View Full Version : the Moron column count '02: Flubs 5, Sox 0

03-19-2002, 10:43 AM
I give this column a "5" for its Flubbie-friendliness of it, based on the following scale...

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

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

Flubs 5/21/4.2
Sox 0/0/0

I'm expecting a "Sox are going down the drain" column from the Moron any day now, by the way....



He's ready; Cubs waiting

March 19, 2002


MESA, Ariz.--Enough time has been wasted in the dregs of Cubdom. Why spend any more waiting for Mark Prior? It is estimated by everyone who has inspected him this spring, including the party-pooper executives who want to season him like raw meat in the minors, that he might be one of the best pitchers we'll ever see.

So let's see him.


Traditional seamhead wisdom suggests no pitcher make the quantum leap from the amateur ranks to the majors. And Andy MacPhail and Jim Hendry certainly are traditional seamheads, preferring to ship Prior to Class AA West Tenn so he doesn't risk any damage to his pysche. But if anyone defies conventional thought, it's Prior, who has been groomed for greatness since his early years and appears to have been invented in a test tube. If Kerry Wood is Biff Whiff, Prior is Robo-Gas.

He has the imposing body of Nolan Ryan, 6-5 and 220 pounds. His thighs are Clemens-like, almost too thick to fit through a Wrigley Field aisle, the work of a dedicated training regimen that would have sent Boomer Wells to intensive care last year. But what blows us away, along with seven White Sox batters on a recent desert night, is his combination of power and impeccable control. While you're checking Dominican Republic birth certificates, check Prior's, because it's hard to believe a 21-year-old fresh out of USC can be so poised and ready-made for the big time.

How am I so sure? Consider what he said when asked what he would like to accomplish in his career. There was no pause, no blink, just a straightforward answer. ''I've always looked up to Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens,'' Prior said. ''They're my idols in baseball. If I could be what they are or even close, that would be my vision of success.''

Look, I'm as suspicious of hype as anyone. But Prior is described in breathless tones by so many baseball people that sending him to the minors seems useless. If the Cubs are to reach the playoffs in a National League stacked with contenders, they'll have to counter several problems in their lineup with the best pitching rotation possible. That's why manager Don Baylor is among the vocal majority who want Prior as the fifth starter April 6. Assuming it's safe to project Jon Lieber as the workhorse ace, Wood as the healthier-than-ever blowtorch, Juan Cruz as the developing No. 3 project and Jason Bere as the steady veteran, what's the risk in using Prior to complete the rotation and jump-start the big-league learning curve? If anything, the risk is losing a wild-card berth by a game because Prior was pitching against the Mobile Bay Bears in Jackson, Tenn.

Should Prior need more time, send him down for a few starts in April. But if he's as ready as Baylor says, promote him. It's worth the chance, knowing a dominant Prior would create a buzz and momentum that could carry the Cubs far this season. Maybe another franchise could go forward with a patient grooming process. But when you've waited 94 years for a world championship, it doesn't make sense to wait another two or three months for a potential godsend. ''He has convinced a lot of guys he can pitch here,'' Baylor said Monday.

Alas, the manager is resigned to Prior's fate. It has been determined by MacPhail and Hendry, who have all but announced he's off to the Southern League, pending Prior's fourth spring appearance today. In a perfect world, Baylor would like Prior's call-up date to be guaranteed.

''If it's 30 days, I want it in writing,'' Baylor cracked recently.

The promise of Prior has left a shiny glow to an otherwise problematic spring in Mesa. The injury to Flash Gordon, coupled with Jeff Shaw's outrageous contract demands, creates a bullpen crisis. Bill Mueller's injury leaves the usual doubts at third base. Corey Patterson, whose mental framework isn't half as strong as Prior's, still can't convince Baylor he deserves to be the regular center fielder. Delino DeShields does nothing for me as the second baseman and leadoff hitter. Just when Moises Alou is healthy enough to swing a bat, Alex Gonzalez hobbles to the bench.

Only the rotation can save the Cubs. A good-as-advertised Prior would make it the best in the league. He was so impressive against the Sox 10 nights ago, manager Jerry Manuel compared him to Curt Schilling in terms of command and stuff. ''When he got me with a strikeout, I thought, 'OK,''' an overmatched Frank Thomas said. ''Then when he struck out Magglio [Ordonez] next, I knew he was for real. I don't see the Cubs wasting too much time with that kid. He has tremendous potential.''

About the only one not rushing Prior to the big leagues is Prior. Sure, he would love to make the roster. But typical of his savvy, he is comfortable that MacPhail and Hendry have the best plan. ''I'll respect what they want,'' Prior said. ''Wherever they want to send me is fine with me. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to make the big club and spend the rest of my career in the majors. But I won't get mad about it. Maybe a little disappointed, but I'll go and do my job as they want. They want to bring me up a little bit slowly, that's fine.''

The son of a former Vanderbilt football player, Prior has been a baseball prodigy since Little League. His father hired him a pitching coach when he was 12. He had good command of a changeup at 14. A few years later, he was working with former big-league pitching coach Tom House, who aided Ryan's late-career resurgence and helped turn Randy Johnson into a Hall of Famer. Hence, his reverence for both. ''I'd like to have their type of style, their no-fear attitude,'' Prior said. ''You know, 'Here it is, see if you can hit it.'''

Just the same, he isn't obsessed by superstardom. He understands the fragility of making a living with a right arm, as Wood does. That's why Prior returned to USC to earn his degree instead of pitching in the Arizona Fall League, as the Cubs would have preferred. ''Baseball is just a game,'' Prior said. ''I could [be hurt] tomorrow and be done. The way my parents brought me up was to always have something to fall back on. If something happens, I'll have another way of making a living and getting a job.''

Such as? ''Maybe broadcasting,'' he said.

The mike can wait. For now, there is no bigger object of anticipation in Chicago sports than Robo-Gas. How about shocking us, Andy MacPhail? Put him in the rotation, get out of the way and let us see for ourselves.


Mark Prior has been up and down this spring in Arizona. Here are his numbers:

Games 3

Innings 7.0

ERA 7.71

Hits 9

Walks 3

Runs 6

Strikeouts 13

03-19-2002, 10:54 AM
For those of you who just skimmed over the article or skipped it completely, let me paraphrase what he said:

Mark Prior should be the Cubs #1 starter. He is Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens all rolled into one. Just by having him in the rotation almost guarantees a playoff-spot and possibly a world series appeance. Sure he has had a few not so good outings in spring training but he managed to strike out 7 scum Sox batters just a week ago. That's all that really matters. Oh yeah, David Wells is a fat slob too.

03-20-2002, 03:34 PM
I'm still not crying my eyes out over Screamalotti not writing
about the Sox. By the way, ya catch his latest cheap shot at
Frank Thomas? He wrote that Thomas, with his 10 years and
numerous batting accomplishments, was "overmatched"
against a guy who has yet to throw a pitch in anger in a major
league contest.

You are right about one thing. Any day now expect his "the Sox
are a dead end team going nowhere GO my Cubbies!!!" article.

"Spring Training is for pitchers, not for hitters." Dick Allen

07-01-2002, 03:47 PM
Originally posted by cheeses_h_rice

''When he got me with a strikeout, I thought, 'OK,''' an overmatched Frank Thomas said. ''Then when he struck out Magglio [Ordonez] next, I knew he was for real.''

I was going through the archives and found this paragraph on
Mark Prior. Anybody remember? Read it, then think back to
that line shot home run Saturday. Delicious.