What Mark Prior Means

Mark Prior's pitching career is officially over. It was too brief, but still something worth remembering. (Getty Images)

Mark Prior's pitching career is officially over. It was too brief, but still something worth remembering. (Getty Images)

Mark Prior, 33, is officially done trying to pitch in the major leagues. He didn’t announce his retirement on Tuesday so much as he ran into the St. Paul Pioneer Press‘s Mike Berardino in a hotel lobby and told him that he was finally shutting down his protracted comeback bid for good, after yet another shoulder injury. It’s fitting that the news would come out this way, kind of accidentally, because you could be forgiven for thinking the ex-Cubs ace retired years ago.

Prior last took the mound at the highest level in 2006, but after he left the Cubs in 2007, he tried to catch on with the Padres, Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox and Reds. For the past few years, he had been trying to turn himself into a middle relief guy, but his exhausted right arm couldn’t even handle 16-pitch outings. A job in San Diego’s front office sounds preferable to trying to fight your body each spring in a new minor league cowtown.

I haven’t followed baseball in years, but I watched the Cubs whenever they were on national TV and listened to Pat Hughes and Ron Santo on WGN’s fuzzy AM signal a lot when I was in middle school. Prior and Kerry Wood meant to me what great athletes mean to you when you’re young. They introduced me to the pleasure of watching a single player dominate a baseball game with power and balls that moved like diving seabirds. I’m sure there are kids in the Bay Area who watch Madison Bumgarner and are beginning to understand this. The first time a breaking pitch makes you laugh is a singular experience.

I remember realizing, during Prior’s breakout season in 2003, that he was set to be an athlete I would grow up with. He’s about 10 years older than I am, and if injuries hadn’t ruined his career, he would presumably be just exiting his prime, heading into another three or four years of eminent usefulness. I was expecting to spend high school and college watching him challenge for Cy Youngs. Instead, well, I might be incapable of having a civil conversation with Dusty Baker.

But while Baker was draining his pitching staff and the Cubs appeared to be mounting a World Series run, I was swept up in the first feelings of a team I liked succeeding. Wood was the madcap fireballer, but Prior was almost professorial in the way he dictated how a game was going to unfold. This has been remarked upon before, but it’s strange that a pitcher who seemed to deliver the ball so perfectly and without a trace of violence did irreparable damage to his shoulder with a single innings-heavy season. I remember being traumatized by the Bartman Game, but also thinking, after I had cooled off a week later, that I didn’t need to despair: The Cubs had two excellent young starters; they would be good for a while.

After those playoff games, which often stretched past midnight on the east coast, I went to school the next day overtired and not totally present. I nearly got kicked off my soccer team because I was ditching practice to go home and take naps. When I was young and trying to figure out what mattered to me, baseball had a gravity nothing else did. On days when Prior was pitching, it was pretty much all I thought about. I scrawled opposing lineups in my notebook during math class.

Letting the talent of an athlete consume you is a worthy enough activity when you’re 13. Most things are mystifyingly scary at that age. It’s nice to obsess over something both alien and joyful. Prior had ability to throw pitches that leave an imprint on the memory, that you can carry around with you even if you don’t watch much baseball anymore. I realized when I read of his retirement the strength of the connection I still feel with him. I’m happy that this familiar stranger is apparently starting to transition into a post-pitching part of his life. Mark Prior wasn’t great for long and disappeared prematurely, but I grew up with him regardless.

69 thoughts on “What Mark Prior Means

  1. This is a great article, that I can really relate to. I was the same age in the early 2000’s and remember doing the same thing with Red Sox pitchers/lineups — especially in math class, that’s all that was in my mind at that time. The ’03 ALCS, the 04 playoffs will forever be in my memory as simply the best games ever played, and when you’re 14/15 years old, that’s all that matters in life! :)

    • The Mark Prior story is primarily about Dusty Baker’s over-the-line abuse. It’s a high-profile case of a manager pushing a young pitcher’s arm way too much. About 37 more innings than the recommended limit. Averaged 126 pitches in 6 Sept. starts. Then, 133 vs Atl, NLDS. Then, pitched into 8th inning of Game, 2, NLCS, when Cubs led 11-zip after five, McKeon pulling his regulars. There’s never any assurance that a pitcher won’t get hurt, but this was a textbook case of a manger going way too far.

