I spent most of Wednesday waiting and wondering, like most baseball fans. It was the day we'd all finally have some closure on Mark Prior. Was he pitching through a damaged shoulder? Was the damage related to mechanics (a SLAP lesion or torn cuff) or was it more related to overuse? Did Dr. Andrews put his scope in and see more pitches left in the once-magic shoulder of Mark Prior? I spent a lot of time on the phone and pouring through medical books and journals to make sure I had a grasp on all the possibilities. I find this outcome unsatisfying and can only imagine how Prior feels about now. By the time you read this, Prior will already have begun his rehab, a long road that's aimed at taking the mound again, hopefully without the pain that's plagued him since 2003. (Yes, you read that sentence correctly.) Prior is an object lesson in the shoulder's fragility, in the fact that the sure thing isn't, not unless we do more.
Mark Prior's surgery went about as was expected. Dr. James Andrews got his scope inside, looked around, and saw a lot of damage. My initial impressions were pretty much dead on with what sources have told me. It's telling that he'll start his rehab in Birmingham, as it appears that he's headed out of Chicago. Will a change of scenery and a new medical staff help Prior? That is as unclear as everything else in Prior's universe. At 27, he remains relatively young, and if he comes out of this surgery pain-free, he has a chance to do what Chris Carpenter did at age 28 after a similar surgical repair. That Prior had significant damage inside the shoulder tells us that the last couple seasons could have been different, years that were essentially lost to Prior and to the Cubs. Going forward, putting Prior with a pitching coach like Dave Duncan or Jim Hickey would make for an interesting mix.
Most of the damage indicates a slow wearing rather than any significant trauma, which puts the blame more on Dusty Baker than anyone else, especially Marcus Giles. I've seen some blindly suggesting that the Bankart lesion was the result of that 2003 collision but if that had been the case, the amount of damage occurring to the ligaments would be sufficiently significant to cause instability that would prevent return to activity for an extended period of time—extended here meaning far more than the three starts he missed. The reported outcome after the collision was a Grade II acromioclavicular sprain. Since the AC sprain involved the acromioclavicular ligament (which basically ties the clavicle and scapula together), there would be very little likelihood that this injury could have involved his labrum. With Prior, there does not appear to be any history of significant injury to the glenohumeral joint itself, therefore making this a wear & tear injury that could have been exacerbated by the fact that the may have been genetically bilaterally lax as compared to the "norm". We also have to remember that the shoulder laxity found during 2006 was said to be muscular, not structural. The once-vaunted mechanics fell apart when pain pulled down on his arm slot, leaving him "throwing pies" as one pitching coach described it.
carroll here verifies almost to the letter what this page has suspected for many, many months now. dusty baker's abuse of a 22-year-old prior in 2003 left his shoulder in tatters, and prior has worked hard, through pain but ultimately futilely to recover ever since. this page noted since 2005 that prior could well be pitching with a damaged arm, and would have noted it sooner still had it existed. when finally the truth emerged it was no surprise. when he was diagnosed with a rotator cuff tear, it was pointed out that such an injury is a consequence of overuse and would cost him significant time. when he had difficulty rehabbing and the cubs called it "food poisoning", when his velocity failed to return, the cubs trotted him out to the mound anyway despite what is now obvious -- that he was in considerable pain. the team let him be destroyed on the mound, setting in motion the final chain of events that led him to this.
and for that, he has dusty baker and jim hendry to thank. if he demonstrated disdain for these belligerent morons and the duplicitous fawning boobs of a team-owned scandal sheet such as paul sullivan as they questioned his character in print, leading droves of fools and sycophants to repeat their accusations verbatim and make prior a hated man, who could blame him? would not you, dear reader? kevin goldstein:
Basically, for the last two years or so, sports radio and print here in Chicago has been filled with inferences that Mark Prior was, for lack of a better term, a wuss. While doctors struggled to find an answer for Prior’s velocity issues, accusations (both direct and indirect) were flying left and right. It’s all in his head, he’s never dealt with adversity, his confidence is shot, he’s overcompensating for the normal soreness that every other pitcher deals with, nothing is really wrong with him, etc.
Meanwhile, while spending just as much time off the field as Prior, Kerry Wood got a free pass. See, this Wood guy, he’s a man’s man. He’s from Texas and he talks like one would expect the Marlboro man to and he curses and spits and gets arrested for public urination. He’s a tough guy, see? But no, not Prior. Prior was downright erudite, following in his father’s footsteps by attending Vanderbilt before transferring closer to home at Southern California. Prior actually finished his class work after being drafted and got a degree, a rarity among ballplayers. In interviews, he was calm, collected and thoughtful, if not downright boring. He didn’t have spiked hair or a goatee, he almost looked more fitting in a suit than a baseball uniform. He wasn’t what we expected a baseball player to be as a personality, he wasn’t the kind of guy who would punch you in the shoulder when he greeted you, and therefore he was a wimp.
Well guess what, folks? Mark Prior has been trying to pitch for what looks like two-plus years with the kind of damage in his shoulder that would have you or I thinking about worker’s compensation even though our jobs probably require little more than sitting in from of a computer much of the day. You owe him an apology, and if he comes back in the way Dr. Andrews believes he can, many Cubs fans don’t deserve to reap the benefits.
we have speculated here on the effect of management on a team, which is generally thought by many to be minimal. this page suspects otherwise. as the damage uncovered by dr. andrews demonstrates so sadly, the way in which prior and kerry wood were abused that year effectively ended their careers, and the decisions baker made that fateful autumn have had radical, awful, destructive effects on 2004, 2005 and 2006 -- and they will continue to echo for years to come.
let it be said here -- the way in which baker acted that year, and the way in which hendry allowed him to act, crippled this franchise deeply and durably. that much is now a matter not of speculation but of medical fact. where would this club be today with a prior and wood who had not been so horribly disfigured by baker in 2003? what would be their state today had the manager of the club seen fit to relieve them in blowouts, to limit their pitch counts, to have used them responsibly rather than recklessly? we will never know. but this writer is willing to estiamte that it would be a better state than this.
so a final, hearty and well-earned salutation to that toothpick-suckling bastard in bristol, who is apparently trying to announce games with a shoe crammed in his mouth and a lobotomized frontal lobe that makes joe morgan's seem adequate. for what you've done to this team, these fans and this town, god help you. this page for one certainly hopes never to have to endure the plague of your kind again.