If you walk in the streets of San Francisco, you will definitely get mixed reactions on Barry Zito, the Giants left handed pitcher whose $126 million dollar contract he signed in 2012 will finally be coming off the books.
I thought the day would never come. The Giants will no longer dish out $18 million a season for Zito?
In what seemed like a deal that would never end, Zito is in the final year of the deal that at the time was the largest ever given to a lefty starter.
Instead of paying him $18 million in 2014, Zito’s contract will be bought out by San Francisco for $7 million, a pretty solid good bye gift.
So, as the end nears, it begs the question: Did Barry Zito live up to his contract?
Let’s not be crazy here. Statistically, Zito’s contract is one of the worst in the history of baseball. A multiple time All-Star and one-time Cy Young Award Winner for the Oakland Athletics, Zito was expected to become the dominant ace of the Giants rotation and begin the turnaround of the organization.
In seven years with the Giants, Zito went 62-77 with a 4.56 ERA, statistics that would have made GM Brian Sabean nauseous if he knew how Zito would perform.
Zito lost his explosive fastball and left many pitches over the plate for opposing teams to feast on. For much of his tenure with the Giants, fans had an “Uh oh” reaction when they saw Zito was starting that day’s game.
Why even ask if he was worth the money? The stats don’t lie, he stunk!
True, his Giants stats won’t look pretty on a baseball card. But one part of him that has always remained was his likeability in the clubhouse. Throughout all the harsh times, Zito supported his teammates, kept a positive attitude and was a good player in the clubhouse.
Zito earned the respect of many Giants players and fans when he did not complain about not being on the 2010 playoff roster that brought San Francisco its first World Series championship. He handled the situation like a professional and remained ready to start in case of a freak injury.
Still, there are nice players all over the game of baseball. But they don’t get paid $126 million dollars to put up bad stats!
It was October 19th, 2012. The Giants were down 3-1 in the NLCS to the St Louis Cardinals. St Louis needed one more victory to advance to the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. San Francisco felt that if they could steal a victory, they could pull off the next two at AT&T Park.
And then one of the most dominant and memorable pitching performances in the history of San Francisco Giants happened.
Radio talk shows were discussing how to handle the bullpen if Zito were to be yanked early. The MLB Network and ESPN so called “experts” were already chalking up a Tigers vs. Cardinals World Series matchup.
But the Giants had faith in Zito, who had his best regular season with San Francisco, going 15-8 and not having a loss in his last 10 plus starts of the regular season.
In what nobody saw coming, Giants fans all over the world took Twitter by storm, supporting the cause of #RallyZito as the Giants were on the brink of elimination. It got as high as 2nd on what’s trending on the social media site.
Then the forgotten one stymied the Cardinals bats, escaping an early bases loaded no out jam in the 3rd inning, Zito rolled from there, throwing 7.2 SHUTOUT innings of baseball to catapult San Francisco to a Game 6 and keep its season alive. Zito was in complete control, hitting his spots, laying down a drag bunt for a hit (with 2 outs) to knock in a run, and making St. Louis look confused as they swung threw his soft pitches.
Want a cherry on top? Zito outdueled Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the World Series, with the help of Pablo Sandoval, who himself was benched during the 2010 playoffs. Heck, he even slapped a hit into left field to knock in a run.
Statistically? Zito didn’t come close to living up to his contract. But when I think of Barry Zito in 10 years, I will think of his dominant end to the 2012 season, his memorable Game 5 start against St.Louis, and his Game 1 win in the fall classic.
The Giants don’t win the 2012 World Series without Barry Zito. And for that, I believe he was worth every last penny.