      • It is too bad these pitchers hurt their arm. However, when I was a kid we had the Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal and Fergie Jenkins among others completing 25 plus games a year and pitching into the low 300 innings.

        • The old-line pitchers didn’t put the strain on their arms that pitchers do now. A curveball back in the 70’s might break only 4-6 inches, and the 12 o’clock-to-6 o’clock curve was unheard of. Since hitting was less scientific, pitching was, too, so most successful pitchers were power pitchers who used finesse to keep hitters off balance. You cannot say that Baker didn’t abuse his staff just because old-school pitchers pitched more because they strained their arms less.
          Being an old-school player, Baker might have not known any better for a little while, but I’m sure a pitching coach or two told him. In my opinion, he is still culpable.

          • I think you’ve hit on a primary point.
            The problem isn’t just that old-school players were taught differently; it’s that some now in positions of authority are absolutely entrenched in old-school thinking and are unwilling to open their minds to any different approach.
            And Dusty Baker, on all kinds of levels, was a poster boy for outmoded thinking and inflexibility about that thinking.
            His handling of Prior was close to criminal. Can we know for sure that Baker was responsible for Prior’s injuries and his early demise from baseball?
            No. Dusty defenders can talk all they want about his “perfect form” and that the injuries may have happened regardless and there is no way to disprove such claims.
            We can never know for sure, but what we do know is that there was plenty of good reason to be more cautious with Prior. Baker more or less thumbed his nose at first guessers regarding his overuse of such a young hurler and went on his merry way.
            When he kept Prior in so long in game 2 of the ’03 NLCS with the kind of lead the Cubs had, there ceased being any defense to what he was doing.
            For me, this alone was grounds to immediately fire Baker and not look back. And if I were the Reds and did my homework, he would have been dead last on my managerial choice list. He deserved not to have worked as a manager ever again.

        • Back in the days of starters pitching every fourth day and having 20+ complete games with 330 or so innings, player development was entirely different than it is now. In the 1950’s there were 16 major league teams and the minor leagues stretched from AAA down to D ball, with many teams have more than one at the D and C classifications. Teams would sign as many pitchers as they could and put them on one of those teams and push them for innings from the start. Many were soon cut because of lack of skill/effectiveness to make room for others the scouts had found, while others who could get batters out blew out there arms by class B or so, and the teams just continued to bring in more. By the time the survivors would reach the majors, most all who had delivery or physical flaws were long gone, and the ones that remained were those who probably just weren’t going to have a severe arm injury. I remember the days of Roberts, Spahn, Feller, Drysdale, Whitey Ford, etc. Arm injuries never seemed to happen at the major league level like they do now even with all the extra innings pitched. Now, with the bonuses paid to so many of the high round draft picks and the era of “pitch counts” keeping these investments from throwing enough to test their resistance to injury in the minor leagues, many more pitchers with the talent to get batters out get their chance in the majors. Thus we end up with the Mark Pryors, Stephen Strasburgs, etc. who have their injuries later rather than sooner.

          • While Prior was overworked in 2003 (and perhaps in 2002), his mechanics were sound until he had a few other injuries, especially the comebacker off his arm. The adjustments that followed left him never the same, and I’d argue that he was never the same mentally after the Bartman game. He did have an outstanding start against the Braves at the very end of the 2004 season, after the rest of the team had choked away the wild card lead. If I remember correctly, the team proceeded to blow the game and officially eliminate themselves from the postseason in extras for the game. As a Cubs fan, I’ll never forget seeing Prior throw 12 Ks against the Mets in a September night game on the team’s way to the division title; however, we’ll always wonder what might have happened for Prior and the Cubs if Baker had handled the 8th inning of Game Six a little differently.

