The odd farewell for Barry Zito

USA TODAY Sports

It's here.

It's … finally here.

This is the last time you'll watch Barry Zito pitch in a Giants uniform.

Oh, I guess there's the off chance that both parties will want to slum it with each other again if nothing better pops up, but that's not very likely. No, this is the last start Zito will make as a Giant. If you bought a bottle of wine when he signed, now's the time to pop the cork. If you bought a carton of milk when he signed, you're unclear on the concept, but maybe now you have delicious cheese and/or a powerful hallucinogenic. It's here.

It's finally here.

Zito's thrown 19,278 pitches for the Giants. I'm not going to go full Rovell on you and tell you how much he made with each pitch. No, the point is that, good gravy, that's a lot of pitches. And what he made is beside the point by now. Kids who couldn't drive before he was a Giant are married now.

There will be time to reminisce and play his highlights, like his shutout in Coors Field, his NLCS performance, his World Series start, his shutout in Coors, or his final two playoff starts. Today, though, let's focus on the idea that Zito gets one more start. A send-off in front of the home crowd. A chance for the fans to shower him with a little love.

He'll get a standing ovation, win or lose. Even if he gives up three inside-the-park grand slams to Yasiel Puig, Zito will come off the mound to raucous cheers. We're married to this silly team, for better or worse, 'til free agency do us part. And while Zito has erred far too often on the worse side of for better or worse, he's still been an inextricable part of Giants baseball for years. Every preseason prognostication, every postseason prediction, everything related to Giants baseball has been run through the prism of Barry Zito for seven years.

The Giants just watched a scene like this, with Andy Pettitte coming off the mound with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat. The fans called him out of the dugout again and again to say thanks. But this is different. This is hilarious. Because imagine if you will, a little ceremony after Zito walks off the field. The crowd's cheering is somewhere between polite and uncontrollable. Brian Sabean takes the podium, quiets the crowd, and says, "I have a surprise announcement for everyone. The Giants are pleased to announce that we've come to terms with Barry Zito on a one-year contract. He's coming back, everyone!"

Silence.

A woman in 313 screams, "Oh, god, no."

A little boy drops his box of Cracker Jacks.

Murmuring becoming a loud chatter.

Confusion. A depressing, stunned confusion.

This is not the kind of reaction you would get from that kind of announcement at anyone else's send-off game. Andy Pettitte's coming back? Yankees fans go nuts. Chipper Jones is coming back? Braves fans go nuts. Even Orioles fans would have hooted and whooped if Cal Ripken decided not to retire, even if he was clearly a shell of a player by the end.

But Giants fans are so freaking done with Barry Zito. I don't want to speak for everyone, but ... yeah, I'm speaking for everyone. There have been good times, there have been bad times, and I'll be on his side forever more. But even one more Barry Zito start next year would have been unbearable. There would have been Zito Truthers who claimed that he was pitching as part of a conspiracy that involved the Sabercats and Earthquakes trying to lure people away from baseball. And they would have made excellent points. I'd watch their shoddily sourced and manipulative video.

Zito is getting a send-off. The Giants are making sure of it. It's the most pleasant mutual breakup in world history. It's been ... real. We've had ... some good times. Thanks for ... those good outings that one time. Sorry about ... you know.

Giants fans are right to cheer. The ovation will be nice. But don't ignore just how weird this whole thing is. The whole seven years have been really weird. Barry Zito, man. We won't miss him, exactly, but we want to tell him goodbye. He was a houseguest that hung around for seven years longer than expected, but at least he cleaned your entire house a couple times and told some funny stories. A part of us will miss him, I guess. There's just too much familiarity to let go completely.

Fare thee well, Barry Zito. But if you see Brian Sabean roll a podium out to the field, get the bricks and Molotov cocktails ready. Because this ends here. But, mostly, fare thee well.

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