View Full Version : The Moron column count '02: Flubs 11, Sox 2

04-08-2002, 09:18 AM
I give this one a 5, nuf said.

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

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

Flubs 11/42/3.82
Sox 2/7/3.5


Prior in minors is major mistake

April 8, 2002


JACKSON, Tenn.--To see the future, sometimes you must head to the end of the earth. So take a left at the Shell station, mosey on past the cement-mixing factory and environmental lab, cross the railroad tracks and make a right into Pringles Park, known in local parlance as ''The Big Chip,'' where MC Hammer's ''Can't Touch This'' was played ad nauseum Sunday.

It is the music of choice every time a West Tenn Diamond Jaxx pitcher strikes out an enemy batter. And on a pleasant afternoon in the Southern League, hard by I-40 somewhere between Memphis and Nashville, Mark Prior blew away so many Mobile BayBears that the breezes could be felt back at Wrigley Field.

''Generally, I felt good,'' he said.

Generally, he looked spectacular.

Just like that, amid the sweet soundtrack of baseballs smacking leather, the Prior Watch was officially launched. The High Prior-ity Tour, we'll call it. He is too good for the minor leagues, as he instantly established in his Class AA debut by whiffing 10 and allowing an unearned run--thanks to his own throwing error--in a blurry five-inning outing. We're still waiting for a BayBear to get around on a pitch and make robust contact. Prior already is growing weary of anticipatory buzz in Chicago and beyond, saying, ''You guys are making it into something bigger than what it is. I'm not any different than anyone else in this clubhouse who's starting out a season.''

Obviously, he doesn't know what it's like to be a Cubs fan after a 1-4 opening week. The more Prior dominates and the Cubs struggle, the louder the clamor will be to whisk him from this quaint place where $2 pony rides are given on the warning track. It doesn't take a superscout to realize he is the complete package, an awesome mix of power and control supported by unusual poise for a 21-year-old. His performance begged only one question: Exactly what is Prior accomplishing by being here?

Nothing but disarray, as far as I can tell. In the fifth inning, Diamond Jaxx officials realized they didn't have enough ''K'' signs to post on the ballpark facade and made an urgent announcement. ''Can we please have a sign painter report to the press box?'' the public-address guy pleaded. Earlier, there were concerns about placing three K's consecutively because of a Ku Klux Klan connotation. Yes, Prior is gaining pro experience without pressure and cold Chicago weather. And no, he isn't perfect, committing a throwing error and not closing out two innings with proper flair. But when he starts making overnight bus trips, eating at Waffle Houses and staying at budget motels, the Cubs no longer can resist the temptation. He's ready. We're just waiting for those conservative bosses, Andy MacPhail and Jim Hendry, to push the button. The only one who isn't sweating is Prior, an intelligent and classy guy much older than his years.

''I'm really not worried about when I'm moving up or what's going to happen. I don't think about my future,'' he said. ''This is where I am and I'm having a real good time being here. This is my task right now. Whatever the next step is, it's up to others, and I'm not pushing it. I'm working on my craft and trying to be the best I can be.''

Come on. You don't peek at the Jackson Sun for a daily Cubs fix? ''I was surprised to hear they're 1-4,'' Prior said. ''It's been a hectic first week, trying to get settled and looking for a place to live. I know the guys have been pitching well. [Kerry Wood] threw well. Jason [Bere] and Juan Cruz threw well. But I'm not hanging on every result or anything like that.''

It's difficult to control the hype quotient when so much has been made of Prior. Sammy Sosa declared him ready in spring training. Don Baylor, not one to routinely fall in love with prospects, lobbied hard to keep him. After Prior struck out Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordonez and five other White Sox in three innings, Jerry Manuel mentioned him in the same sentence with Curt Schilling. At USC, Prior was called the greatest college pitcher ever by Baseball America and won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's best player. Tuesday evening, he'll be in New York for the Sullivan Awards, where he might become the first baseball player named as America's top amateur athlete--against a field that includes figure skater Michelle Kwan and miler Alan Webb--since Jim Abbott in 1987. ''Just being a finalist with those names is a big honor,'' he said. ''Not many baseball players have been nominated.''

But Prior is special. His stuff is big-time, starting with a fastball that he locates with precision and pops at 93-97 mph. Generally, he has more consistent command of his heater than Wood. His curve can be dominant, and his changeup has improved with help from Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild. His mechanics, his work ethic, his conditioning, his frame of 6-5 and 225 pounds--it all adds up to the real deal. Still, Prior doesn't grasp the national commotion.

''The attention is nice, but I don't fully understand it,'' he said. ''We're baseball players. A lot of things have to happen before I do the things people say I can do.''

Maybe. But a wonderful arm is a terrible thing to waste, even for a month or two. Conventional wisdom suggests pitchers can't make the immediate jump from the draft to the majors, but Abbott is among those who did. Older Cubs fans will recall the direct 1971 leap of Burt Hooton, who, like Prior, was the No. 2 pick of the draft after a sterling college career. For now, the Cubs are trying to get by with newcomer Matt Clement as the fifth starter. But he wasn't impressive in his Cubs debut Saturday. Though the biggest problem is anemic hitting, Prior strikes me as the perfect slumpbuster.

Of course, he doesn't see it that way. Prior actually is looking forward to his first minor-league bus ride. ''Everyone's making a big deal about me and this bus ride,'' he said. ''I've been on plenty of bus rides, nine and 10 hours, all over the country. It's probably easier than flying because of security.''

The savior will be in Birmingham later this week, then Mobile. Cubdom would feel much better if he were in Pittsburgh, then Montreal. It's time, I'd say, to get some Priorities straight.

04-08-2002, 01:17 PM
I was gonna start a post to see if you were still alive cause Moronotti has been doing nothing but writing about the Cubs and kissing Prior's a$$. Nothing like being an objective sportswriter in a town with two baseball teams. Glad to see your still at it 'cheeses'. And to HELL WITH MORONOTTI!

Foulke You
04-08-2002, 01:29 PM
At this rate the score for Cubs articles to Sox will be 66 to 8 in a few months. I see Mariotti has added Mark Prior to his @$$ licking society. He is the founder and CEO of the "Slammin!" Sammy and "Kid K!" @ss licking fan club and now has followed his new Cub love to Tennessee to cover the "savior". Do you think the Sox will be worthy of an article on opening day at Comiskey? NAH! There's windscreens and rooftops that need more discussion!

I also took note of yesterday's Sun-Times displaying a very Cubune like "equal coverage" of 8 pages on the Cubs and 1 page for the Sox. Split right down the line! Just like I like my baseball coverage in Chicago. UGH!

04-08-2002, 01:39 PM
I also liked the intro to Channel 5's Sunday sports show last night.

On a day when the Flubbies game was rained out and the Sox played (admittedly, very terribly), what did they show as they launched into the show? That's right, Sham-ME Soso in the batting cage, taking his rips.

Is there a second baseball team in this city? It's getting harder and harder to believe it.