On December 28th 2006, the Giants made the biggest splash of that off season and signed the biggest name on the market Barry Zito to a 7-year, $126 million deal. It was the largest contract given to a pitcher in baseball history. Zito was 28, the same age that Barry Bonds was when he signed with the Giants. For all the negative attention Bonds got, he made the Giants a big name franchise again and helped them come within 1 game of World Series champions in 2002. In 2005, the Giants finished 74-84 which was 3rd place in the NL West. The logic was justified: If Zito could have as big of an effect on the pitching staff as Bonds did on the line-up, the money would be worth it. Zito was an ace on paper who was control oriented, moving to the NL, and into a great pitcher's ballpark. This got them an ace to go with the 2 up and comers Matt Cain and Tim Lincicum.
Fast-forward to April 28th 2008, Zito is 0-6 with a 7.53 ERA. He's walked 15 and struck out 11 in 28.2 innings. Opponents are hitting a ridiculously whopping .336 against him. In those 28.2 innings, he's giving up 26 runs. And last year wasn't that better. He went 11-13 with a 4.53 ERA. It was the first time in his career he started at least 30 games and didn't pitch at least 200 innings in a season. Now it comes out that Giants' manager Bruce Brochy might skip a few starts for Zito or put him in the pen. This is a man getting $18 million a year and he might go to the pen. The question is: If this continues, what do you do with Barry?
"If this continues, what do you do with Barry? "
If someone asked that question about the Giants a year or so ago, you'd at first think about Bonds. But Zito has made Giant fans forget about Bonds. That's not a good thing in this case. First, what happened to Zito for him to pitch this bad? It's not that his arm is shot, as he's never thrown gas. The problem now is not only his control, but also his confidence. His balls have either been 10 feet above the umpire or right in the wheelhouse of hitters. Zito has no control of his now suspect stuff. Even when he does have some control, his pitches have no movement. This keeps happening and the more it happens, it gets worse. And in turn, Zito's confidence (if he still has any left) is completely obliterated. Right now, Zito is like Kyle Farnsworth. Only
- He's a starter
-And unlike Farnsworth, he doesn't have the gas on his pitches to mask his pitiful control.
This is not just a string of bad starts. This is not just getting some bad breaks. This is getting slaughtered and beaten to death by almost every hitter that stands up in the batters box against him. This isn't bad, this is gruesome. Right now, the only thing Zito could possibly do right is throw at the Home Run Derby, Than again if that happens, the night would never end. Yes, April has always been his worst month throughout his career and he surely can't keep this streak of implosion up. But you may want to think again. Zito looks absolutely defeated in every aspect of his game. So, what do the Giants do? They have some options, but none will be easy or make much sense.
1, Keep him out for a little while- I think this is the best solution right now. This may lead to sending him down to the minors just to try and fix this broken, very expensive toy which in turn will drive his desire more to improve and maybe get his confidence back up. If they keep sending him out there now, it'd be like watching a video of a car crash over and over again every 5 days. Sending him to the minors would be sending a clear message to him and getting him away from his recent struggles,
2. Stick him in the bullpen- This move makes no sense. First thing, it would make no sense in the world to put this struggling pitcher and his monumental contract in the pen. He's getting paid too much and he wouldn't like the move either. Second, that would probably be even more of a disaster. Once again, he can't throw gas. He's so control based that he'd possibly hurt the team more in the pen. He's not the type of pitcher that can come in for 1 inning and blow 3 hitters away. He's never even pitched in the pen before. It would be an entirely new experience for him, he'd labor on every at-bat, and you'd end up wasting more pitchers and working the pen even more. The Giants don't have a good offense by any means, so they need to keep every lead they get if they want to even sniff .500.
3. Trade him- No team in this galaxy is taking Zito at his full price. If the Giants want to get rid of him, they'd have to pay for most if not all of his contract and they wouldn't get much in return. Maybe 2 or 3 prospects or an average major league player. If they can't do that and still can't find a place for him to help the team...
4. Release him- This would cost the Giants a ton of money, but if all else falls what else can they do? The Giants aren't a good team. Their starting rotation has a ton of potential but their offense is old and punch less. The bullpen also could use some experience. Today, the Giants are 11-15 which is 3rd place in the somewhat disappointing NL West. They need to get better and Zito doesn't seem to be helping them at all. As much as it would cost, getting him off the team would be dropping that dead weight and they could admit to everyone that they made a horrible mistake.
It's amazing when you think about it. In 2002 with the A's, he went 23-5 while winning his first and only Cy Young. He's still young and not too far ago was in that group of the premier young arms in the game. Now, he's out of Oakland and out of the above mentioned group of hurlers. Now he's in a different group entitled "Worst Busts Ever". What is scary is this is only Zito's second year in the deal. He still has 5 years after this, unless the Giants take action. Is this the worst signing in baseball history? The only competition that comes close to this is Mike Hampton's 8 year, $121 million robbery of the Rockies/Braves.
After Hampton had a superhuman playoff performance in 2000, the Rockies went bonkers and signed him to the colossal deal. After 2 laughably horrendous years there, the Rockies ran out of dough and had to trade him to the Braves, Ever since then, he can't stay on a baseball field for more than 3 minutes without suffering an injury. The funniest thing about this meltdown is 3 teams are still paying for Hampton. The Rockies, Braves, and Marlins. I have no idea why the Marlins are paying, but it's funny that they are. So what's the biggest bust ever? Hampton or Zito? I don't think you can answer that question yet. But for now it's certain that Zito is hurting him team more this year out of the two.
I know one thing: Billy Beane must be dying with laughter about this. The man who has always been opposed to big free agent pick-ups has another case to tuck away in his back pocket as this obscure turn of events continues to unfold in San Francisco.