Siberian Baseball

Thursday, December 27, 2007

One down, one to go - Cubs clean up a bit

After releasing Mark Prior into the free agent market, the Cubs have now put a little distance between themselves and the hellish cycle that was created with both him and Kerry Wood in the same rotation.

San Diego will welcome the hometown hero back, put him in a pitcher's park and give him a solid shot at returning to respectability, if not stardom. Honestly, I have an easier time saying goodbye to Prior than I would if Wood was on his way out.

This is not an indictment of Prior as a player, of the Cubs in terms of talent evaluation or of Chicago's willingness to put up with injury after injury, but rather a reflection of the rise up the ranks that the two pitchers followed.

While Wood spent what seemed like decades in the minors as the buzz built around this savior of the pitching staff, Prior was selected as a college star, with limitless potential.

I remember hearing stories of his stupid nickname - "Calfzilla" because of his enormous lower legs - and discussions of the power he generated on his fastball because of that solid foundation and spotless mechanics.

I guess it shows you how far sportswriters need to dig to fill copy on the MLB draft, but still - Prior showed up quickly and was out of the rotation just as quickly. It didn't help that Prior was seen as the secondary piece in the Wood/Prior rotation, but though he seemed to have more talent than Wood, he never had the sizzle.

It's probably more me than anything, but if the Cubs insist on keeping a high-profile, injury-plagued, stable pony I'm glad it's Wood. While Prior was seen as the total package pitcher, there's something to be said for the Texan who can throw a ball through a brick wall.

While it remains to be seen whether or not either of these guys can get healthy and become the players everyone expected them to be, I'll honestly be happy for Prior if that happens.

It really helps that he'll be doing that in the NL West, though. If he would have emerged for the Astros, I would have been out of my skull with rage.

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