If you're like me, then you have December 29 circled on your calendar every year as the anniversary of when the SF Giants signed left-handed hurler Barry Zito to a massive seven-year, $126 million contract in 2006. At the time, it was the richest contract ever handed out to a pitcher.
SF Giants: Revisiting the Barry Zito contract
Zito came over from the Oakland A's where he made a name for himself as a durable arm with a beautiful curve ball. During his time with the A's, the southpaw posted a 3.55 ERA while eclipsing the 200-inning threshold in six of his first seven seasons while earning an AL Cy Young award and four All-Star nods.
He had an impressive résumé upon inking the contract with the Giants, but he might have been showing signs of regression at the end of his tenure with the A's as he registered a 4.05 ERA in his final three years in Oakland.
Of course, things immediately took a turn for the worse when he came over to San Francisco. He was expected to be the ace of the rotation, but he struggled to the tune of a 4.53 ERA in his first year with the Orange and Black.
His struggles continued as the years went on as it became clear that he was never going to live up to the expectations of the massive contract he originally signed. In total, he posted a 4.62 ERA in seven seasons with the Giants, which included a 2010 campaign where he was left off of the playoff roster. To his credit, he did reach at least 180 innings in five of his seven years with the Giants, so he remained relatively durable.
In a vacuum, Zito's tenure with the Giants was pretty disappointing, but he had a couple of very bright moments. He completed 7.2 scoreless innings against the St. Louis Cardinals to help secure a 5-0 win in Game 5 to begin an improbable comeback in the 2012 NLCS.
He followed this up by allowing just one earned run in 5.2 innings against the Detroit Tigers to nab an 8-3 win in Game 1 of the World Series. Pablo Sandoval's three home runs remain the lasting memory from that game, but Zito held up his end of the bargain on the mound.
The Giants probably do not win the World Series in 2012 without Zito's unlikely heroics. His contract expired after the 2013 seasons and he re-emerged with the A's for one last hurrah at the end of the 2015 season before retiring.
During his tenure with San Francisco, Zito became a polarizing figure due in part to not living up to the expectations of his contract. That said, long-term contracts for pitchers rarely result in a favorable outcome for the team. The veteran southpaw had some concerning numbers before arriving in San Francisco and those red flags were seemingly not properly vetted.
His tenure had plenty of lows and a few, unforgettable highs that Giants fans will not soon forget. It was on this date 15 years ago when news broke that Zito would be staying in the Bay Area. For better of worse, the Giants won two World Series rings during his time.