In the post free agency era of baseball, finding players like Kerry Wood who are strongly identified with a single team, and loved by the fans of that team, is becoming increasingly difficult. If a player is too good, no matter how much he is loved he will eventually leave for greener pastures (like Albert Pujols) and will likely never return. Other players do spend nearly their entire careers with the same team, but they lack the raw ability needed for a player to reach even Wood’s level of star status. In other words, if we are to find the next Kerry Wood we need to find a player who is good enough to win acclaim, but not so good other teams will lure him away. He needs to be a guy who can hang around for a long time, but also be a guy who can come through in the big games and win the love of the fans. That is a tough set of criteria.

So, who might be the next Kerry Wood (in terms of becoming a beloved Cubs icon)? Projecting that sort of a career is nearly impossible, but there are a few candidates that might be worth considering. One, in particular, stands out.

Brett Jackson, I think, will be in the good-enough-but-not-too-good sweet spot, and he has a reputation for playing hard no matter what. I think the fans will love his mix of power, speed, and defense even as they hate his strikeouts. The brick walls may shorten his career, but if he can survive those he has a good chance to stick around for a while.

There are other candidates to become future Cubs’ lifers in the mold of Kerry Wood. I can make a case for Chris Rusin (if he has success as a back of the rotation starter), Jeff Samardzija, and Darwin Barney. I’m tempted to make an argument for Matthew Cerda, but that would likely be premature. Time will tell who it is going to be, but I suspect that guy is either on the roster or in the farm system right now.

AAA – Iowa Cubs. 18 – 22
Iowa fought Salt Lake into extra innings, but fell in the tenth 5-4.

Iowa’s pitchers allowed a single run in each of the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, but otherwise kept the Bees in check to force the game into extras. Scott Maine pitched a scoreless ninth, but when he went back out for the tenth he ran into trouble,ultimately giving up two runs. Iowa got one of those rubs back, but could not finish the job.

Josh Vitters and Anthony Rizzo both hit doubles, but it was Alfredo Amezaga‘s third home run of the season that stole the show.

Now that the Cubs have two catchers on the major league disabled list and Blake Lalli has been called to Chicago, the Iowa Cubs are down to just Juan Apodaca behind the plate. I don’t expect any team to run with just one catcher very long. I think a roster move of some kind will be coming soon.

AA – Tennesse Smokies. 18 – 24
Tennessee had a tough time finding runs in Mississippi on Friday, and that resulted in a 4-2 loss.

Nick Struck and Brian Schlitter combined to pitch a decent game, but they were sunk by a lack of run support. Struck pitched into the seventh and allowed four runs (all earned) on his way to his fourth loss of the season. Schlitter collected the final five outs.

The Smokies managed just five hits in this game. Jae-Hoon Ha led the way with two singles. The only extra base hit for the Tennessee squad was a double from Michael Burgess. Matthew Cerda and Luis Flores contributed singles, but the rest of the bats were silent.

High A – Daytona Cubs. 16 – 23
Daytona won a game, and sure enough it was thanks in part to some good pitching by a left handed starting pitcher. Despite making three errors, the Cubs earned the 8-4 win.

Frank Del Valley had perhaps his best start of the season. He pitched six innings, allowing four runs (one earned) on six hits with two walks while striking out eight. A.J. Morris was perfect in the seventh, and Scott Weismann nailed down the final six outs for his first save of the season.

Daytona piled up their eight runs on thirteen hits and three stolen bases. Matthew Szczur went 2 for 5 with two steals; he now has 18 steals this season. Arismendy Alcantara was 3 for 4. Richard Jones and Greg Rohan both enjoyed three hits a piece. Two of Rohan’s were two baggers; Jones had one double, but he also led the team with three runs batted in. Rubi Silva singled and stole a base.

Low A – Peoria Chiefs. 19 – 23
Peoria wasted a good starting pitching performance as they lost this game 8-2.

Jose Rosario struck out nine over five and a third innings. He only allowed two runs on six hits, but he still wound up with the loss. Hunter Cervenka, making his Cubs’ farm system debut, ran into some trouble. He gave up four runs on three hits and two walks, but only one of those runs were earned. Austin Reed came into pitch the final inning, and allowed two more runs to cross the plate.

Wes Darvill, with a double, accounted for all of Peoria’s extra base hits. Two of their five total hits were provided by Rafael Lopez. Paul Hoilman and Darvill both reached base twice with a hit and a walk.

  • Ben

    well written! I think Rizzo could be a guy like that….*Above-Average but below All-Star first baseman….He could maybe stay an entire career in Wrigs…..Thoughts?

    • Luke

      Rizzo has the potential to be a regular All-Star.  He could get very expensive in a few years.

  • Chris

    Hopefully Starlin Castro can turn into that guy

    • ferrets_bueller

      ^This. Although, I’d much rather he became our Derek Jeter, as opposed to another Kerry Wood….

