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Dancing with the Stars

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Coming soon to an ABC affiliate near you...Barry Zito dancing the samba while Billy Beane tries to counter with a tango.

Pitchers and catchers have reported and things are back to normal in A's-land. Last year, A's fans were finally spared the incessant speculation about a pending free agent. In years past, it was Giambi, Tejada and Foulke who all made gestures like they wanted to stay.

The A's played the game with most, except Tejada in which Steve Schott shut down Miggy's advances before they ever really started.

And now, after that one-year respite, the dance begins all over again. This time with Barry Zito. Zito is entering the last year of his contract and he's singing the same tune..."I want to stay in Oakland, etc."

A's assistant GM David Forst chimes in as well in this AP piece.

Zito and assistant general manager David Forst both said the team's new ownership group, headed by developer and real estate magnate Lew Wolff, might make for a new contract climate. In 2003, the A's gave up early in negotiations with shortstop Miguel Tejada, who ended up in Baltimore.

"I don't foresee that happening," Forst said. "Lew and his ownership group have proven things are a little bit different now."

But don't get your hopes up. Even if Zito was to offer the A's a hometown discount, he could easily command $14 million a season especially when you consider Kevin Millwood's $12 million a year deal.

The real question here is, do we even want Zito to stay around at that price? And remember, Zito is my favorite pitcher. But I also don't want to lose the big picture at the cost of one individual. Wolff and company may be raising the ceiling for payroll, but how much? Unless they get their new stadium nailed down, it can't be by too much.

So do the A's want to commit that much payroll to one starting pitcher over four, five or six years? I wouldn't think so just because it would limit the team's ability to fill other holes. Then again, Zito is the only major free agent the A's will have over the next three seasons. And with Daric Barton likely taking over the DH spot from Frank Thomas next year (or if Thomas has injury issues, possibly even later this year).

Forst also drops hints that the A's realize that Zito just might be too pricey as well in an article with Mychael Urban.

The A's ownership group, led by Lew Wolff and closing in on its one-year anniversary, provides a little hope for both sides of the bargaining table. Oakland raised its payroll by about $10 million with the offseason acquisitions of Esteban Loaiza, Milton Bradley and Frank Thomas.

"Compared to the old owners, Lew's unpredictable," Zito noted. "And that's a good thing."

Forst agreed, but he also echoed GM Billy Beane's recent comments on the topic.

"I think Lew and the ownership group have proven to be a little different," he said. "But ultimately, Barry's going to command a lot of money."

Ah, the dance continues. And for A's fans, it's must see TV.