelt, Ronald Torreyes and, you guessed it, Travis Wood.
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Over the years, Wood’s role with the Cubs evolved. At first, he was a key part of the rebuilding organization’s starting rotation, making 26, 32 and 31 starts, respectively, from 2012 to 2014. Now, as far as the rebuild goes, these were the dark days. Chicago won an average of 66 games. But that shouldn’t negate the work turned in by the left-hander, either.
Coming off a fairly pedestrian first season with the Cubs, Wood turned it up a notch in 2013, earning the first – and only – All-Star Game nod of his career. In the first half, the southpaw was lights-out, pitching to a 2.79 ERA and 1.035 WHIP in 19 starts, averaging over six innings per outing during that span.
That year also marked the first and only time Wood hit the 200-inning mark, showing just how valuable he was to a team that was still searching for answers, especially on the pitching staff. After the front office went out and brought in Jon Lester and Jason Hammel ahead of the 2015 campaign, Wood became more of a swingman, making nine starts, finishing a dozen contests and adding in another 33 relief appearances.
Of course, Chicago turned it all around that year, shocking the baseball world with 97 regular season wins and a run to the National League Championship Series, where they fell to the New York Mets. But, as we all know, from top to bottom, Chicago put it all together in 2016 – and Wood was no exception.
The 29-year-old Wood was one of Joe Maddon‘s go-to arms out of the pen, making 77 appearances during that World Series championship season. He teamed up with Lester to steal the show on July 31 against Seattle, a come-from-behind 7-6 victory.
After inheriting a tough spot and working out of it, Wood shifted to left field – making a tremendous catch against the wall. The veteran then re-entered as a pitcher again, coming in from left field. Of course, that game ended with Lester of all people putting down aa game-winning bunt as the Cubs rallied from down 6-0 to pull of an improbable victory.
Wood made his presence felt in the postseason, as well, especially in the team’s NLDS victory over San Francisco, where he slammed a home run in Game 2 to pad the Cubs’ lead. Of course, Cubs fans already knew he belonged to the #PitchersWhoRake club, as that was his tenth home run of his career.
So from the long-balls to the tightrope acts in the late innings, here’s to you, Travis. Thanks for the memories – and the mark you left on our Chicago Cubs.