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Zito is Zee Man!

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Unless the Athletics are completely clueless in marketing and sales, and they aren’t, Barry Zito will open the season as a starter.

Presenting the newest A's starting pitcher.
Presenting the newest A's starting pitcher.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

For one bright shining moment, imagine the pandemonium when Barry Zito starts his first game at the Oakland Coliseum. After nine years of wandering in the orange-and-black wilderness, Barry will be in an Athletics uniform once again.

Ball one! Ball two! Yeah, baby, Z is back!

If the right-field maniacs get worked up over Stephen Vogt, what will they do for the Z Man? Start him on Thursday night, April 9 (Throwback Thursday!) against the Rangers in the Coliseum. Zito and the A’s home crowd against, what, the Rangers’ 4th starter? C’mon, the Rangers don’t even have four starters. Zito wins by forfeit! I’ll take it! Whoo hoo!

Barry is Box Office, and that’s why Zito will be a starting pitcher for the A’s in 2015.

You may have heard, Barry Zito has history with the A’s. He was a Big Triplet. He won the Cy Young award pitching in the Coliseum in 2002 (23-5, 2.75 ERA). The year before he was probably the best pitcher on the best team in baseball. (Yeah, yeah, I know.) In the Jeremy Giambi game, Game Three of the playoffs against the Yankees, Zito pitched eight innings and gave up one run. The A’s lost, 1-0, and the series went back to New York. Gulp.

Zito outpitched Johan Santana in the 2006 playoff series against the Twins, the only first-round series win of the Beane era. Of course, the Tigers lit him up in the next round, but the Athletics can’t have everything, or anything when it comes to the playoffs. The Tigers were the best team in baseball that year. I’ll never understand how they lost the World Series in five games to the 83-78 Cardinals, never.

Remember, too, Zito was the Big Triplet the A’s kept. Hudson and Mulder were traded, not Zito.

He made history by leaving the A’s when he signed a contract with the Giants for 127 BILLION DOLLARS! (Wait, I may have misplaced a decimal point.) At the time, it was the largest contract for a pitcher in major league history. Why would any team offer such a ridiculous contract, especially when the other bidders had apparently dropped out at much lower terms? No one can convince me Brian Sabean did not want to stick it to Beane by signing Zito.

Sabey Sabes this, Billy!

Things did not go well for Barry with Giants, as we all know. His performance was sporadic at best. He was left off the Giants’ post-season roster in 2010. He accepted his demotion with unseemly grace. He’s that kind of guy. But, wow, that must have stung. The SF Giants won their first World Series and Zito didn’t get to suit up. Not even a guitar and a boatload of money can soothe that humiliation.

But he came back. Simply put, the Giants would not have won the 2012 World Series without Zito’s amazing performances the last three months of that season.

Zito has always frustrated people when he spaces out on the mound. Yet everybody likes him—GM’s, A’s fans, even people who appear in public wearing panda or giraffe hats. Just give us something, Barry, and we will love you! Zito gave the Giants one season’s worth of performance for 127 BILLION DOLLARS (Did I mention this?) and he still received a standing ovation in his final game at Phone Booth Park.

That, folks, is Show Biz charisma. And the A’s have it for a measly million bucks. If they release Zito without cashing in, they are idiots. (Incidentally, I have met the Athletics sales and marketing people; they aren’t idiots.) After the debacle of last season, the A's need to sell tickets. For that, Zito is zee man!

Barry could pay for his contract in one night! What’s the normal Thursday night April attendance against a crappy team? Ten thousand, maybe. Figuring $50 average paid per attendee (admission, concessions, parking, Zito jerseys, etc.) the A’s would need only 20,000 extra fans on April 9 to pay for Zito’s contract. Do you think a Zito start could draw 30,000 people to the Coliseum? In a walk.

Assume the worst scenario: the Z Man gets rocked in his first start. His comeback turns out to be a mirage. Beane has to cut Zito and bring up one of the kids. So what? His contract is covered!

There are other reasons to keep Zito as a starter. Suppose his comeback is not a mirage. Stranger things have happened. Scott Kazmir’s return worked out. Zito’s curveball is still an astonishing thing to behold. If he can command the fastball with a little more zip, why the hell not? I can see Zito bobblehead mania. I can see Zito and Kazmir acting as twin comeback Yodas for the rest of the pitchers. I can see some really funny TV commercials.

Cutting Zito at this point is a pointless risk. Zito will sign quickly with another team. Which one? I’m pretty sure California Barry won’t sign with an East Coast or Midwest team and pitch through the sweaty dog days of July and August. So that leaves four other California teams. Hmm. Is there an affluent Southern California team desperate for pitching?

I figure Zito would sign with Angels in about three seconds. Oh, no! Zito pitching for a division enemy against the A's! What mayhem could the baseball gods create for our Misfits in that situation? I dare not contemplate the possibilities. (I did that last week.)

If I know this, Beane certainly knows. Remember, Beane often trades as a defensive counter strategy. He made the trades last year for Lester and Samardzija to gain their talent but also to keep them away from the competition. Why would Beane just hand Zito to the Angels without giving him a trial at least?

And one more reason, a personal one since I tend to hold a grudge. If Zito works out, it will be a delicious, though tiny, slice of retribution for the Giants’ making off with the World Series title that should have been the Athletics’ last year.

Sabey Sabes this!