First of all, a brief congatulations to Martin for winning last week's Reader Extra Participation Friday. I really don't want to talk about it much, but I will print the part of his submission that earned him the title:
For those who don't know the context, that's a listing of three people in descending order of shitheadedness from bad to worse to worst. Hard to disagree, really.
CNNSI's John Donovan recently wrote a pseudo puff piece about arguably baseball's most overpaid player. It's not bad journalism, but it's sure full of entertainingly awful quotes from Zito himself, who is slowly coming to terms with the fact that he stinks. I'm not saying he's there yet... but you definitely get a sense that he's on his way. And once he accepts and embraces said stinkness, he can work on steeling himself up to be relentlessly mocked and used as an example of why not to spend big money on free agent pitchers for the next five to ten years.
Then came last season, when he was not only not Zito-like, he was worse than your run-of-the-league starter. He had a 4.53 ERA, the worst of his career. He didn't throw 200 innings for the first time since becoming a full-timer. And he had an ERA+ -- a measure that takes into account the park that he pitches in and factors the league-average for a pitcher -- of 98. A 100 ERA+ is considered average.
This spring, at least before last Friday, he's slid even further. He had a 14.92 ERA in four starts before Friday's exhibition game against the White Sox. He had given up 21 hits in 12 2/3 innings. He didn't have a single strikeout. He looked, in a word, terrible.
Where does Barry Zito, who soon will turn 30, go from here? Back to the elite pitcher he once was? Or into the scrap heap of free-agent busts?
What's wrong with this guy?Yeah, Barry. What the hell is wrong with you? Shoot from the hip. Try to give us something specific.
"For me, I'm just focused on what I got to get done," Zito said.Translation: "Jesus shitballs, I hope I don't embarrass myself too much for the next few years. If I could crack 15 wins a couple of times, that would be nice... how about I keep the ERA in the high 3s? That shouldn't be too much to ask, playing in a moderate pitcher's park in the NL. Oh fuck it, just please don't let me get any worse than I was in 2007."
"Whatever people think, they're going to think.
"I'll tell you one thing: I am so, fucking, lucky that I'm doing this in San Fran as opposed to Boston or New York or Philly. If I played like this while being paid like I am in one of those cities, someone would have taken my family hostage and burned down my house while I was on a road trip sometime last summer."
But I still have to go forward with what I'm doing."
"Well, for what it's worth, I won't be spending too much time this year fondly remembering last year. Hopefully that counts for something."
His fastball, never a strength, is a huge weakness now. Scouts report that it almost never cracks 90 mph any longer. Many report it tops out about 88 mph. It's hard for Zito -- hard for anyone -- to be effective with an 88 mph fastball.
"We had it at 85-86," a scout from a rival team said.
Zito has heard all the questioning, of course. But he says he healthy. (Clearly, he wouldn't be throwing 96 pitches in an exhibition game otherwise.) He is in a good mindset. He says he simply has a few things to ... work on.Hmmmmmm. Good thinking, buddy. What would you say are a couple of the areas you've really hit hard with this revolutionary "working on" plan?
"I feel good. I'm where I got to be," he insisted.
Oh....... you're...... you're OK then? You sure? You don't want to, you know, work on your plummeting strikeout total or try to stop giving up so many home runs?
Fine, you're the boss. You know yourself better than anyone else I guess. I'm just having a hard time agreeing that you're "where you've got to be." Nevermind though.
Friday's turn against the White Sox -- albeit in a meaningless afternoon game in March -- was, maybe, a turn in the right direction. But only maybe. At the minimum, it's something for Zito and any faithful Giants' fans to cling onto for the time being. It's something concrete. And that's more than anyone's had with Zito for a long, long time.
Great! You're finally taking a step in the right direction this spring. How are you going to build off this decent performance?
"It's always good to have something to base confidence off of," Zito said, "instead of trying to ... uh ... you know, just have it."
You clearly don't have it. You sound like a college freshman at a party, trying to tell himself that because he's wearing an ironic t-shirt he's cool enough to pick up that girl over there who's miles out of his league.
Enjoy sleeping on your giant piles of money. That's about all you've got going for you.