By Gary Peterson,The Mercury News
Barry Zito has written a book. And since every book has to have a hook, this revelation:
Zito rooted against the Giants, his own team, the organization that was in the process of paying him $126 million, during the 2010 postseason.
The Barry Zito story is all about context. He joined the As in 2000, one of the Three Aces along with Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. He was the American League Cy Young Award winner at 24, after which he settled into a confounding existence trapped between over- and underachievement. The mixed bag allowed others to draw their own conclusions. They werent always kind.
Zitos contract expired after the 2006 season. One of his last acts as a member of the As was a commanding eight-inning effort in the first game of the ALDS.
That virtuoso performance was on the Giants minds when they swooped in and offered Zito $126 million what bat boys earn now, but a spit-take, swallow-your-chaw figure in late 2006. The Giants had paid Savior money to a guy who, statistically and temperamentally, seemed more suited to be the third man in the rotation.
Over the next four years, Zito and the Giants took divergent paths. The team cleverly collected the pieces that would take the franchise to heights it hadnt known since moving to San Francisco in 1958. Zito went 40-57 (the most losses among major league pitchers during that time) with a 4.45 ERA.
Which brings us to the final weekend of the 2010 season. The Giants needed one victory to claim their first division championship in seven years. They lost the Friday night game to the Padres. Zito was scheduled for Saturday, the penultimate game of the regular season. A win and they were in.
They lost, setting up a win-or-go-home game on the seasons final day. Zito was terrible. With plastic sheeting deployed in the clubhouse and tubs of champagne on ice, he lasted just three-plus innings, allowing four runs on five hits. Two of his four walks forced in runs. When he walked the opposing pitcher to lead off the fourth inning, manager Bruce Bochy came out with the hook.
It was total defeat. Not only did Zito leave the game with the Giants trailing 3-0, Bochy had to burn the bullpen before the most important game of the season. The partnership between the team and Zito had gone about as wrong as it could go. No one was happy.
Zito didnt sugar-coat his outing. He lost out twice that day, gumming up the game, and whiffing on a chance to redefine himself.
I want to deliver for the team, he said. Weve been battling our (butts) off all year the coaching staff and the fans. To go out there and to scuffle and not be able to do that, Im extremely disappointed in myself.
Things happened in a hurry after that game. The Giants clinched on the final day of the season. The teams braintrust had to quickly decide on a playoff roster. Zito was left out.
Present day: Zito recently sat down with the San Francisco Chronicle and talked about those strange, weird, awful days.
I rooted against the team because my ego was in full control and if we lost, then I could get out of there, he said. It would a) prove they couldnt do it without me, and b) take me out of the situation because I was so miserable coming to the field every day.
I was so deep in shame. I wanted out of that situation so bad.
The Giants, of course, won the World Series that year. Two years later Zito finally found his redemption.
He started Game 4 in the 2012 NLDS, an elimination game against the Reds. It was a lackluster outing, but it didnt prevent the Giants from winning that game and the decisive Game 5.
Then came the game true Giants fans will always remember with fondness. The Giants were down 3 games to 1 to the Cardinals in the NLCS. Zito drew the Game 5 start another elimination game. He was masterful, the guy so many critics believed he always shouldve been. Those judgments were moot that night. Zito pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings, at his best when it meant the most. The Giants, of course, won that game and the two after that to reach another World Series.
Game 1 of the 2012 World Series was Zitos last game as a Giant. (He logged a forgettable three-game cameo with the As in 2015). Matched against the Tigers Justin Verlander, Zito held Detroit to one run in 5.2 innings. The guy with a career batting average of .102 even knocked in a run with a single.
When Bochy came out to change pitchers, it was clear that Zito, a man at the top of his game, clearly didnt want to leave. He was having fun. He wanted this resurgence to go on and on and on. He wanted to be forever young.
Which is how every good book should end.
Read the original:
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