Mark Prior was viral before viral existed, appointment viewing before the DVR, the proto-prospect. Certainly there were next big things before Prior, but his arrival with the Chicago Cubs hailed a shift in baseball, and especially baseball fandom, toward a culture in which fetishizing players before they've taken a single at-bat or thrown a single pitch in the major leagues is not just validated but expected.
With the Chicago Cubs' cadre of prospects causing -gasms of all manner and variety at Wrigley Field, it's amazing to think Prior prompted the same sort of frenzy in a world without social media and hashtags. May 22, 2002, wasn't #PriorDay; it was the arrival of the No. 2 pick in the draft from the year before, one of the most polished college pitchers in memory, a 21-year-old who struck out 79 over the 51 minor league innings he needed before arriving. Chicago teemed with excitement and expectation that night and showed why it's every bit the equal of New York and San FranciscoRead More »from 10 Degrees: Cubs are contenders as rookies thrive amid standout class