December 14 - Z is for Zito
I remember Bill Simmons once wrote that every city has a player who never quite lived up
expectations. For Boston it was Drew Bledsoe. There are other names you can throw out there on
both a pro and college level. Ron Pawlus at Notre Dame and Mike Bibby in Sacramento both come to
mind. For fans of the Oakland A's, there is only one guy who could possibly have this tag bestowed
upon him. That man is Barry Zito.
As I sit here and get ready to watch the Mets, Rangers, Mariners or San Francisco Giants open up
their wallets and bestow upon Barry Zito the money to last a lifetime, I felt it would be remiss if I didn't
use my featured writer status to write my thoughts on Barry Zito. If I didn't take the time to provide my
evaluation of the premier free agent left on the market.
If you walk around and talk to the average Oakland A's fan about the defections of key players, every
single one sparks a different emotion. With Jason Giambi it is hatred. Jason could open a string of
orphanages up and down Northern California and we still would not forgive him for the things he said
about Oakland on Letterman. With Miguel Tejada it is sadness. We loved Miggy and it was
unconditional. They could dig up pictures of Miguel Tejada sticking a needle in his ass and we would
still make arguments like, "you know they can superimpose these things with computers now". The
emotion Barry Zito provokes is a, "maybe it is time we part ways." We are Hubbell in "The Way We
Were". Watching and rooting for Zito for this long has just exhausted us. The postseason was like a
microcosm of his entire career in Oakland. Brilliant and then decidedly unbrilliant.
I say this knowing that it will be tough to find another pitcher who can rack up the 102-63 record that
Zito did over the last seven years. And I know that sitting on his mantle is a Cy Young Award earned by
throwing a dominant 23-5 season in 2002. And I have seen that curveball...a curveball that most
major leaguers could only dream of having. However after watching him lose Game 1 of the American
League Championship Series, a loss that not only took the wind out of our sails, but set the tone for
the entire series, I can honestly say that it is time to cut the cord.
The thing with Zito that I always used to tell people was that he was more "actor" than "athlete". His
psyche and demeanor was never one that truly inspired confidence. For example, when you compare
Barry Zito's seven seasons in Oakland to Dave Stewart's the numbers are actually quite close.
Stewart in his stretch had fourteen more wins and six more losses. When it is all said and done, Zito
will probably end up with career numbers that warrant a bust in Cooperstown while Stewart is going
to have to hope the veteran's committee takes a strong second look (especially at any footage that
involves games against a certain individual nicknamed "The Rocket"). That being said, I would take
Stewart to pitch Game 7 of the World Series every day of the week against any lineup over Barry. Zito
just never exuded the confidence that Stew did. He lacked the glare, the presence, the "I'm the
baddest pitcher on the planet and I don't care who is walking out of the other dugout" persona.
So I say this to the fans of the teams that are about to shell out tens of millions of dollars for Barry.
Know that the money you are investing is in a guy who is a class act. Know that Barry Zito is a lock for
fifteen wins and a sub-4 ERA every year for the next six. However, also know that you need to put
expectations on him that are lower than the ones we placed in Oakland. Zito is what he is. A very good
pitcher, but one who can frustrate you with his inability to become great.
As for us, we'll take our chances with Harden, Haren, Loiaza and Blanton. None of the "Big Three"
remains and maybe that is a good thing. For they represented a stretch in which we kept finishing
close but no cigar. As for the new addition we have to make to the rotation. I'm hoping it is Shane
Komine or Jason Windsor. It is always nice to get young blood in there. Just like it was when Barry
came up seven years ago.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.