It was eight years ago today that Mark Prior became only the 14th player in Chicago Cubs history to win his Major League debut dating back to 1920. Prior and the Cubs beat the Pirates 7-4.

Prior was drafted second overall by the Cubs in 2001. The Twins, who had the first pick in the draft, were interested in Prior, but were told that he did not want to play for them. Instead, Minnesota took Joe Mauer number one. That’s worked out pretty well for them.

Meanwhile, Kerry Wood had undergone Tommy John surgery in 1999, but posted a 12-6 record in 2001 to record back-to-back winning seasons.

In 2002, Prior’s first season with the Cubs, he went 6-6 in 19 starts with a 3.32 ERA. That same year, Wood notched his third straight winning season going 12-11 with a 3.67 ERA. Wood didn’t miss a start that entire season and set a career high with 213.6 innings pitched.

The stage was set for 2003. The tandem was dubbed “Chicago Heat” by Sports Illustrated , and the two of them were featured on the cover of the 2003 Baseball Midseason Report edition of SI .

That season, Prior went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA. He racked up 245 strikeouts and only walked 50 batters in 211.1 innings. He finished third for the NL Cy Young Award in his first full Major League season.

Wood recorded a career-high 266 strikeouts in 211 innings on the way to a 14-11 record.

It was all downhill from there.

From 2004 to 2006, Wood and Prior amassed a record of 30-32 with a combined ERA over 4.00.

2006 was Prior’s last season with the Cubs, and he has not played in the Majors since. On December 26, 2007, he signed a one-year contract with the San Diego Padres, but missed the entire season due to injury. On January 13, 2009, the Padres agreed to one-year minor league contract with Prior, but he was released in August of last year after failing to be called up the entire season.

Wood has not started a game since the 2006 season. Since 2007, he has appeared in 150 games in relief and has gone 9-10 with 54 saves in 67 chances.

This season, now with the Cleveland Indians, Wood has pitched 3.1 innings striking out three and walking five. He’s 0-2 with an ERA of 18.9 and a blown save, but at least he’s still in the Majorsat least for the time being.

It’s yet another story of what might have been for the Cubs.

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