He was supposed to be a franchise pitcher. He was supposed to be the savio.. He was the young man with a rocket right arm and the perfect mechanics. Six years later he leaves unceremoniously and the story is not even as important as the signing of a Japanese outfielder. Under the cover of darkness Mark Prior left unwilling to sign a two year deal instead choosing free agency. Though he will be rehabbing at the beginning of the season and possibly the entire first half, someone will take a flier on him officially closing the door on the biggest Cubs player personnel disappointment in the 21st century. Over the past three years there have been excuses, avoidances and whining. Leaving the game with an injury in the sixth inning while throwing a no-hitter perfectly captures the career of Mark Prior. The talent is evident, but the heart is not. And talent can only get one so far. Hard work and effort fall into the ‘heart’ category as well. While I am not suggesting Mr. Prior did not work hard he was soft. Greg Maddux has probably pitched through more painful injuries than those that put Prior on the bench.
At the same time the other young man with a rocket right arm was working his butt off to get back on the field. Kerry Wood lost close to 50 pounds while building his arm strength back to the pre-injury point. He never made excuses and always seemed greatly dismayed by missing time. In fact, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior are the perfect contrast for each other. I wrote about this a few weeks back, but the more I think about it, the more it angers me.
Where has loyalty gone in this game? The Cubs paid him to rehab for parts if not all of the last three seasons. Mark knew what the right thing was, but he chose otherwise. Kerry Wood chose loyalty. Does Prior really think three healthy months in 2008 will garner a multi-million dollar contract? It could, but a season and a half of solid pitching would have resulted in a “gi-normous” contract. Some teams will jump, but most will be cautious, or as some say cautiously optimistic, who really knows.
While it is not my right to root for someone to fail out of anger, but it is my right to be angry. Mr. Prior has made it very difficult to pull for him over the past few years and it appeared some of his priorities were out of order. I would never wish an injury upon anyone, but I can sure as heck be impartial. If he succeeds so be it. If he fails so be it. If he beats the Cubs in the World Series, well, I just cannot write those types of words in this column.
Someone posted a great point the other day and I apologize for not being able to give credit where credit is due. But he mentioned that he and his buddies had a conversation regarding pitchers who bounced back from multiple injury plagued years to go on to great success. I racked my brain for the past few days and Chris Carpenter was all that came to mind.
I wish Mark Prior the best, but I just do not care anymore. Returning to glory from a season ending injury is never easy especially when there have been multiple season ending injuries. And as I noted that is not very common for pitchers. I could be forgetting someone, but the number is very low. With that being said Prior’s comeback is against the odds. And so is Kerry Wood’s, but I think we can all agree who we are betting on.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and until next time….
Stay Classy Cubs Fans!