Well, that didn’t take real long did it? One bullpen session into his career as a Giant and Barry Zito has created a tsunami of controversy. Not even the other Barry was that efficient.
In case you haven’t heard, Zito struck fear into the Giants on Thursday, when he unveiled a new, overhauled delivery while working off the mound at Scottsdale Stadium. Apparently, he stands less upright, rocks far back on his back leg when the delivery starts and is measuring his stride. The Giants are understandably concerned considering they gave Zito the richest contract ever for a pitcher (7 years, $126 million), something they would not have done had they deemed his pitching mechanics in major need of fixing.
Thing is, this is what the Giants signed up for, when they brought Zito aboard. The general knock on Zito when scouts and executives whisper behind the scenes is that he’s often his own worst enemy, which loosely translated, means he’s inside his head too much. Baseball players, current and former, will tell you that success in this failure-ridden game has as much to do with eliminating any and all negative or distracting thoughts, a skill with which that other Barry has mastered as much as anyone.
Zito, however, is a studious, thoughtful individual, who cares so passionately about his craft that he spends considerable time analyzing what he does and how he can do it better. Those around the A’s were used to this part of him, so no doubt this would be causing a much smaller stir were he still working out in Phoenix rather than Scottsdale. Surround Zito with guys who aren’t familiar with him, however, and it’s easy to understand why this is causing alarm. That said, the Giants should chill for the time being. Spring training is a time to work and experiment, and Zito has not been nearly as devastating in the four years since he won the Cy Young Award as he was in the three seasons that preceded it. If this works for him, great. If it doesn’t, well, he wasn’t too shabby with his old motion in Oakland, and as he said, that’s ingrained in him and he can always return to it.
One other observation. Heard Zito interviewed on KNBR this morning, and tell me he doesn’t sound irritated that this has become such a big story (he sounded particularly annoyed with the comments made by Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti). Wonder if he’s thought at all about how this story would be going over in New York had he decided to go that route.