On December 18, 2006, the San Francisco Giants agreed on a 7 year/$126 million contract with Barry Zito, which was the largest contract for a pitcher in baseball history at the time. As Zito’s former Oakland Athletics teammate Mark Ellis put it in an ESPN article, “A lot of money. I was shocked. That’s great for him. That’s a good place for him. There couldn’t be a better fit I don’t think. Obviously, we wanted him in Oakland.”
At the time, the contract seemed fitting and Zito seemed worthy of it as he was a three time American League All Star (2002, 2003, and 2006) and a Cy Young award winner (2002). Unfortunately, Zito never seemed to play up to the standards of being the highest paid pitcher in the league.
In fact, in his seven seasons in a Giants uniform, Zito never posted an ERA under 4.03, never pitched over 200 innings, had an average WAR of just 0.43, and, most importantly, did not even make the postseason roster in 2010 when the Giants went on to win their first World Series title in the San Francisco era. The life of Barry Zito became very dark as the fans made sure to share their disapproval of his poor outings each and every time.
Then came October 19th, 2012–Game 5 of the NLCS between the Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals.
After incredibly coming back and winning the NLDS after going down in the series 0-2, San Francisco found themselves in another hole as they were down in the this NLCS series 3-1. Just as San Francisco was in dire need of another miracle, Zito went on to pitch 7 2/3 innings, gave up just six hits, and the Giants went on to win the game 1-0.
Less than a week later, ironically Zito was handed the ball Game 1 of the 2012 World Series, and would end up pitching, arguably, his second-best start of his Giants career by throwing 5 2/3 innings and handing the ball to Tim Lincecum in the bullpen to finish the job to give them a most needed 8-3 victory.
The moral of the story is that the controversial Zito was not always the most loved guy in the City by the Bay, but he found a way to make his contract seem somewhat reasonable. As illustrated in his dual against former teammate Tim Hudson on September 26th of this year, Zito became a very likable guy and a Bay Area sports hero.
With Zito announcing his retirement earlier this week on Monday after 15 seasons in the MLB, it is time to recap the top-5 moments of Barry Zito’s roller coaster of a career.
5. Barry Zito makes his MLB debut on July 22, 2000
Zito signed for a $1.59 million signing bonus with Oakland after being drafted as the ninth overall pick in the 1999 MLB Draft. Zito made his way up through the minor league system in less than two years and was promoted in the summer of 2000.
In a game against the Anaheim Angels, he not only made his debut, but he also earned his first professional victory by tossing 5 innings and allowing just one run while striking out six Angel hitters. Every professional baseball player remembers their MLB debut and the nerves that tag along with it.
4. Former teammates Barry Zito and Tim Hudson pitch against each other at O.Co Coliseum one last time on September 26, 2015
This certain scenario was one-in-a-million in that every possible element had to work out perfectly in order for it to be possible. Zito made his first appearance in an MLB game since 2013 just six days before, and Hudson just returned from the 15-day DL in the beginning of the month.
Sep 25, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Former Oakland Athletics teammates San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Hudson and A s pitcher Barry Zito were reunited for a press conference before they face each other in Saturday
The trio of Hudson, Zito, and Mark Mulder was one of, if not the, best in the game. The breathtaking moment of Zito receiving a standing ovation by a mix of Giants and A’s fans as he walks off the mound for one of the final times is a moment Zito will never forget.
3. Barry Zito out-duels Roger “The Rocket” Clemens in the ALDS to earn his first postseason victory in his first postseason start on October 7, 2000
In his first appearance in the the MLB Playoffs, as a rookie Zito tossed 5 2/3 innings, surrendered just one run, and struck out five as Oakland went on to plaster the New York Yankees 11-1 in Game 4 of the ALDS.
This particular start was monumental for Zito as beating one of the best pitchers to ever step on the mound in Clemens on one of the biggest stages really put him on the map. The A’s would go on to lose in Game 5 in New York and the Yankees would win the World Series for third straight season.
More from Around the Foghorn
- SF Giants: Reliever Reyes Moronta clears outright waivers
- SF Giants sign veteran 1B John Nogowski to minor league deal
- SF Giants call on veteran LHP Scott Kazmir for big start against Padres
- SF Giants: Update on Alex Dickerson’s rehab assignment
- Atlanta claims SF Giants C Chadwick Tromp off waivers
2. Barry Zito saves the San Francisco Giants season by dominating the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the 2012 NLCS on October 19, 2012
After having his best season and tallying 15 wins for San Francisco, Zito earned himself a spot on the postseason roster, and boy did he take advantage of his opportunity. Not only did Zito force a Game 6 as the Giants were down in the series 3-1, but he even slapped his first postseason base-hit and knocked in his first postseason RBI to give the Giants a 4-0 lead in the 4th inning.
This one game may not have made him worthy of his outlandish contract, but it sure did shut a lot of critics up. From this day forward, Zito became a Giants postseason hero.
If Game 5 of the NLCS shut a lot of critics up, this Zito performance may have earned him his $126 million dollars in this one start. Whether you believe that is true or not, you cannot argue against that without Zito in the 2012 playoffs, San Francisco does not win the World Series for the second time in three years.
One of the elements that made this so sweet for #75 was the fact that, although he did receive a ring in 2010 when San Francisco won the Fall Classic, he was left off the postseason roster and was a non-factor. His Game 5 NLCS and Game 1 World Series starts are evidence of him truly earning his ring.
After all of the turmoil, criticism, and displeasure in his tenure in San Francisco, Zito was determined to make his mark in San Francisco Giants history. He did just that.
Thank you Barry Zito for all that you did for us San Francisco Giants fans, and we wish you all of the luck in your retirement. Baseball will miss you.