      • Prior was juicedand when they started cracking down and he and others stopped juicing and as predicted by the medical community the injuries followed.

    • When I was around the same age I would do the same thing, except taking it a small step forward by attempting to guess the season highs in each stat catagory along with the award winners.

    • There is no way Mark Prior has “perfect pitching mechanics.” His mechanics and not his pitch count, is what gave him arm and shoulder trouble. While we are on the subject, this isn’t Dusty Baker’s fault either. Plenty of pitchers in the history of baseball threw more innings, more complete games, had no “magic” pitch count, and even got injured and came back just as good. Prior’s mechanics are not so good to say the least. First, when you break your hands, whether in the stretch or from the wind up, as you plant your front foot your thorax and arms should look like a field goal post in football. Prior doesn’t come close. Check out this site, for examples and video of those that have decent mechanics, and those that are not, and are prime examples to avoid imitating, http://www.chrisoleary.com/projects/PitchingMechanics101/Essays/DeathToTheInvertedW.html

      The funny thing about this article is the picture that goes with it, it clearly shows this inverted W posture, and part of the many reasons for his problems. If Steve Stone thinks Prior’s mechanics were so great, as was alluded to in some of the comments below, well, I would hate to take his advice. I have pitched for over 20 years and am still doing it, never once having hurt my arm or shoulder. Knock on wood, Knock on wood, but not Kerry Wood that is….since he ruined his arm too with poor mechanics.

        • Hey pal, I pitch in two hard ball leagues, actual real baseball, and while its true no one dials it up at 90 mph anymore, we are pitching at maximum velocity given our bodies capabilities, and when you give max effort, you are subject to the same potential injuries as anyone else, so go take your nasty comments elsewhere.

          • the only thing i remeber about prior is gm 6 nlcs…… BARTMAN!!!!!! but was it really his fault? i mean, gonzo had that error…

      • I agree with the mechanics being bad. Prior had the unfortunate luck, when he was in high school. of hooking up with Tom House, whose main baseball claim to fame is that he caught Hank Aaron’s 715th homer in the Braves bullpen. When he was the pitching coach in Texas, he had pitchers throwing FOOTBALLS. The Rangers staff had pitchers constantly going on the DL. Jose Guzman, Edwin Correa and even Nolan Ryan ended up blowing up their arms.

  2. Yes, I was also traumatized by the Bartman game. This article reminded me that so much has happened since then….mostly good stuff…in my life. Happy holidays to one and all. All the best for 2014 !

    • Uh, I’ve got bad news for you about D-Rose . . . better tell your kid to find somebody else to admire, because I don’t think Rose is gonna be around for long.

  3. Gibson’s fastball. Brock’s stolen bases. Ozzie’s impossible plays at short. I grew up watching ballplayers doing things no human should be able to do. And in many ways, I’m still just a big kid in awe of seeing these guys do things that I could never have done.

    It’s a shame you stopped following baseball. You should give it another chance. It’s still the greatest game on earth.

  4. Nicely written article, and as a life-long Cub fan I’m right there. (We all have a list of relatives who have been born and died clinging to the hope that the curse would end in their lifetimes.) Nonetheless, I think you’re a little tough on Dusty. I remember when pitchers used to go the distance, most notably pitchers like Nolan Ryan who was also a hard thrower. Off season conditioning was the name of his game. I don’t think it was Dusty’s duty to hold his pitcher’s hands during the off season. Also, we see that clip of Bartman reaching for that ball often, and what were the names of the other people that were reaching for that ball at exactly the same time? At least Bartman had the moral strength to admit he had done the deed. The others hide in shameful anonymity.

