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Dodging a Big Financial Bullet

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You’ve got to feel for those folks in the Halloween costumes across the Bay. Not because the scorn of baseball will soon be upon Bonds and his quest to be the all-time home run king*, but because they paid a ridiculous amount of money for a pitcher who is 6-8 right now and is still tossing out the same line he always did when he was in the East Bay.

"You can't try harder or feel like you have to be double yourself, or twice as good," Zito said. "Any of these things will lead you to get tight and try to be perfect in everything that you do.

"When you're on a roll, things are coming easily and you're relaxed, and you're just confident. I think that's the key for us -- to trust our ability and go out there, and for myself, too, and know that things will turn."

That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? He’s just got to trust his stuff. He was being too fine. Listen, I loved Barry Zito, but can I just say that I don’t think I’ve ever been so thankful that the A’s didn’t even pretend to negotiate with a player than when it comes to the case of Barry Zito. Most A’s fans saw this coming. If Brian Sabean had spent one minute around the blogosphere with the “lunatic fringe”, he would’ve had a sense that most felt that Zito was going to be grossly overpaid for years to come. I think many, myself included, thought that the overpaid part wouldn’t start showing up until 2009 or so.

Instead, Zito’s ERA sits at 4.83 in the National League. Even worse, his K/BB ratio and his K/9 have gotten worse the past three plus seasons. For a lefty who relies on his breaking stuff to fool people, he’s gotten to a point where he isn’t missing bats very much at all any more. Not surprisingly, hitters are now forcing him to throw more pitches than most other starters in baseball. He’s in the top 15 in all of baseball in terms of pitches taken per batter per plate appearance.

I don’t expect Zito to continue to be this bad. Ray Fosse claimed that the weight of Zito’s contract and the expectation for him to be statistically brilliant were probably the cause. And with Zito, that very well may be the case. We know how the mental part of Zito’s game dominates his level of success. I anticipate that he will bounce back and be a high quality starter for at least another couple of years. Maybe that's just me having a soft spot for Zito in my heart. At the same time, I logically still think he’s going to wind up being a huge sinkhole of money.

Ultimately, I can’t help but be thankful to the Beane above every time I see another four IP, five or six ER outing in the box score for Zito. And even more than that, part of me wonders if the A’s would’ve been entertaining re-signing Zito had the plans for a new stadium moved along a lot faster than they did. Will the A’s make a big mistake like committing ridiculous sums of money to a pitcher like Zito down the road because they move to Fremont and will have the funds? I don’t think so. Beane and company may want to lock up guys longer term, but I have faith that they will lock up the right players long term. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but I don’t think so. I’m just glad that Giants fans’ money is the only green on Zito these days.