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Estes's Ghost: The Return

We're 1/14th through the Barry Zito contract. To put that into perspective, that's the equivalent of the first 12.5 minutes of The Godfather. That's when Michael Corleone is just arriving at the wedding. All we know is that Al Pacino is playing some sort of soldier-type; the rest of the story is completely open. So take heart, Zito-watchers. It took a lot for Michael to go from a spit-and-polish war hero to the leader of an organized crime family. There was a progression, an arc. Things happened. Nothing stayed the same. Maybe Zito still has a chance to be average or good.

Or maybe Zito will start for the Giants in a playoff game in 2013, which could be their first in 10 years. And maybe as the 82-mph fastballs are ripped past various fielders, and as eighth- and ninth-place hitters are walked on 17 pitches each, we can cut to various members of the ownership group getting pushed out or bought out. Yeah, that's the better analogy.

Pitching coach Ron Perranoski IV: Do you renounce walks?

Barry Zito: Uh, not really. I mean, I renounce the idea of walks, but I can't really do much about the actual walks. I've been trying different things over the past few decades: meditation, computerized analysis of my motion, breathing techniques, humming "Dancing Nancies" to myself when I start my motion...nothing works. Maybe that's a good thing, though, because I had to stop throwing my curveball after '11. When I actually throw this little league fastball in the strike zone, it tends to go out faster than it went in. I should probably see about getting a second pitch soon.

Perranoski IV: Just say "I do renounce them."

Zito: I do renounce them.

Six-and-a-half more years. Even the super-pessimistic fans didn't see this coming. The peripherals were declining, so maybe he'd be slightly above-average this season, average the next season, and have a sharp decline after that. If that preseason pessimism from the Eeyores around here proved to be accurate, the Zito contract might have been the worst contract in baseball history. Having him suck right out of the chute? It's time to panic like somebody said the secret word. If Vlad Guerrero's back didn't force him to retire last year, I'd be really upset about the misallocation of funds.

So go back and revisit the Zito Worry-O-Meter here, and update your level of panic. I was at a "5"; now I'm at an "8". There's a long way to go in this contract, but the only way I could see things improving would be for Zito to magically develop pinpoint command. If Randy Johnson could do it in his late-20s, it isn't impossible. It's just not bloody likely.