  5. It’s really funny that I remember exactly where I was when the Bartman thing happened. I remember when Alou didn’t catch that ball , I said to myself uh oh, not again please don’t let this be another Billy Goat thing or centerfielder Don Young missing the ball in centerfield in 1969 or the black cat in New York. I .was 16 then and lived on the south side of Chicago. I went to about 30 games that year with a good friend and we had to take the subway from the southside to Addison st. What a dangerous ride it was. Well, we had to go back to school, and we never went to another game . The seats in the grandstand were 3.00 and I never had fun again like that my whole life. We all know what happened in 1969. It seemed the Cubs never won again that year and the Miracle Mets won it as did The Padres in 1984 , but when the Bartman thing happened we had great pitching ,but Prior fell apart and i thought my favorite pitcher Kerry Wood would pitch us into the Series. Well he probably would have if they weren’t overused by Baker. Well i’m 60yrs. old and I sure hope this guy Theo can get us into the World Series . Because if we get there there has to be a God and i’m sure he will give us a break and let us win one.

    • Don’t know how true your story is because I am a bit older then you and the “grandstands” at Wrigley were always called the Bleachers. And the “Subway” that you took was either the EL or the IC which I guess you called the subway. I am also hoping Theo can do somthing good for the Cubs.

      • The grandstands doesn’t include the bleachers, it was before all the seats behinds the boxes were changed to reserved seating. It’s ok, as you age, your memory goes.

  6. I enjoyed this article because it reminded me of some stages of my life as a baseball fan, good piece of writing, but concerning to Dusty Baker managing style I never came to like it for not knowing when to pull a pitcher out of the mound, same as Tom Lasorda who was mediocre enough to end Fernando Valenzuela’s career before the due date.Dusty was also responsible for the abrupt departure of Sammy Sosa from the Cubs.
    Thanks for the article, keep on writing as good.

  7. I was a bit older than you when Prior was the hottest pitcher. I remember hoping that we were finally going the distance. However, Cubs are the Cubs and broke my heart. The past Cubs managers have broken too many great pitchers too early in their careers. Best of luck to Prior. The long time Cubs fans will remember what he gave us for the short time he played.

  8. Prior and the Cubs were never very honest with the fans about the status of his many injuries during his career. When he first came up, he was touted for his allegedly perfect mechanics of his form. He was a highly coddled, highly touted prospect, and like Stephen Strasburg, despite close watch, developed injuries. Strabsburg developed his injuries despite meticulous control of his pitch counts, which makes me doubt that Prior’s injuries were really due to Dusty Baker’s alleged over pitching him. Ultimately, Prior will go down in history as yet another highly rated young pitcher whose career fizzled out prematurely due to injuries.

    • There is no way Mark Prior has “perfect pitching mechanics.” His mechanics and not his pitch count, is what gave him arm and shoulder trouble. While we are on the subject, this isn’t Dusty Baker’s fault either. Plenty of pitchers in the history of baseball threw more innings, more complete games, had no “magic” pitch count, and even got injured and came back just as good. Prior’s mechanics are not so good to say the least. First, when you break your hands, whether in the stretch or from the wind up, as you plant your front foot your thorax and arms should look like a field goal post in football. Prior doesn’t come close. Check out this site, for examples and video of those that have decent mechanics, and those that are not, and are prime examples to avoid imitating, http://www.chrisoleary.com/projects/PitchingMechanics101/Essays/DeathToTheInvertedW.html

    • Having worked with young pitcher over 3 decades it was evident from the first time I saw Mark pitch in the major leagues that he had 2 fatal flaws in his mechanics. Flaws many young pitchers develop from their youth playing little league. One fatal flaw is the landing foot before delivery. For right hander the foot should land at 1:00 o’clock and a left hander at 11:00 o’clock. This allows the body to be in balance and puts less strain on the shoulder. Mark’s foot at times would actually be almost 11:00 o’clock causing even more strain on the shoulder. Ask yourself this question. When crossing a river on a log do you walk with the feet in direct line of the log or with you feet across to gain more balance? The other is the over extending of the right arm as it is pulled backward. The pitcher should pitch from a stance as if he is being held behind by gun point and the gunman says “put em up” The hands should be above the shoulders, not behind. I am certain this was discussed with Mark, but the habits are engrained from those earlier youth years by well intended, but poorly trained volunteer coaches. It is almost impossible to reverse after the age of 14 or 15. I am sending this in the hope that maybe more youth coaches would seek out guidance to enhance their teaching skills and set a firm foundation for their young hurlers. There many very good pitching videos on the market for recreation leagues to purchase.

