Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
For all the hype, all the promise and all the potential of Mark Prior, his career in baseball may be officially over.
Yes, for those of you wondering at that statement, his career was only mostly over after his last injury-filled flameout with his hometown San Diego Padres in 2009. But according to a report in the Trib, he was injured yet again in his latest quest, a desperate grasp at the glory days that ended far too soon.
"Mark has been through so many timelines, at this point I'm almost allergic to the word," Prior's agent John Boggs said in January. "But he's out there. He's getting himself ready. And when he's ready, I'm sure you'll hear a lot about him. Then we'll invite teams to come watch him throw. And hopefully, he'll be the next Ben Sheets."
Prior, it seems, was nailed with a comebacker in the pitching shoulder in what may be the final divine message that it's time for him to take his Cubs signing bonus - a then-record $10.5 million in 2001 - and hang 'em up in style. For that matter, the $15,00 a month the Padres were paying him to rehab without ever pitching an inning for them would make for a decent start at retirement.
The injury was not reported as serious, but he's apparently been shut down for three weeks as a precautionary measure.
As baseball fans watch Joe Mauer and Mark Teixeira, the two names most notable as Cubs draft considerations in 2001, win MVP awards with the Minnesota Twins and help slug the Yankees back to championships in New York, it's hard not to think about how Prior is synonymous with broken hopes in Cubdom.
It's a story of a career made even more sad when you consider Prior hasn't turned 30 yet and has already had multiple shoulder reconstructions.
"If I can get back to 80 percent or 90 percent of what I used to be, then that's still pretty good. I look back to those three, four years in the big leagues, and I pitched pretty well and did the things I had to do to help us win games," Prior said during Spring Training with the Padres in 2009. "I don't know if those memories haunt me, but they motivate me."
The fact that he still feels the competitive impulse to try to drag his battered arm through the violent process of major league pitching again does say something about his fire, but maybe it's better for him at this point to just put the tattered dream on ice for good.