I will hear no Travis Wood slander on my watch. (Pic: Getty)
Travis Wood rode into Chicago in 2012, the product of a trade with the rival Cincinnati Reds for Sean Marshall. (The Cubs also got Ronald Torreyes and Dave Sappelt in that deal.) After failing to perform in the closer role with the Reds (giving way to some guy named Aroldis Chapman) in 2012 and then struggling with shoulder issues the next two years, Marshall's career would end quietly in Cincinnati at the age of 32.
Woody? Well, Wood was just about to cause quite the ruckus. Some people forget that Travis started his Cubs career as a starter. On a terrible 2012 Cubs team, he posted a rather unremarkable 4.27 ERA in 26 games started. But the next year things got fun. On a just slightly less terrible 2013 team, Travis Alan Wood posted a 3.10 ERA in 32 games started and pitched 200 innings! Mind you, because the team was so awful he only went 9-12 (pitcher wins, amirite?) but he was worth 3.0 fWAR! In a season where the Cubs "ace" was, uh, Matt Garza, a surprise breakout like Woody's was a welcome little ray of sunshine.
Also? Rocked a sweet mullet.
Then a curious thing happened. The Cubs moved Woody to the bullpen, which is not the news here (although he may not have loved that part). The fun part is that whenever Woody showed up, fun things seemed to happen. Big things. Things that Cubs fans still remember. These things would build and grow, and eventually write the story that would be The Legend of Travis Wood. Let's take a look at some exerpts, shall we?
Chapter 1: Bullpen Chicken
Not a game for the faint of heart, our hero began challenging his fellow pen-mates to test their courage against batted balls of all velocities and spin rates. Never did our hero flinch or turn from the little orbs of doom, but held fast in the face of certain bruises and possible physical maiming and death.
Chapter 2: An Adventurous Spirit
Never one to stick to one thing, our hero Woody was willing to follow our leader's charge no matter what the circumstances may bring. Yes, even if it meant trotting into the outfield to play a little defense. Never intimidated by a challenge, though, Travis always stepped up to the task in true legendary fashion.
Chapter 3: DINGERS!
Perhaps my favorite chapter, our hero showed us time and again that he wasn't only good at handling the ball, but he could swing his stick, too. Perhaps no appearance was more important than the 2016 NLDS against the Giants, when our beloved Professor went down early in the game to a line drive to the wrist. Not only were we terrified that he wouldn't return for the playoffs (he did, of course), but who would step up and carry his mantle that chilly October night? Not only would Woody stand on the bump, but he would homer in the game to push the Cubs' lead to 5-2. Woody has 11 career HR's in the regular season.
Chapter 4: The Shirtless Wonder
Wait, no this is my favorite chapter! You see, before Brian Dozier and Mike Napoli and various others decided that shirtless celebrations were the cool thing, we had Travis Wood. Give the man a celebration of any type and the shirt is coming off. Or never going on. Or something. Whatever. All I know is, God bless him for partying his way. Never change, my dude.
I'm not gonna lie--I miss having Woody on the Cubs. It just seems like we have a huge hole where a shirtless, bearded, dinger-hitting pitcher/occasional outfielder should be. But not to worry--Woody's legend has continued to live on, even as he's gone off to other teams and works to get back in the game. Until we see him again, we can still learn from the legacy he's building every single day on topics such as...
Though our time with him was brief, this one man left an indelible mark on Cubs fans of all ages. The Legend of Travis Wood will forever live in the hearts and minds of Cubs fans everywhere.