  9. This moving article reminded me of Mark ” the Bird” Fidrych for the Detroit Tigers. He was another burning brightly comet who came, flashed brilliantly, and vanished all too soon. As long as we remember them and love them, they will always be with us.

  10. This is a very well written piece; it flowed well, transitioned well and ended nicely. I Have been a Cubs fan my entire life, and I’m 63-years-old. I remember Banks, Santo, Buckner, Kingman, Grace, Sandburg and Sosa, but most of all I remember Mark Prior. He had the poise of a ten-year veteran in his sophomore year. I remember the joy of watching him pitch and the horrific let down when he began to fail. Not yet in his prime, I so often have wondered what happened to that golden arm of his. I have watched his attempts to make a comeback over the last several years and hoped he would be successful. Yes, Bartman was a let down. Kerry Wood leaving the team and going to the Indians, then Yankees and returning to retire let fans down too I think. (At least he finished on a high note striking out the last batter he faced). Sosa’s corked bat is still an embarrassment, as is the 100 year curse they have gone through, but in my mind, nothing compares to the Prior’s untimely exit.

  11. I was 65 when Stephen Strasburg made his MLB debut. My son was with me and he was 33. We were both like little kids because the atmosphere was electric. DC had waited so long (not as long as the Cubs). Every strike caused the crowd to get louder and louder. We didn’t know until the next day that the field level light board could only put up 12 Ks instead of 14. It was magic! We were disappointed this year that they didn’t do better but 2014 is going to be great! Isn’t it always great when Spring Training gets underway! As for the article about what Mark Prior meant, I have to say that it was a very well written article and I enjoyed it very much. Thanks.

  12. A`m I the only person who believes both Wood and Prior were using steroids? They pitched like super men during the known height of the steroid use and like others linked to steroids their bodies broke down when the league finally started testing

    • No, you are not. I don’t think Wood did, but a relative who is a doctor said that immediately after seeing him in action for the first time. Didn’t Jack McDowell get in trouble by suggesting this a few years ago?

    • yeah you and that “dumb-ass” from Stanford
      Jack McDowell….maybe you should check “black Jack’s” guitar case while he was in his rock band

  13. I am absolutely stunned by the intelligence and maturity of the comments I’ve just read. Evidently I’ve fallen through some looking glass into a different internet — an internet I always wished existed, but until now never found — than that which is ruled by name-calling, trash-talking sports know-it-alls. Imagine, all these posts and not one use of the works “suck” or “hate.” You may now take me, Lord; I am ready to go.

  14. Here, here, on the well written article and the comment section like no other I have ever seen either. Baseball junkies must be a separate breed. In regards to Prior’s career, I do not doubt that Dusty overworked his aces, he never cared much for unproven youngsters and continually rides his stars, but that is his prerogative if he is the manager. What I recall being the beginning of the troubles for Mark was a collision between first and second base with a Braves infielder that landed Mark on his pitching shoulder and the DL. It was so long ago I don’t recall if it was before 2003 or what, but it seemed he took a long time to recover from that injury and never was quite the same. He did command the type of mechanics that Steve Stone would drool about, the type that could lead to a long pitching career. Mark will always be one of my favorite Cubs even if his career was short. Thanks for the memories of a guy for which we all wish the best.

  15. Super article, really enjoyed every ones comments too. It inspired me to to write about the greatest game in the world. I too was consumed by the game in my youth. When I was 10 my teacher let us watch the 68 Series that pitted the Cards and the Tigers on TV ( a serious treat in those days!) in the library…I can still see Willie Horton diving head first into 3rd for a triple, flap’n up dust all around him and I was hooked for life!….

