Once billed as the next Nolan Ryan, or even the Express combined with Roger Clemens combined with Dwight Gooden, Cubs right-hander Kerry Wood instead has experienced the past decade with highs and lows — the latter of which were mostly injury related — all his own.
After nearly having quit, Wood transformed from a front-of-the-rotation starter to an All-Star-caliber closer and is having what might be his best season at age 31. The Cubs are in first place, Wood has 20 saves, he's lost nearly 50 pounds thanks to an organic diet and is healthy — knock on himself.
Q: I have a man-crush on your strikeout-to-walk ratio this season. Is it wrong of me?
Kerry Wood: It could be a little awkward. I don't know what it is, though.
Q: It's 49-8!
KW: I don't look at a whole lot of stats. How many saves I have — that's about the only number I've kept track of. Honestly, it makes your job easier when you're not walking guys.
Q: Do you channel Rod Beck in the ninth inning sometimes?
KW: [Considerate pause]. No...
KW: I channel him some other times. His approach. The way he went about his business every day. Whether he blew one or saved 20 in a row, he was the same guy. I try to emulate that a little bit.
Q: They tore up Wrigley's old playing surface and replaced it with a new one in the off-season; Were you surprised when they discovered Gary Gaetti living in an apartment beneath third base?
KW: He could unite them all [laughs]. If he keeps pitching like this, he could make all of their lives better.
Q: After your 20-strikeout game, is it true that Terry Adams took you out for dinner and then you somehow ended up paying?
KW: I did, yeah. Just kind of a rookie thing. That, and he kind of left his wallet behind again.
KW: I don't know who that was, I don't know exactly what he did...
Q: I think it's a "she."
Q: What's the key to your weight-loss approach?
KW: Sticking with it. The first two weeks were the toughest. Getting used to your palette changing and getting use to non-fried foods. We're so used to eating crap all of our lives. We've all done it.
Q: What don't you eat anymore that you miss most?
KW: If I want to eat something, I eat it. I didn't really cut anything out. I changed the way I eat, the whole diet. If I really have a craving for something, I'll go ahead and get it.
Q: Which would be what?
KW: I love root beer. Big fan of root beer. Drink that a lot. And those little oatmeal creme pies are pretty solid. I can't say no to them.
Q: Do you think, if he bought the Cubs, Mark Cuban would be like a Little League dad at games?
KW: Yeah, absolutely. We'd see him at every game. He'll get into it like he does during basketball. He probably rubs people the wrong way, but I think the people that are in the organization — the guys who work for him and play for him — they probably enjoy it.
Q: Hollywood wants to make a Lethal Weapon-style buddy picture with you as a lead character. Who's your sidekick?
KW: My sidekick. A "Lethal"... A bloody one?
Q: Yeah, very.
KW: My sidekick... I don't know. It's a good question. ... Let's come back to it.
KW: Which one do I prefer?
Q: Read into it whatever you will.
KW: I'm gonna skip that one, since one of them's still my manager [laughs].
Q: You're a budding mariachi. Is pitching the ninth inning like a guitar solo?
KW: Yeah! Yeah, I guess it could be. Hopefully, the shorter the solo, the better? In my case, it needs to be short as possible.
Q: Would you classify yourself as a:
• Like that Esteban guy on Home Shopping
KW: Probably a psycho licker.
Q: Which songs can you play from start to finish?
KW: None. Well, the national anthem.
Q: God bless America. You don't really care to have theme music when you come into a game, but could you pick a song that you like that would be appropriate for your entrance to games that fans can hum to themselves when you come in.
KW: Enemy by Sevendust. I don't know if people can hum that. Step up to me, step up to me, you wanna be a big-time player? It's not to be.
Q: That rocks 'n' stuff. What kind of album could Eddie Vedder make about the Cubs if you guys win the World Series?
KW: Probably one that would sell just here in Wrigleyville [laughs]. He came up with a song — was it two years ago? He goes to the fantasy camp every year and Ernie [Banks] asked him to write a song and he wrote it the night before the camp started and he played it at the Vic [Theatre]. I took a bunch of the guys over to the Vic last year and he played it. I think that's the only place he's played it.
Q: Why do you think Tony La Russa wears sunglasses at night?
KW: Probably a number of different reasons. He probably doesn't want people to see what he's looking at. He's probably looking into the other dugout, or trying to pick up signs, or anything else he can do.
Q: What's the best escape route out of Lake View in case you need one in late October?
KW: Find a patch of grass, probably off Lake Shore [Drive], and have a helicopter pick you up.
Q: Which guy in here is most like to "blow up big" if the Cubs win the Series?
KW: Probably Fukudome. Internationally, it would be huge.
Q: Do you know where the phrase "knock on wood" comes from?
Q: I think because people used to pray to trees.
KW: That's your guess, huh [laughs]?
Q: Do you just go like this? [Interviewer gives self a noogie]
KW: I do. [Wood gives self a noogie]. Seems to work.
Q: Shouldn't we give you credit for all the time you've spent on the "Healthy List" rather than being focused on the negative?
KW: Yeah, but what fun is that?
Q: Did you ever go to yourself, "I quit" or at least, "I'm gonna try this with my left arm"?
KW: Yeah. Sure. Several times. But I was surrounded by people, the right people, who wouldn't let me do it.
Q: Why don't you talk like you come from Texas?
KW: Um... I don't know. I don't know how I lost my accent. It was pretty thick when I first came up, but maybe being away from there for so long...
Q: What can you say about Kerry Wood's Strikezone 2008?
KW: It's going to be fun. We're going to have another bowling event (Aug. 20) and it's for another good cause — the organic school project, we've switched it up — and I know we'll raise a lot of money.
Q: Can you bowl?
KW: I can bowl.
Q: But are you able to [given your history]?
KW: I'm not going to risk it. I'll bowl left-handed. I can still probably 150, 160.
Q: Ever look around the clubhouse and go, "Crap, where's Todd Walker?"
KW: No [laughs] but I looked around and went, [Shazam!] there's Jon Lieber again [laughs]!
Q: What do you do with an elephant that has three balls?
KW: Mate him.
Q: Walk him and pitch to the rhino.
Q: How is the search for the real killers of Sammy's boom box going?
KW: Still lookin' for 'em. I think the majority of them are gone. Dunno where they went.
Q: So, it wasn't a "lone gunman"?
KW: Not that I've heard. I wasn't here. I don't know exactly how many guys were involved, or who was involved, but the hunt still goes on. I don't think the ringleader's around.
Q: We forgot to get back to the Lethal Weapon sidekick question. I vote for Cheech, or Eddie Vedder.
KW: [Has left the clubhouse to go stretch].
Previous Answer Men:
• Hunter Pence - April 10 • Justin Morneau - April 17 • David Wright - April 24 • Erin Andrews - April 25 • Andy Van Slyke - May 1 • Derek Jeter - May 8 • Bob Uecker - May 15 • Bert Blyleven - May 22 • Torii Hunter - May 29 • Joba Chamberlain - June 3 • Larry Bowa - June 13 • Zack Greinke - June 20