The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Minor Setback ... Or End Of The Line?

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Mar 15, 2007 3:00PM

With Mark Prior scheduled to make his next Spring Training appearance at the Cubs minor league camp, Chicago media are piling on the "he's done" bandwagon.

2007_03_sports_mark_prior.jpgThe Sun-Times' Chris de Luca adds Prior to the list of top draft picks who, in spite of incredible talent and notoriaty, never panned out -- Todd Van Poppel, Brien Taylor and Shawn Abner. We certainly remember the inflated prices for those guys' "future star" baseball cards back in our card collecting days. Today, rather than being encased in rigid plastic sleeves those cards are surely relegated to boxes of commons.

Is Prior the next one to see his baseball cards cast among the countless players people hardly remember? That's one way to read Prior's temporary demotion to the Cubs minor league camp. While the official word is that it's to let him clear his head and just pitch, there seems to be more behind this move.

De Luca speculates that Prior will begin the year in one of two places -- Des Moines with the AAA Iowa Cubs, or on the disabled list (again). No longer promised a spot in the starting rotation, Prior yet to show the Cubs enough to earn one of the five spots. He claims to be healthy, yet his velocity is clearly down from where it has been in the past.

Jay Mariotti believes it's time for Prior to move on entirely:

In the interest of putting Cubdom out of its misery and letting Prior clear his jumbled head of freak injuries, reduced velocity in the 80s, an alarming lack of command, the Chicago media and a Wrigley Field tenure that spookily began to free-fall after Steve Bartman lunged for a foul ball, let me suggest a change of scenery.

Maybe he's right. Maybe there is just too much pressure to live up to his 2003 season, and too much pressure to lift the Cubs out of decades of futility. He helped them get so close in '03, but a series of freak injuries since then has prevented him from returning to a form anywhere close to that season.

At 26, could a clean slate with a new team allow him to resurect his career? Can he ultimately become the pitcher the Cubs hoped for when drafting him in 2001? Or will he join the countless seemingly "can't miss" prospects, who somehow fade into obscurity? Maybe -- for once in his list -- Mariotti is correct.

Image via