Chicago Cubs: Mark Prior, Kerry Wood a nod to what might have been

Mark Prior / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Mark Prior / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
Kerrry Wood / Mark Prior / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: A pair of aces ready to make history

Chicago drafted Prior with the second overall pick in 2001 out of USC. He made his debut just under two years later, tossing six innings of two-run ball in a 7-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field.

The San Diego native finished seventh in Rookie of the Year voting that year, working to a 3.16 FIP in 19 starts. The next season, though, was his coming-out party. Prior was a finalist for NL Cy Young – and it’s not hard to see why.

He tossed 211 1/3 innings for the Cubs, winning 18 games and leading all big league hurlers with a 2.47 FIP. As well-known as Prior is for his swing-and-miss stuff, the tall hurler was dominant when it came to hitting his spots, evidenced by his 4.90 strikeout-to-walk ratio that year.

Wood, meanwhile, struggled in his return, but from 2001 to 2003, he put it all together, teaming up with Prior in ’03 to lead the Cubs within one win of the team’s first World Series since 1945. He tossed 211 innings during the regular season, leading all of baseball with 266 strikeouts. Come October, he didn’t miss a beat – striking out 25 in his first three starts before the Florida Marlins roughed him up in a heartbreaking Game 7 loss in the NLCS.