I don’t mean to take anything away from this wonderful feature on Kerry Wood by Jeff Nuich of CSNChicago.com. It’s really quite excellent, as is what we learn about Wood’s commitment to community and underprivileged kids in Chicago since he retired last season. And of course Wood was a fantastic pitcher. No criticisms of him at all.
But I must chuckle at what is perhaps the longest-lasting, most unbreakable pattern in baseball history: a retired guy lamenting how the young major leaguers these days don’t respect the game the way he and his fellow veterans did. Here’s Wood’s response when asked about the stain of the Biogenesis scandal, Alex Rodriguez’s suspension and the scourge of performance enhancing drugs:
“You have to play with respect and respect the game,” said Wood. “When I came up and when guys like Todd [Hollandsworth] came up, we all felt the game didn’t owe us anything and we respected the game for what it was and kept that integrity. I think over the last few years we’ve seen that change. A lot of guys will get [to the big leagues] and it’s almost like baseball’s been waiting for them and they feel like the game owes them something.
Kerry Wood is only 36 years-old. His rookie season — “when I came up” — was the year of the Sosa-McGwire home run race, for which Wood had a front row seat in the Cubs dugout. It was a time when PEDs were plentiful and their use went unpunished. He is younger than Alex Rodriguez and, were he still in the game, would have less service time than A-Rod does for crying out loud.
I fully appreciate and credit Wood for respecting the game, but man, this is not a generational thing the way he couches it. The kids coming up today are far less accepting of PEDs in the game than Wood and his teammates were. If anything, an argument can be made that the attitude of today’s players with respect to this topic is leaps and bounds better than the attitude of Wood’s generation.
But it has always been thus in baseball: old timers — even relative ones like Wood — recalling a better day that never was and lamenting a present day that is actually much better.