A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Barry Zito's Teddy Bear

The first time that Barry Zito came to New York in the playoffs, he was dealing, and the A's kicked butt. The second time he came, he was even better, but the A's weren't and they handed a loss to a great young pitcher. In the next two years, Zito went 2-1, and the A's went nowhere in the playoffs. When they got back to the playoffs in 2006, they still didn't go anywhere and Zito went 1-1. That said, when your team doesn't win, you just take the show to a different city and get a monster contract in hopes that you can be something great there.
The Giants bit in those days when there was still belief in Barry Bonds and getting a ring for the city of San Francisco for the first time ever and a ring for the Giants for the first time since 1954. Maybe someone should have told the 2002 Giants that it's cheaper to tell your guys not to celebrate before the fat lady sings than before Scott Spiezio starts a rally by depositing a 3-run home run over the outfield field wall.
Like Curt Schilling dreamed before game 1 of the 2004 ALCS, there's nothing like shutting up a city - even if he had to wait until game 6 to do, the Angels and their Thundersticks shut up Barry Bonds and his crew proving that K-Rod was better than F-Rod, and so the Rally Monkey got the win.
In 2007, Barry took his surfer cut, zen attitude, and teddy bear to the City by the Bay for $126 million over 7 years and rewarded the fans with ERAs of 4.53 and 5.15. The next 2 years were better as he was just over 4, which means about average, but in retrospect, the fact that he was left off of the post season roster altogether despite making $18million per year...
Normally, a really poor signing is measured in that free agency year upswing after a young player suddenly gets good, but Zito was one of the Oakland greats (along with fellow ship jumpers Tim Hudson and Mark Muldur). He was a man that had a fan base - maybe more so for that surfer hunk image that became all caring and sensitive with stories of his teddy bear, but for a guy to suck so badly that he's left off of the post season roster despite past success and the need to earn his $18million keep... yeah. Maybe that's why Carl Pavano doesn't have a home. One year of success in Minnesota after sucking up the place in New York with a long salary that never panned out and a serious dissing of Boston to get there... Perhaps the baseball world knows a Sidney Ponson mirage when it sees one - especially at the price that he's asking.
And there are good signings and bad signings in every off season. All up and coming teams have to sign big to get anywhere. Detroit signed Ivan Rodriguez for $40million over 4 years, though only half was guaranteed, to take a 43-119 team into the World Series in 2 years. Commitment is everything, but frankly, giving Jayson Werth 7 years and $126million after the relatively affordable and sane Phillies' contract that he has for 2 years $10million is absolutely ludicrous.
What do the Nationals get for it? Two years of dependable service, which in looking closely are the last 2. Three years with over 20 home runs, which are the last three. The last 2 years were 156 and 147 strikeouts respectively. Mind you, his rate didn't really drop last year; he just had less at bats. He did lead the league in doubles last year, but he's never had 100 RBIs. Joining Ryan Zimmerman as the power center of an Adam Dunn-less DC squad looking to compete for a new armed Stephen Strasburg and a yet to be shown Bryce Harper, there are things that the team must do. However, signing an above average Sasquatch for that long for that much money when even the big boys who can just throw money into the wind and hope for it to hit aren't offering 7 years to a 30+ year old fan favorite in a city that is over 2 hours north...
As Puff Daddy said, "It's all about the Benjamins," and I don't knock him for taking them... I would have, but frankly, I thought we were living in the era of sane baseball and not late life contracts to Derek Bell, Juan Gonzalez, Denny Neagle, and Mike Hampton.

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