A Penny For Your Thoughts

The first two games against the Los Angeles Dodgers have been less than stellar if you are an Arizona Diamondbacks fan. In game one we saw Brad Penny continue his domination over the D-backs beating the home team 7-1. Each time Penny beats the Diamondbacks it acts as a reminder that we traded him away in 1999 to the Florida Marlins along with Vladimir Nunez and a player to be named later (outfielder Abraham Nunez) for oft-injured closer Matt Mantei. I completely understand the trade as we were suffering with Gregg Olson as the closer which was prematurely aging everyone in attendance at what was then Bank One Ballpark.

At the time Penny was one of three prospects that were described as the “Three Phenoms”; a nickname penned by Gregg Olson aptly enough. They were touted as the core of the future for the Diamondbacks. All three were pitchers who were being brought along together playing at the same minor league levels. The three were Penny, John Patterson, and the Diamondbacks first ever number one draft pick Nick Bierbrodt. John Patterson was a loophole signee. Originally drafted by the Montreal Expos with the fifth overall selection; the team failed to offer Patterson a contract within a specified amount of time allowing him to become a free agent. The Diamondbacks jumped at the opportunity and overpaided for the opportunity to add a young arm to their staff. Nick Bierbrodt was a left-handed pitcher out of Millikan High School in Long Beach California. As the first draft pick in the franchise’s history he had a cult-like following and the organization placed high hopes on him. Brad Penny was a fifth round selection from the 1996 draft class coming out of Broken Arrow high school in Oklahoma. These three pitchers found a lot of success at each level of the minor leagues and their friendly rivalry helped each of them. It was thought that these three were untouchable and represented 60 percent of the Diamondbacks starting rotation for years to come so it was a shock to see Arizona package one of them in exchange for a closer. At the time more Diamondbacks fans were upset by the player to be named later than the loss of Penny. Abraham Nunez was described as a five-tool player that would be a perennial all-star at the major league level. This is not the same Abraham Nunez who played infield for the St. Louis Cardinals but rather the Abraham Nunez who made his major league debut with the Florida Marlins and was subsequently traded to the Kansas City Royals for pitcher Rudy Seanez and was later waived. He was picked up by Seattle and later released then signed with San Francisco but was suspended for 50 games in 2006 for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. He is currently playing in the minor leagues for the Washington Nationals never having reached the potential that has followed him his whole career.

Of the “Three Phenoms” it was John Patterson who the Diamondbacks had the most hopes for. He continued through Arizona’s minor league system and made his major league debut in 2002. After a successful call up, Patterson struggled the following year and the Diamondbacks became disillusioned by his lack of consistency. He was traded to the Montreal Expos in 2004 in exchange for left-handed reliever Randy Choate. The trade to Montreal made his journey complete as that was the team who had originally drafted him in 1996. Patterson pitched well in 2005 but has suffered with arm troubles which have limited his success at the major league level. He is still pitching for the Nationals but is currently again on the disabled list with arm problems. His 1-5 record and 7.47 ERA are indicative of the struggles he has had battling injuries.

Nick Bierbrodt has had the most interesting experiences of the three. As the original draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks he will forever be linked to that franchise. He made his major league debut on June 7, 2001 and pitched fairly well. He was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays along with outfielder Jason Conti in exchange for pitcher Albie Lopez and catcher Mike DiFelice. DiFelice was only with the Diamondbacks for a short period of time and the team cut ties with him soon after an altercation at a bar where DiFelice was accused of burning a woman’s behind with a lighter during a fight. Lopez was pretty much a bust for the Diamondbacks. They had hoped he would be a dominate pitcher during their playoff run but soon lost his starting rotation job. As a member of the 2001 Diamondbacks Bierbrodt was given a World Championship ring so that may have tempered being banished to Tampa Bay. In Spring Training 2002 Nick played his way into the starting rotation for the Devil Rays but he saw his control completely disappear and the Devil Rays sent him to the minor leagues to work on his mechanics. While pitching for Charleston; Bierbrodt was shot twice while a passenger in the back of a taxi waiting at a drive thru window of a fast food restaurant. The shooting occurred shortly after Bierbrodt commented to a kid on a bicycle that his rap music was too loud and to “knock it off”. He was shot twice, once in the arm and once in the chest. The whole story sounded like a story line from the movie the Natural. Bierbrodt recovered but lost a year doing so. He is currently in the minor league system for the Cincinnati Reds as a starter and reliever. He too never lived up to the potential and the hype that followed him.

Of the “Three Phenoms” it has been Brad Penny who has accomplished the most. He has accumulated a record of 79-63 during his career along with a career 3.64 ERA. Penny had success with Florida including winning game 1 of the 2003 NLCS for the Marlins. He was a member of the 2003 World Series Championship team earning his first World Series ring. During the most recent salary purge the Florida Marlins put Penny on the trading block. Rumors swirled that the Diamondbacks would attempt to reacquire him but a trade could not be put together that would work and Penny was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with infielder Hee-Seop Choi and pitcher Bill Murphy in exchange for Guillermo Moto,Juan Encarnacion, and Paul LoDuca. He suffered an injury shortly after joining the Dodgers but came back to post very good numbers since. In 2006 Penny was named the starting pitcher for the all-star game. He also added his name to the record books on September 22, 2006 when he struck out 4 batters in one inning. This occurred against the Diamondbacks in the second inning when Chad Tracy struck out but reached first base after catcher Russell Martin failed to hold onto the ball. So Brad Penny continues to remind the Arizona Diamondbacks of their mistake in trading him and we have to endure yet another loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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