  16. This is complete BS blaming Dusty Baker for Mark Prior’s prematurely ended career. Steven Strasburg was guarded and babied from the get go and STILL had arm injuries. Priors shoulder injury was caused by a collision sliding into 2nd base the following year NOT a high pitch count. Which while we’re on that subject, I STILL want to see MEDICAL, SCIENTIFIC PROOF that the 133 pitches that he threw against the Braves in the NLDS was the MAGIC NUMBER that hurt his arm. This is just another example of our great game being altered. Guys used to routinely pitch 300 innings (and no i’m not talking about the dead ball era when the ball had the density of a wad of tissue paper) in the 60s, 70s, and even 80s. And I know all you young people will look at the 60’s and 70’s and say “oh when Palmer, Koufax, Carlton, Ryan, Seaver, Gibson, and Marichal pitched it was a different era”….OKAY FINE in 1985 Dwight Gooden threw 276 innings and pitched 16 complete at the age of 20!!! And the only thing that derailed his career was a crack addiction. If you include the postseason Jack Morris threw over 300 innings in 1984, and Orel Hershiser threw over 300 innings in 1988. What’s even more mind boggling is these same managers and front offices who insist pitch counts are there to “protect” pitchers are the same people that will use there closers and set up men in 8 straight games….This pitch count crap has gotten COMPLETELY outta control. One only has to look at what happened to Detroit last October to see what I’m talking about when the Tigers pulled Scherzer after 100 pitches only to watch their tired, over-worked, and sub-par to begin with bullpen blow huge leads. Luckily Leyland quit before he was fired. Until I see legit medical evidence that 100 pitches is the “MAGIC NUMBER” where arm injury occurs, I’m gonna continue to call BS on this issue…

    • Listen, Erick, never say Strasburg was “babied.” He hasn’t actually gotten an arm surgery since 2010 TJ, and wait years for a team that has gone from BS to nl east champs, how bout you get some parts of ur shoulder removed

    • This is littered with anecdotal information but no reference to more objective measurements.
      There will always be pitchers who are workhorses and can throw forever — even if it’s the exception and not the norm. Until the very end of his career, Nolan Ryan was super-human; Livan Hernandez seemed to defy overuse risks etc. and there are others. There always will be.
      But for reasons well-stated here, pitchers from earlier eras had different strains on their arms. Additionally, there were many more serious arm injuries in that golden era of baseball many hold up than what is generally acknowledged.
      But pushing all of this aside momentarily, can you or anyone else tell me why a manager would allow such a young pitcher who racked up so many innings in a season to pitch into the eighth inning of a September playoff game when the game was over long before?
      How does that make sense on any level?

    • Amen Brother!! I’m old school, but would Palmer, Gibson, Seaver, et.al. consider a 4.50 ERA a quality start for themselves? Not hardly!! I remember listening to to a game where Earl Weaver left Jim Palmer in to throw 12 shutout innings. The reason. No one in the bullpen was as good as a tired Palmer. It still amazes me that Grady Little lost his job for staying with Pedro Martinez, when Pedro was the best in the game. And now home plate collisions are going to be banned. Is professional flag football next?
      I understand that we need to protect players from injury. However, if you play the game hard and with passion, collisions are going to occur and so does the risk of injury. Today’s players have limits placed on them from the time they first pick up a ball. It is true that young pitchers should not throw breaking pitches until a certain age. However, with proper mechanics, kids can throw and throw and throw. I spent what seemed like countless hours throwing a ball off of a wall or rebound net as a 10-15 year old. Granted I wasn’t throwing every ball as hard as I could, I never suffered any arm injuries or even pain. The human body will signal its limitations to us.
      In sports, the outcome of the game is often decided by the star athlete: Kobe hitting the game-winning shot or Tom Brady leading the team down the field for the game-winning score. However, in baseball, one of the star athletes: the starting pitcher; is long gone by the time the game is on the line in the 8th or 9th inning. The outcome of the game is left to a pitcher who isn’t good enough to be a starting pitcher.
      Sadly, the game suffers for it.

