The last time the San Francisco Giants were in the World Series, Manager Bruce Bouchy left starting pitcher Barry Zito off of the Giants MLB playoff roster. On Wednesday night Zito will take the mound in front of over 40,000 screaming Giant fans in hopes to capture a series lead. Professional sports are not as easy as many athletes make them look. The fluid layup, the fantastic one-handed catch or the eye-popping home run make it hard to see just how demanding and difficult this profession is. Zito is a consummate pro who deserves the opportunity he has on Wednesday Night.
Zito was the ninth pick overall by the Oakland Athletics in 1999. The initial success of seven wins, a 7.6 strikeout per nine innings ratio and a 2.72 ERA in only 14 starts helped Zito place sixth in Rookie of The Year voting that year. Furthermore, at age 23 Zito would start a league high 35 games that following summer, thus cementing himself as a bonafide starter in this league. The success kept coming while in Oakland. In his third season, Zito joined Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter, Bob Welch and Dennis Eckersly to become the fifth Oakland Athletic to win the AL Cy Young Award. Already in the same breath of Oakalnd greats in just his third professional season, the sky became the limit.
However, Zito was never able to get his ERA under 3.00 or his win total above 16 for his duration with Oakland. Thus, Zito became a more than serviceable inning-eating starter, instead of a dominant top of the rotation ace like his Detroit Tigers counterpart Justin Verlander.
Once Zito’s contract was up in 2006, a small-market Oakland team was unable to hold onto the high-priced free agent. Therefore, the San Francisco Giants gave Ztio a $126,000,000 contract through seven years. The goal was to solidify a rotation full of then youthful starters such as: Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Noah Lowry. Unfortunately, the Giants have not got what they’ve bargained for. Since putting on a Giants uniform, Zito has a 4.47 ERA with a win-loss record of 58-69.
Moving on, Barry Zito is still a model of perseverance. After 13 seasons full of 404 professional starts, Zito now finds himself a game one starter for the 2012 World Series. I find it hard-pressed not to root for a guy who has learned to stay even-keeled in this roller-coaster of a career.