Time To Put Mark Prior Out Of His Misery

Rangers v Cubs
Mark Prior should have been great. Thank Dusty Baker for ruining another talented arm.

Mark Prior was a machine generated in a distant future, sent back into time to deliver the Chicago Cubs from evil to a World Series championship. Unfortunately, after starting his career 30-16 with a 3.26 earned run average, Prior fell off the face of the earth thanks to injuries that are no doubt the direct result of being mis-managed by Dusty Baker.

Prior, who was recently released by the San Diego Padres, still has an itch to pitch. Some of the peripherals on the man once nicknamed The Franchise make me think he could be still be productive. Once he is healthy, of course.

When he had his command in 2003, he owned a 4.90 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Despite only making 21 starts in 2004, Prior racked up an average of a little more than 10 strikeouts for every nine innings of work. His career WHIP is 1.225, but if you ignore the 1.695 of 2006, it drops to an eye-catching 1.207.

If I was a general manager, I would try to find a spot in my bullpen for Prior. When he was on, he butchered batters with a blazing mid-90s fastball and a knee-buckling bender. He was poised and primed for a great career.

And that is why I don't want him to come back. Priorwas supposed to be the cornerstone of a rotation for 10-15 years. If he regains the magic elsewhere, it wouldn't be just another "Cubbie Occurrence." It would go down in Cubs lore next to trading Mark DeRosa to the Indians Brock-for-Broglio one of the biggest mistakes in franchise history.

If Prior returns to the bigs, it will be under one of the following circumstances:
  • Big market team willing to spend plenty on doctor's bills.
  • Small market team looking for a buzz and a cheap, rehab player.
  • Dave Duncan finds something he can fix.
Baseball fans who have read Three Nights In August by Buzz Bissinger (yes, that Buzz Bissinger) know that Tony LaRussa seemed quite fond of Prior's upside and potential -- despite not liking parts of his character.

Excerpt via Avenging Jack Murphy:

Prior can rank right up there with Schilling and Maddux and Johnson by the time he's through. With his rare mix of stuff and smarts, he is that dominant. But he's also that young. He has the swagger that is the hubris of youth, taking his invincibility for granted when nobody ever should, receiving too much early attention and slathering in it.

Throwing Prior's name in with two 300-game winners and a guy who owns an 11-2 mark in postseason games is kind of a big deal. Knowing Duncan's past success with failed projects and scrap-heap guys, Cardinals fans should be foaming at the mouth just to tell Duncan that a former prodigy is begging for a fresh start.

And at the age of 28, Prior has no further to look than Duncan & LaRussa's ace, Chris Carpenter, or the newly re-minted Pedro Martinez of the Phillies for hope that he could once again be a more-than-serviceable major league pitcher.

Excerpt via MLB.com's Fred Claire:

"I see how Pedro and Chris have battled back from injuries and I respect what they have done," Prior said. "It also gives me hope."

The last thing I want is a motivated Mark Prior. A motivated Mark Prior went 7-2 with a 2.22 ERA, piled up 103 strikeouts (only 19 walks) in 80 1/3 innings in the months of September and October of 2003 and 2004. Not to mention being one helpless fan, one hopeless shortstop and one thoughtless manager away from clinching a franchise's first World Series title since 1908.

A motivated Mark Prior is absolutely useless to me. Unless he is on my team, of course.