  17. Wood and Prior’s deliveries and their power sliders/fastballs are the reason for their injuries. Why is it guys like Glavine and Maddux stayed healthy while pitching just as much or more than guys like Prior and Wood? Some bodies just aren’t meant to take the stress of throwing 95+ with an 88 mph slider. Why is it guys whose innings are watched extremely close (Strasburgh, Bundy, Harvey) still break down and have arm problems? It’s because of how hard they throw and it’s because of the slider. I’m also sure that the collision with Marcus Giles didn’t help Prior at all. For people to just blame Dusty Baker and say they were just overworked are people who don’t understand the big picture or pitching in general.

    • That’s right–look at finesse guys and junk-ballers like Mark Buerhle (sp?)–that guy will probably be able to pitch into his forties.

  18. Great piece. I remember what players meant to me at that age. Sports will never be as meaningful as they were when we were 13 (and that’s a good thing!). I got lucky — I’m a Yankees fan, so my childhood heroes (chiefly Jeter and Mariano) were around for a long time. But now they’re riding off into the sunset, and even now, after all these years, it’s sad. It means the end of childhood in a way few other things can.

  19. for me it was watching ron guidry and goose gossage and reggie back in the late 70’s ..
    as far as prior i dont buy the story of the manager ruining the pitchers career .. pitchers have pitched 300 innings or more in the past and yes they pitched long enough and dominated enough to get elected into the hall of fame .. if your mechanics are good you will last long if not you wont

  20. Mark Prior in 2003 was maybe the best pitcher I’ve ever seen. To me his demise is more cuz he was the product of a cursed organization than cuz of Dusty Baker or anyone else for that matter. The night the Cubs were 5 outs from winning the pennant was not Bartman’s fault or even shortstop Alex Gonzalez’ fault (for booting the sure double play ball that came right after)- it was all cuz of the curse (that some still refuse to believe in). Those were amongst my last memories as a Cubs fan as I walked away from the madness that is Cubdom only 15 months later when they traded Sammy Sosa (thinking he was the problem). The franchise is cursed and everything they ever do will go wrong. I can’t believe there are Cubs fans who still believe and actually think that not only the new front office will be able to eventually build a competitive team but that team will be able to avoid any of the numerous things that can go wrong when a good team is on the big stage. It boggles my mind how Cub fans can be so oblivious to the obvious. Sorry if I got kinda off subject here but hearing Prior’s name sets off all kinds of disturbing memories of Cubdom. Prior would have had a great career had he been drafted by & played his first few big league seasons with a team other than the Cubs.

    • This is true for many many players that have passed through the Cub abyss called Wrigley Field. The fans are to blame…not a curse. Why would a team get good players and coaches when morons keep filling the park?

    • There is no curse, for God’s sake. The Cubs have been lousy for several reasons, including cheapskate owners, bad upper-management, bad player development (you want to know how it’s done, see the Cardinals and something called “The Cardinal Way”), the exalting of a crappy old ballpark into a shrine (through something called “advertising”), and of course pumping sunshine into fans until they begin to believe that it is they, and not the product on the field, that is so special. I’m guessing that at this point the mighty Theo Epstein is beginning to have some serious doubts about the whole enterprise. He’s just another in a long line of reformers and rain-makers who was (is) going to fix the Cubs. Remember the hype and B.S. that surrounded Lou Piniella? Remember the play-offs?

      • The Cubs have had some bad luck, true, but their long history of failure post 1945 has more to do with being the last team in the National League to integrate, owners being too cheap to draft quality players, and poor player development. During the brief periods when the team was moderately successful (the 1960s, 1980s, 2001, 2003-2005), the team worked to attract and manage talent; they subsequently failed to maintain those resources or amplify them so there would be a sustained pipeline of talent. The new ownership and team management have committed to developing talent in the Dominican Republic and throughout the entire farm system, including keeping closer tabs on the single A talent by getting a team close by (Kane County). We may clamor for better talent on the major league level, but changes in the CBA (especially concerning free agency and draft pools) have made the process much more challenging. Once the Cubs start being competitive, I think they’ll stay there, much like the perennially competitive Cardinals.

