For the Chicago Cubs, hearing about Mark Prior is a sad reminder of what could’ve been. For a time, Mark Prior was considered one of the great up and coming pitchers in the MLB, but constant injuries forced Prior to miss the major leagues for more than half a decade. In many ways, Mark Prior’s story is even more of a disappointment for Chicago Cubs fans than the lackluster careers of players like Felix Pie and Corey Patterson, because those two never really competed at a high level in the MLB. Mark Prior was amazing for one season, and then everything fell apart.
Now, Mark Prior has been signed to a minor league deal by the Cincinnati Reds, who are managed by the same man who originally saw Mark Prior’s brief rise to stardom in the MLB: Dusty Baker. Apparently, Mark called Dusty, told him he was feeling great and asked for a chance, and he got it. It is an understandable move from the perspective of the Cincinnati Reds, as everyone in baseball knows how much pure talent Mark Prior has, but it’s a gamble similar to the one the Chicago Cubs are currently making with Dontrelle Willis.
But what if Mark Prior does bounce back, and by some miracle returns to the form that made him finish third in NL Cy Young voting? Would Chicago Cubs fans feel mostly happy to see their guy pitching at a great level again, or would it be more frustration than Chicago Cubs fans can really handle? When Felix Pie and Corey Patterson went on to other teams and proved to be just as disappointing for other organizations as they were in Chicago, it felt like vindication. If Mark Prior makes his way back to the major leagues and somehow puts together a sub 3.00 ERA season, Chicago Cubs fans will probably collectively eat their hats. It would be nice to say we’d take the high road and be happy for him, but the truth is that it would just be another disappointment in a long line of blips in Cubs history that make bleeding Cubbie blue extraordinarily painful.