*Disclaimer* (I wrote the first paragraph of this article last Thursday after Barry Zito’s win again the Dodgers. I was expressing my opinions of the night prior but I didn’t want to complete the article without seeing if Zito would land one more moment in the sun-which he did in the finale.)
Barry Zito’s San Francisco Giants career ended just the way it started, fans kicking, screaming, and leaving more to be desired. I
had tickets to last night’s game and I was looking forward to bidding Zito a final farewell. Love or hate the guy, and I know the majority may be leaning towards the hate side of the spectrum; it would have been nice to see Zito walk off the mound and let him have his last “moment” so to speak. The image of Bruce Bochy leaving the dugout to get Zito while his teammates stand by his side, crowd rising as one getting deafeningly loud, then he takes that final walk from the mound to the dugout to begin the rest of his life outside of a Giants uniform…never happened. No there was no great send off, no pomp and circumstance, just business as usual. Zito was due up in the bottom of the 5th inning, but was quickly pinch hit for. There definitely may have been 126 million reasons why he didn’t get his moment and money for sure was talking last night. The message was loud and clear, “Thanks for your contributions Barry…now go clean out your locker.”
My oh my what a difference four days can make! After his start last Wednesday night Zito was vehement that he didn’t get a chance to go back out there and continue his start again the Giants’ bitter rivals. If this hadn’t been his last career start with a club that made him the richest pitcher ever at the time of its signing he probably wouldn’t have fought as hard as he did. Zito has always been a competitor that much is obvious in a career that will more than likely be known more about the money he made rather than the player or person he was. After the game Bruce Bochy said he felt inclined to leave Zito in the game but thought better of it to give the team a chance to win. In the grand scheme of things it worked perfectly since the Giants went onto win this game and secure one last W for Big Z.
As the season had approached its’ final weekend there had been grumblings from Bochy about Zito getting one last opportunity to pitch in front of the best fans in baseball-and that opportunity came on Sunday September 29 against the San Diego Padres. Zito was inserted into the game in the 8th inning to pitch against his old Oakland A’s teammate, Mark Kotsay (who also was in the last at bat of his career) with 2 outs already in the inning. Zito needed only four pitches to dispatch Kotsay who struck out swinging on a pitch Zito has never been known for, a fastball. After that the crowd at AT&T Park roared and rose as one to honor and cheer a man who everyone loved to hate, but at this particular moment in time- loved. It was a fitting way for any big league player to go out, and despite the circumstances Zito deserved a great send off and the Giants’ provided that for him.
Barry Zito handled all of his detractors with such class and dignity. To be completely left off the postseason roster of the 2010 Giants’ team, then to be an integral part of the 2012 Giants’ championship, Zito’s career had come full circle. Now we bid him farewell and reflect just how much class can lead you in sports. Money does indeed talk, he was given a colossal amount of money, but how he handled himself and did for our team is what should be remembered first and foremost.