Living In Denial

Scroll Down for the Latest on Mark Prior and Derrek Lee and Check Back for Updates as they roll in about Mark Prior, here at the CCO and in ‘Cubs News From the Wire’….A Special Wednesday Edition of You Know Better….

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman….Miss Lewinsky” – Slick Willie Clinton
“I did not take steroids….period” – Rafael Palmeiro
“I did not bet on baseball” – Pete Rose
“I only used the corked bat for batting practice….me no speak no English good” – Sammy Sosa

What is the common denominator with these famous lies, and the liars that told them? I believe they were all so committed to the lie that they actually started to believe it was the truth. Who are the bad liars? Guys like Mark McGwire, who are so emotionally consumed with guilt that they wilt in a congressional hearing. McGwire may have been a cheat, but unlike the other guys mentioned above, at least he seems to have a conscience.

So what do we make of Prior and Wood this spring?

Cubs management created this mess by not being forthcoming with the status of injuries over the past couple of years. You reap what you sow, and this spring appears to be yielding a bumper crop for Hendry and MacPhail. I don’t even blame Dusty on this one….nope….the full brunt of this mess falls on Cubs management for having what appears to be the worst training staff in all of organized sports. What, exactly, is the hiring criteria to oversee a financial investment in the tens of millions of dollars, in the form of the arms and shoulders of our Cubs pitching staff? If I recall, the Cubs had a huge debacle with their training staff after the 2004 season, and one of the trainers, Sandy Krum, wound up suing them for wrongful dismissal. Apparently the guy was barely licensed or something odd like that…turns out he was either from the San Francisco Giants (Baker’s old club) or referred by someone from that club.

Well….which management clown do I get to sue for the lack of return on my emotional investment, year after year, in the Cubbies, because of injuries? Brian mentioned in his column about the possibility of Greg Maddux going off on Prior and Wood for always being injured. I didn’t think it would ever happen, but you have to imagine that such a hard-working, never-injured, ultimate-professional, as Greg Maddux must be furious that his career swan song with the Cubs has been one giant “Could Have Been”. If Prior and Wood had been healthy for the past two seasons, we may have been celebrating the World Series on the correct side of town last year.

Here is my question though….my very, very, very important question….and I just wish someone could give me the definitive answer to this:

How does a pitcher, getting paid millions of dollars a year, not show up to Spring Training in perfect shape? How, exactly, does Mark Prior have a sore shoulder when he hasn’t even been pitching this Spring?!?!?!?! How does Kerry Wood screw up his knee throwing a ball the size of my fist at another grown man?!?!?! Am I in bizarro world, here?

(Lucy pulls the football away at the last minute….again) Aaaarrrrgggghhhhh!!!!

I mentioned in a column last week that it was time to forget about Kerry Wood, and just consider it a very welcome surprise if he is ever healthy and makes a contribution this year. Well….it is time to lump Prior into that category as well. We have Zambrano….we have Zambrano and….ummm….yeah. Ok, I will concede that Greg Maddux is a good 4th starter, possibly even a decent 3rd starter if he reclaims some of his magic this year….but who do we plug in the 2nd, 4th, and 5th starter spots? Anyone getting psyched up about Glendon Rusch yet? I will put Jerome Williams in the 5th spot, and be happy with that. So here is what I have so far:

1. Zambrano
2. not a clue
3. Maddux
4. not a clue
5. Williams

There must be a solution here somewhere. What about our highly acclaimed farm system? I enjoyed that someone coined Rich Hill as Rich “the Untouchable” Hill, and until he wins more than 11 games in any single big league season, he will forever be referred by me in this manner. Can the Untouchable get his act together the next few weeks, and lay claim to the 4th spot? How about Sean Marshall? Wasn’t Angel Guzman the best pitcher yet to play in the majors in the known galaxy a couple of years ago….surely he must be ready to take the #2 spot? Now that we have solved the problem, here is our starting rotation:

1. Zambrano
2. Guzman
3. Maddux
4. Hill/Marshall
5. Williams/Rusch

Then, in May or August or sometime in 2007, we should get a big shot in the arm (pardon the pun) with the return of the kings: Prior, Wood, and Wade Miller! So someone tell Ozzie Guillen to keep that trophy polished, because we will need it sometime in 2008 or 2009….unless, of course, a freak collision takes place on a high pop fly in which Aramis, D. Lee, Pierre, Murton, and Cedeno all collide and suffer groin pulls and concussions. Upon hearing about the collision on ESPN, Nomar and Hee-Seop Choi will spontaneously tear their groins and have concussions, despite sitting perfectly still in the Dodger clubhouse. So I am thinking we should just plan on that trophy for 2010ish, right? You know better….

Not to worry Cubs fans….things have a way of working out….at least that is what fans of other Major League baseball franchises claim happens….so consider this my time, and your time, to vent your Prior/Wood frustrations, and then we can all move on and focus on the positives that are happening this Spring, such as Murton, Maddux, Howry, Pierre, Zambrano, etc…. Let’s see what the doctors say about Prior this week, hope for the best, and go Cubs go!

Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon