A common question from baseball fans who don't follow the Giants: "Oh, man. I bet Zito gets the holy heck booed out of him in San Francisco, right?" I've been asked that several times, and the answer is always, "Uh, not really." After two years, $30M+ thrown into the cove, and 65 mostly unwatchable starts for the Giants, a lot of us are still holding out a little hope.
We could boo him until his eyebrows fell off, but that wouldn't change that a) Zito's still going to be here for the next 4,052 seasons, and b) any scenario in which he improves probably doesn't involve continuous boo showers. So we wait patiently, throw him an occasional boo after his especially wretched starts, and cheer for his 112-pitch, 3 ER, 6 IP, 3 BB, 2 K games as if he were a legless man placing 17th in a high jump competition. Good show, dear sir! We're really proud of those six innings and all you had to overcome to get the quality start! How inspiring!
No one is holding out hope for Zito to resume his Cy Young ways. No one. I'd put money on Mike McBryde winning a Cy Young before Zito wins another. And no one is really hoping for Zito to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, either. I think a lot of folks would be satisfied with this:
Ignore the ugly 1999, as no one obviously wants a repeat of that, but I'm hoping for Barry Zito to become Mark Gardner. It's not a perfect comp -- Gardner could throw strikes when he wanted to, for one -- but I'm hoping Zito can pitch close to 200 innings of league average ball, alternate hittable with masterful, and stick around for a few years at the back end of the rotation. It's a realistic hope. It also requires heavy drinking to forget about the shiny free agents we could get if we didn't have some pseudo-Gardy making scores of millions.
I listened to the game on the radio yesterday. When I came home from work, I wanted to watch a recording of the television broadcast. I wanted to relive a Barry Zito start. I'm optimistic that he can reach the optimistic predictions that would have seemed pessimistic back when I was reluctantly optimistic in that crazy, post-spending spree kind of way.
Comment starter: Is your definition of Zito optimism as pessimistically optimistic as mine?