On the Cubs and Mark Prior

It’s been a rainy and miserable day in Baltimore, but the sun was shining down in Chicago, and I settled down to watch the Cubs take on the Pirates on WGN this afternoon.

Maybe it’s my Cubs bias showing, but I really like the broadcast team of Len Kasper and Bob Brenly. They’re knowledgable. They have an easy rapport. They’re fun to listen to. And today, Bob led the Wrigley faithful in the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

It was a thrilling, frustrating game. Oh, the Cubs came away with the victory, but it was a victory they had to earn, like beating blood from a stone. The Pirates’ starting pitcher wasn’t even that good, but the Cubs offense put men in scoring position through walks, not hits. And the Cubs’ start, Jason Marquis, was erratic, with difficulty finding the plate. The Cubs came away with the 4-3 victory, and it really was that close.

I also read today a column in the Chicago Tribune website about former Cubs pitcher, Mark Prior.

Prior, as many people may remember, was the breakout star of the 2003 season, the pitcher that took them to within five outs of the World Series that year, until things fell apart in the 8th inning of game six against the Marlins. But none of that was Prior’s fault; things just happen.

Rick Morrissey, the columnist, wrote about what Prior has become known for — injuries. Released by the Cubs at the end of last season, Prior was picked up by the Padres, and he’s been on the disabled list the entire time. Morrissey writes:

His biography is part gaudy statistics, part Grey’s Anatomy and part heartbreak. Third in Cy Young award voting in 2003 when he went 18-6 with a 2.43 earned-run average. Two hundred and forty-five strikeouts in 2111/3 innings that season. A career record of 42-29. Right subscapularis strain. Right elbow inflammation. Fractured right elbow. Right Achilles tendinitis. Surgery to clear out dead tissue in his right shoulder.

A career that showed such promise just five years ago may well and truly be gone.

Because Prior is injured again. A tear in his shoulder capsule.

And that’s unfortunate.

Fans want to see athletes end their careers on their terms, not on nature’s terms or fate’s terms. Losing a career to injuries, senseless and undiagnosable injuries, is wrong.

Prior could have been one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation. As Morrissey writes, however, Prior “turned into something of a running joke,” through no real fault of his own. Things happen. Things go wrong. Things fall apart.

I wish Prior all the best. I hope this latest setback isn’t a career-threatening injury. Even though he’s playing for another team, a team that’s not the Cubs, it would be nice to see him take the mound again — and be dominant again.

It would be nice.

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