"Occasionally, a player appears whose skills are so outstanding that lack of patience at the plate doesn't hurt him much," wrote John Sickels of Stats Inc. "Kirby Puckett was like that. Patterson is like that, too."
"It wasn't that anything was really harder," he said. "I just got out of my comfort zone and developed some bad habits without noticing them.
"At the same time, I had never really been through adversity. I had been the best player on my team at every level, so it was good to go through it. It makes you stronger."
Patterson played better down the stretch and earned his first call-up to Chicago. He started the next season in Triple-A Iowa but was promoted to the big club to stay in the second half of that 2001 season.
Tough breakHe hadn't really dominated in the high minors, and in retrospect, some say, the Cubs may have pushed him too quickly.
"It's kind of like if I tell my kids to clean their rooms or they can't go out, and then a few minutes later, I say, `Let's go to the movies,'" said Jim Callis of Baseball America, one of the prospect trackers who ranked Patterson so highly. "Eventually they're going to say, `I don't have to work on anything, because I'm moving up anyway.'"
Patterson struggled in his first full season, getting on base at a .284 clip and striking out 142 times. But come 2003, it seemed his talent might override his free swinging. He was hitting .298 with 13 homers and 16 steals through 83 games and was a candidate to fill the final, fan-selected spot on the All-Star team. Then, he took a misstep on first base as he was beating out an infield hit. He tore his meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament, and the season in which he was living up to his billing was over.
He refused to say that was the moment that spoiled his stay in Chicago. "Who knows?" he said. "It happened. It was a freak play."
But the injury stalled his momentum. He'd recover to have a decent 2004 (24 homers and 32 steals), but his problems with plate discipline weren't getting any better.
He went 3-for-5 with two RBIs on Opening Day last year but his season tanked from there. He was hitting .232 when the Cubs sent him to Triple-A for the first time since 2001. Patterson became wrapped in insecurities about his performance. "I got to the point last year where I was trying to change something every day," he said.
He felt he couldn't win with fans and writers.
"The only problem I had was I got to the point where, yeah, I was scuffling and the fans would boo me, and that was fine," he said. "But then, when I did things well, they overlook them. And to me, that was personal."
Patterson said he didn't blame Baker or his teammates. "What happened over there, they were great," he said. "It wasn't anybody's fault over there. I was the one playing. I take responsibility."
In the offseason, the Cubs acquired Juan Pierre to play center, and it became apparent they wanted Patterson out of town. The Orioles took advantage and acquired the former phenom for lowly regarded prospects Nate Spears and Carlos Perez.
But the Cubs didn't send him off without regrets.
"You hate to trade him and give up on him. ... You hate to lose him," Baker said. "He has speed, power and an outstanding throwing arm. It's just a matter of him putting it together."