  • swaz46

    I went to the Chiefs game in Clinton last night. It was exactly like watching a Cubs game. Rosario looked dominant at times. What I noticed most was that he changed how he pitched throughout the game. For the first couple of innings it seemed he was mainly using his fastball, which topped out at about 90 mph. In the 2nd inning Clinton got three consecutive hits for their first run. Then to start the third, he began mixing in his breaking and off-speed pitches, which usually were in the 76-81 mph range, and Clinton was totally off balance. The second run Clinton scored was actually scored my a runner who reached base by striking out swinging at a 55 foot breaking ball that got far enough from the catcher for him to reach.

    But the Chiefs did NOTHING on offense. They had the bases loaded with one out in the first, and grounded into a DP (sound familiar?). They also didn’t have great at bats. At least twice the Clinton pitcher walked a batter, only to have the next Peoria batter come up and hack at the first pitch, popping out or grounding out, and totally helping the pitcher out.

    The other thing I was interested to see was if Peoria would use a lot of the defensive shifts the Cubs have used this year to determine if that’s an organization-wide trend. I didn’t see any shifting going on at all, unless game situations dictated it (runners on, coming in to the grass to cut down runners at the plate, etc.). I’ll be interested to see if the defensive shifts eventually make their way all through the system. It doesn’t appear as if that concept has yet.

    It was a great night…just wish the future Cubs didn’t look so much like the Cubs of recent vintage.

    • Brett

      Thanks, swaz. Good stuff. On the shifts, it’s possible that they won’t start doing that in the low minors because there isn’t a substantial enough data set on where guys hit the ball.

  • kirby

    Saw Brett J at Iowa when he hit the triple and HR. He is one of those “the bat makes a different sound when he makes contact” guys. Does not have a huge swing but the ball jumps off his bat. Also, read a scouting report that put his arm at “average”…um, I disagree. He has a well above ave. arm. Balls hit to the wall in LF are not guaranteed doubles.

    Rizzo is going to be very popular in Chi-town. About the size of a tight end and just tries to punish the ball…

  • ferrets_bueller

    Matt Szczur’s line might not look impressive at quick glance, but look deeper…GREAT walk rate (which is saying something, for a two sport guy) and awesome baserunning.

  • TrueblueCubbie

    I think Shark, Jackson, Rizzo, Castro and Barney all have that chance to be the next beloved Cub lifer. I am iffy on Castro cause unless he is locked up long term now which is obviously risky, when he gets a chance to hit FA, he is going to have a lot of money thrown at him. Especially if he turns into the player that everyone expects him to be.

  • Chris

    I agree I would also rather see him become Derek Jeter, which he looks very capable of becoming if he can improve on his defense. I wouldn’t be to worried about the cubs signing him or any other stud that might come thru the system as long as the value matches the performance. The cubs are a higher payroll team with alot of bad contracts coming off there books over the next 3 years. The cubs will have there options on who they wanna keep around. Let’s just hope Theo and company choose right. I dont know about you guys but Boston is looking like a circus right now and I wonder how much of a part of that Theo was. Let’s be honest all that matters is a championship so as long as he gets there I dont really care who comes and goes on the team.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      “I agree I would also rather see him become Derek Jeter, which he looks very capable of becoming if he can improve on his defense.”

      That line can apply only to the Venus de Milo, and that’s a “her/she,” not a “him/he.”  Seriously, Castro would have to get a good deal worse, not better,  to be Jeter’s equal at fielding.

  • Deez

    None will. I think the new management team isn’t about rewarding loyalty, it’s more about results & what’s best for the organization. The contract the Yankees gave Jeter in 2001 was more of an aberration.

    • cubchymyst

      That was my first thought as well, especially with the front office not wanting to give out no trade clauses. It will be interesting to see what they do as players get close to the 5/10 status because that creates a no trade clause.

    • Luke

      The two don’t have to conflict.  Remember, Wakefield became a Boston institution during Theo’s time in that front office.  Team icons don’t have to be major stars, but they do have to be guys that play the game hard, that the fans appreciate watching, and that can stay around for a long time.  That’s why I have Chris Rusin as a possibility.  I don’t think he’s ever going to a star, but I do think he has a chance to spend the next fifteen years as the Cubs No. 4 or 5 starter and to retire with 200 wins as a Cub.

  • cubchymyst

    On another thought, its not like the cubs are a small market team. They have the ability to give a large contract if they decide to. It be nice to have a perennial All-star be a Cubs lifer.

  • Chris

    The cubs are a business and they are gonna want a face for the product they are selling. Having a perennial all star on the team gives you a perfect candidate for alot of marketing. Which increases the value in retaining them beyond just there stats The reason we have had guys like Kerry Wood be cubs symbols is because of the mentality of the fan base. Does anyone think if his career would have been with the Yankees that he would still receive the same admaration.

  • Josh Z

    I don’t know how I feel about the prospects of Darwin Barney being a Cub for life