BOSTON — Brad Penny doesn't want to be traded. Penny feels Red Sox trainers are the best in baseball and deserve credit for his faster-than-expected turnaround. And, last but not least, Penny hasn't been this happy on a baseball team in several seasons.
I say "I think" because Penny has intimated all of the above to friends and teammates, but he doesn't want to talk about it one-on-one to a reporter.
"I'll talk baseball; I'll talk about my start; I have nothing to say about the other stuff ... I have to go," said Penny on the third base line during the first game of the series against the Florida Marlins last week.
Ahhh, the "other stuff."
Penny is smart. He's 31-years-old. He's been around the major league block, going 8-7 as a 22-year-old with the Marlins in 2000, pitching in two all-star games and finishing third in the Cy Young Award voting just two seasons ago with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The "other stuff" is the rampant trade talk with his name in the middle of it, the six-man rotation, John Smoltz's return and his future.
Of course, that's exactly what was on my mind.
Too often, we treat professional athletes like commodities. They come and they go. If they aren't up to snuff (see Julio Lugo), we want replacements and we want them now.
What has struck me about the Penny talk is the fact that he has quickly become one of those commodities.
And I have one particular question pertaining to that issue: Why?
Among Theo Epstein's finds since he took the job in late November of 2002, the Penny signing might end up gaining consideration in his Top 10 moves, including the 2004 trade deadline deal (Nomar Garciaparra for Orlando Cabrera), the 2008 trade deadline deal (Manny Ramirez for Jason Bay), signing a no-name middle reliever named Hideki Okajima before the 2007 season and trading for and signing Curt Schilling over Thanksgiving Dinner in 2004.