View Full Version : The Moron column count '02: Flubs 15, Sox 6

05-08-2002, 09:49 AM
Wasn't it just a few days ago that the Moron officially wrote off the Flubbies? I give this one a "5". Hypemuch?

5=Extremely positive
3=equal parts positive and negative
1=extremely negative

That makes the totals (columns/points/average points):

Flubs 15/55/3.67
Sox 6/19/3.17


I don't recall ever writing any column critical of the Cubs, sorry.


Prior stone's throw away from Wrigley

May 8, 2002


DES MOINES--Calfzilla, they're calling him. There must be a more dignified nickname for the rage that is Mark Prior, but for now, it will have to do. If you're curious, it's a tribute to the monstrous calf muscles that symbolize his dedicated conditioning regimen and machine-like dominance.

''I've been asked if I milk them every morning,'' Calfzilla said.

Don't laugh. Maybe he does. On a windy, overcast night not far from the eye of a reported tornado, Prior was his own heartland storm Tuesday. In his debut with the Class AAA Iowa Cubs, he continued to perform like baseball's next pitching phenom, producing an electric 72/3-inning effort in which he--deep breath--struck out seven of the first nine Tucson batters, allowed just one unearned run, three singles and two walks, struck out 10 and barely was nicked in a 6-1 victory. Not a soul in the house doubted we might be watching another Clemens, Ryan or Schilling.

But who knew we were watching the next Sosa? Yep, Prior also touched the poor Sidewinders for two solo home runs, which required him to take a couple of curtain calls in addition to soaking up numerous standing ovations. ''I have no idea where those home runs came from,'' he said. ''That's the big thing after a night like this. The only way to go is down.''

In truth, the only way to go is up, as in Chicago. Several times a day, wherever he goes, Prior is asked when he'll be promoted by the Cubs. The refrain is beginning to annoy him, but if he looked hard enough from the mound at Sec Taylor Stadium, across the river and over the state capitol building and through the cornfields, he could see Wrigley Field.

The wait won't be long now. Like Kerry Wood before him, Prior's track to the big leagues and anticipated stardom is moving at rapid speed, about 300 miles and two or three more quality starts from the Cubs' rotation. Still sheepish about the building media attention, he claims he isn't quite ready for the majors. ''I still have a lot to do,'' he said. ''I wouldn't mind having another four, five, six starts. I'm sure some dead-arm is going to set in. I've got to see how my body reacts, and I've still got a lot to learn about Triple-A hitters.''

Be assured, he is the only doubter. Not long after he struck out the side on 10 pitches in the first inning, the team's public-relations man confirmed that Cubs president Andy MacPhail will be in the house Sunday for Prior's next start. All you need to know is former big-leaguer Jerry Reuss, the Iowa pitching coach, insists he has seen only one pitching prospect more ready-made for the big time.

Remember Fernando Valenzuela? ''That's pretty lofty, but that's the only comparison I can think of in my 35 years in the game,'' Reuss said.

Even gushier was manager Bruce Kimm, who urged Des Moines to appreciate Prior's hiccup in town. ''They're getting a chance to see someone who might be one of the great players of all time, if things go right,'' he said.

Then there was Michael Gartner, the former NBC News executive, who had his own ideas for Prior. ''I wonder if he'd be interested in buying naming rights to the stadium,'' said Gartner, who owns the I-Cubs.

Not a bad reception for a guy who would have preferred to stay in Jackson, Tenn. For all the huffing and puffing by Cubs fans to rush Prior's ascent, his desired path was to stick with Class AA West Tenn and leap to the majors from there. He had just started to gain his bearings, on and off the field, and figured he could prove his worth there. Of course, he had another motive, one that defines a competitiveness that Cubs fans will embrace. In his final West Tenn start Thursday against Carolina, Prior hung an 0-2 pitch that was lashed for a three-run triple. It cost him a shutout, forced him to settle for a no-decision and fueled his fire for revenge.

''I was hoping I could have another crack at them,'' he said.

The next time those teams play is Aug. 1. By then, Prior should be at least 10 weeks into his major-league career. His fastball can be heard in the Cubs clubhouse, where manager Don Baylor admits players are cognizant of Prior's progress and a staff controversy might be unavoidable. When Prior is ready, someone must leave the rotation. Will it be young Juan Cruz, who has pitched capably but has been stung by bad luck and an 0-5 record? Or veteran Jason Bere, who might be used as trade bait for a much-needed catcher?

More than his stuff, Prior dazzles you with his savvy. His driver's license says 21, but his demeanor and presence are years older. His mound mechanics are so smooth and meticulous, you watch him with his cap pulled over his forehead and assume he's a veteran. Lester Strode, the Cubs' minor-league pitching coordinator, was asked by the Des Moines Register to compare Prior and Wood. ''What makes Mark different than Kerry,'' he said, ''is the fact Mark can maintain his consistency with his delivery, and what comes out on the other end is control.''

What separates Prior from other top prospects are fundamentals. Credit renowned pitching guru Tom House, who happened to be watching when Prior was struggling as a high school sophomore in San Diego. After watching the kid allow 10 runs in one-third of an inning, House volunteered his services. From a raw project, Prior was sculpted into a phenom through a program emphasizing mechanics, strength, nutrition and emotional makeup. Of 637 pitchers House has studied via a complex computer analysis, only four have scored higher than Prior for mechanical efficiency.

Nolan Ryan. Roger Clemens. Curt Schilling. Randy Johnson.

So while Cubdom waits, maybe it can coin a better nickname. Calfzilla is the only thing about Prior that isn't impressive.

05-08-2002, 02:31 PM
I remember hearing alot of the same garbage from the A's minor league camp a few years ago about a phenom they had who was being compared to Ryan, Schilling, Johnson, and Clemens. I think his name was Todd Van Poppel.

Someone should remind Jay that the reason there is a minor league is because most of the players aren't ready or capable of playing major league ball. And with baseball expansion, the minor leagues are even thinner talent wise. Jay should save the praise until Prior has a few major league starts.

05-08-2002, 03:16 PM
"Hey! Lay off that Blue Rock. You're making me sick up here."