        • I’m no authority on the subject, but the records I’ve seen say the Reds, Cardinals, Pirate and Phillies all fielded African-American players after the Cubs. Regardless, integration came too slow, too late, to the entire sport.

  21. I have lived in the Chicago area all my 54 years of life, and am a Cardinals fan. I have heard excuse upon excuse for the lousy Cubs. Every year its the same BS. Yes, Dusty Baker screwed-up Prior, but Cub fans are to blame for the 102, 103, 104 ,105, 106 years of losing. Lets face it, as long as Cub fans keep filling the outdoor urinal called Wrigly Field, they will never see a quality product or championship. Cub fans love their “Cubbies” the lovable losers….but the owners consider Cub fans as “gulable morons”. Tear down the urinal, and start a new legacy.

    • I have been to a number of Cubs-Cardinal games over the years at both the Old Busch and Wrigley. I have always come away with the impression that Cardinal fans are classy and knowledgeable. I am glad for the sake of the Cards that you are a rare exception. When my wife first stepped out into the upper deck at Wrigley for a night game on our first ever visit, she cried because it was so beautiful. There is no place like Wrigley and even though you may not like it, it holds a very near and dear place in the hearts of Cubs fans everywhere. A ball park right in the middle of the neighborhood has a charm all its own. I would not expect that everyone would understand, but you are crossing the line by name-calling and bringing shame to Cardinal Nation by doing so.

  22. Has anyone mentioned that maybe, just maybe Mark Priors’ injuries might have been caused by PED usage?

  23. Colin, very nice take on the Mark Prior saga. I’m enjoying all your stuff on Sports on Earth. Still following the Cubs, but actually taking more interest in Wash. Nationals these days. But if the Cubs ever choose to compete one of these years, I’ll be right there!

    And I’ll echo other readers: give MLB another chance!

    Take care.

  24. thanks for the nice article. my memory of Prior is when he got hit in the head by a batted ball (2004?) and it went over to 3rd base. good for him for trying so long.

  25. The cautionary tales of Kerry Wood & Mark Prior should be taught from Little League, through High School and especially the college level of baseball when it comes to the actual body mechanics of pitching to avoid rotator cuff, elbow and other shoulder injuries.
    FLAWS in how the arm, shoulder, elbows and all the musculature that supports those delicate joints on growing athletes cause unnecessary wear and tear from coaches who don’t understand good, smooth, effortless deliveries on pitches motions from the set, the leg lift, the tilt/hip and leg swiver, over the top of the head ( or sidearm ) and downward motion to the plate.
    Great pitching form is that tuned and toned balance of ballet and Tai Chi. Since velocity and late movement seem to be more important than teaching and studying the basics of an effortless delivery for young hurlers, Wood and Prior should be HUGE warning signs to parents about the excesses of rushing their kids through their development to attain that elusive major league contract.
    One can only play the “What IF ?” game with those two Cubs wunderkinds had they been properly diagnosed right out of college to correct the flaws in the mechanics of the their deliveries, conditioning and development.

  26. Interesting reads. Pitch counts, poor mechanics, collisions, bad managers, playing on a bad team…….

    While I definitely believe overuse and ppor mechanics harms pitchers, how can one assign that to a given situation? This is the big flaw in conclusions about these kinds of things.


  27. I taught at the high school Mark Prior attended, USDHS, while he was attending and playing high school baseball. Watched him in college and in all of the environments he played. He pitched with pride and to the best of his ability. He was very successful. He is also a super nice guy and plays by the rules. I am saddened that Mark is retiring now. Loved to watch him pitch. Did the professional coaches have him pitch too long, who knows. Was it the physical encounter he had with another player, who knows. What I do know is that Mark worked his rear off to pitch in Major League Baseball, he followed whatever the coach would ask him to do. Mark, I have always held you in high regard, especially after Heather decided she wanted you to be her husband. Mark, stand tall and ignore the idiot critics. There is a strong group of us from UNI who know who you are and what you stand for. Take care, you are a wonderful baseball player and human being!