Out of the Big Three the A’s had in their early years of dominance in the 2000s, Barry Zito was my favorite over Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson. All three pitchers were great, but it was something about that Zito curveball that just amazed me.
Zito was great for Oakland and spent seven seasons with the team, making three All-Star games and winning a Cy Young award in 2002. He was great for Oakland, but when he was to hit the market, I knew his time was gone. It was either San Francisco or the New York Mets and he choice to stay in the Bay.
He didn’t have great statistical success that warranted that big contract he got, but he won two rings. Good for him.
Now that he’s signed a minor league deal to return to Oakland, I think about the great games he pitched. Remember that Jeremy Giambi game when he didn’t slide? Zito pitched that game and made one mistake: a solo home run to Jorge Posada.
But my favorite memory was in 2006, his final appearance for the A’s. It was Game 1 of the ALDS in Minnesota and he faced Johan Santana. This was Santana in his prime, and Zito outdueled him with a little help from a Hall of Fame teammate.
Zito was different. He played guitar. He had the long (sometimes colored) hair. He wore an uncommon number. But all in all, he was a perfect guy for the team. He fit in so well.
I don’t know if he has anything left in the tank and if he can even make the roster. But if he can make one last go around, I’d like to see it.