On Monday Roy Halladay signed a one-day contract with the Blue Jays and announced his retirement from baseball. That’s the way a big-time pitcher goes out, with all the fanfare and accolades.
That was how Mark Prior would have gone out too, had his career followed the path many expected. But it wasn’t to be for Prior. His retirement announcement came on the same day as Halladay’s but with no cameras, no sports network coverage, no gushing articles talking about his Hall of Fame prospects.
Prior’s announcement instead came in passing to a single reporter in a hotel lobby in Florida. There was no press release, just a single melancholy tweet.
Just ran into Mark Prior in the lobby. He is officially retired after shoulder blew out again w/reds triple a. Could join #Padres FO.
— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) December 9, 2013
Prior will be remembered as much for his multiple injuries and comeback attempts as for his short, glorious run as a dominating starter with the Chicago Cubs. His final attempt at a return came in 2013 with the Reds. It ended the same way as all the others. He blew out his shoulder after 7 AAA appearances.
To call Prior’s big league career star-crossed would be underselling it. He was frigging cursed.
It began with nothing but promise. After a dominating run at USC, Prior was drafted #2 overall by the Cubs. He made all of nine starts in the minors before being brought up to the big team. He showed dynamic stuff in his rookie season, striking out 147 batters in 116 innings.
He blossomed the next year, going 18-6 for the playoff-bound Cubs. But that would be his last healthy season.
2004, he misses the first two months with an Achilles injury. 2005, he gets drilled by a Brad Hawpe line drive and suffers an arm fracture. 2006, a strained shoulder sends him to the DL once again. He returns only to suffer an oblique strain during batting practice. He returns again only to suffer tendinitis.
2007, he is sidelined for the year by shoulder surgery. The Cubs finally give up on him and non-tender him. 2008, he suffers a shoulder tear during a comeback attempt with the Padres. 2009, the Padres sign him to a minor league deal but he never throws a pitch in a competitive game.
2010, he signs a minor league deal with the Rangers, making 10 appearances in AAA. 2011, he signs a deal with the Yankees, making 11 appearances in the minors. 2012, he signs with Boston and makes 19 relief appearances in the minors, winning one game.
2013, he signs with the Reds and makes 7 minor league relief appearances.
Prior now says he will look for front office work with the Padres.
That’s how he goes out, not basking in the baseball world’s admiration, but hanging out at the winter meetings hoping to score a front office gig. Somewhere a Cubs fan is cursing Dusty Baker’s name.