When Barry Zito signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with the San Francisco Giants in 2006, he knew that he would have live up to being the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history.
He didn’t. Not even close.
Instead, he spent most of those seven years with “$126 million” plastered on his forehead as he underperformed season after season with the Giants. His ERA over those seven years was an unimpressive 4.62.
He went from Opening Day starter in 2007 to pitching out off the bullpen for a stretch the very next season, after he started 2008 with an 0-6 record and a 7.53 ERA. 2009 and 2010 weren’t much better years for him. He started the 2010 season 5-0, but finished with 14 losses and was left off the postseason roster. After injuries shut him down for much of 2011, expectations for Zito were as low as possible going into the 2012 campaign.
And yet, somehow, Zito’s 2012 season was perhaps what Giants fans will remember him for. He surprised everyone by winning 15 games and playing a major role in the playoffs with his lights-out performances in Game 5 of the NLCS and Game 1 of the World Series, out-deuling Justin Verlander.
On Sunday, when Zito made what should be his last appearance in a Giants’ uniform, the sellout crowd at AT&T Park did what no one thought they would do before 2012: give Zito a standing ovation for being a class act and, more importantly, helping the Giants secure their second championship in three seasons.
So how do you define Barry Zito’s career as a Giant? Do you seem him as a huge mistake by Brian Sabean and Co., or as a class act who stayed humble and pitched well in the 2012 playoffs?
Answer the poll and comment below.