Ah, Mark Prior. What can I say about this absolutely beast of a pitcher that has been hampered by injuries and will most likely never pitch again in the majors. From the moment he put on a Chicago Cubs jersey he was my favorite current player (Ryne Sandberg holds the all-time favorite player title.) Prior dominated game after game. His 18-6 record in 2003 will not be forgotten by Cubs fans any time soon. Besides the unraveling of the entire season in the 8th inning of Game 6 in the NCLS, that season was the most fun I've had as a baseball fan in my life.
So as I was watching ESPNews yesterday and saw that Prior will be having season-ending shoulder surgery, I was disappointed. The multiple injuries leading up to this made it not shocking, but I had hoped he would come back and be dominant for the Padres. I still enjoyed watching him pitch and I do have a soft-spot for the Padres (I love the city and I really wasn't old enough to appreciate the '84 NCLS collapse by the Cubs.) So as we go forward, I'd like to say a few words about Mark Prior's career. Here are some moments I'll remember:
- I used to take any breaks during class to go to computer labs and watch pitch-by-pitch updates during games that Prior pitched. This was for Cubs and Fantasy Baseball purposes, but if I had 15 minutes, I was going to find a way to stay updated with his progress.
- In one of the most exciting games I've ever seen live, I saw Prior throw a complete game victory at Wrigley vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 2003 year. The final score was 2-1. He absolutely shut down the Dodgers and battled the whole way to get the complete game. He really was something special.
- I saw him at my grandmother's neighborhood church. Being the good Catholic boy that he is, I saw him at St. Vincent's in the Lincoln Park area in Chicago. I highly debated moving over to a seat near him to get a hand shake and a "peace be with you" but I decided against it.
- His calves were massive. So were his ears. I know people have suspected him of steroid use, but I hope that wasn't the case. If he was using though, I hope he admits to it later and serves as an example for kids and why they should not do steroids. His body may be breaking down because of the drug use. HOWEVER, I'm not accusing him or saying I think he did use steroids. He had plenty of unfortunate injuries that could account for his problems (running into Marcus Giles on the basepath started the whole should problem- not to mention Dusty's overuse of him.)
So while I'm disappointed, I still hope the best for Prior. I suppose he can console himself by swimming in the Cubs' wasted money and I'll console myself by watching the 2008 Cubs win seven games in a row. I could also watch Jay Bruce's stats because that guy is going to save my fantasy baseball team. Good luck Mark- I hope you make it back one day, but if nothing else, 2003 was definitely a special year.