The Forgotten Ace: Barry Zito

Zach AmburgeyCorrespondent IMay 18, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 16:  Barry Zito #75 of the San Francisco Giants makes his way to the pitchers mound before the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on April 16, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

A lot has came at Barry Zito since his glory days back in Oakland. A blockbuster $126 million contract with the San Francisco Giants, the high hopes of being the ace for a team wanting to return to greatness, and being a role model for young athletes in America.

How about what has came at him on the field. Since winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2002 with a 23-5 record, 182 strikeouts, and a 2.75 ERA, Zito has found himself in the dumps.

Since that outstanding year, the former Athletics ace has compiled a 78-76 record, 882 strikeouts, and an ERA above 4.0. His numbers are not near what Zito fans, A's, and Giants fans want out of the former Cy Young winner.

Sure, you can argue his run support hasn't been great, or that hitters have caught on to that amazing 12-6 curve ball, but what really has been the problem for Zito?

His career began with the Oakland A's organization in 1999. He was drafted in the two prior MLB drafts by the Mariners and Rangers, but didn't sign with either club. Instead he waited it out, attended USC, and came out as the ninth overall pick in '99.

Not a bad choice by Zito. He managed to spend only one and a half years in the minors, posting a 13-6 record over that span.

His major league debut came in 2000, against the Angels. Zito pitched five innings allowing just one run and picking up the win. His career took off in 2001. He posted a solid 17-8 record, with 205 strikeouts, and an 3.49 era.

He became the ace for the Oakland A's, who were at the time stacked with pitchers. The following season, his Cy Young year and his best to date, would ultimately shape the fate he now has to face today.

In 2002 Zito set the American League, and the MLB on fire with his 23 wins and 180 strikeouts. He beat another former ace, Pedro Martinez, out for the Cy. How fitting—two guys who were once on top of the baseball world, now sitting at the very bottom.

After his Cy Young season Zito followed it up with a 14-12 record in 2003, something A's fans didn't expect from their ace. Then again he had troubles in 2004, going 13-11 with an era over 4.0. His struggles continued in 2005, still posting an above average record at 14-13. The A's front office was getting impatient with their once super stud.

It was rumored that Zito would be shipped out of Oakland in 2004 and 2005. Many clubs were interested in the young lefty, but they said his price tag was just to high. Zito stuck it out in Oakland for one more season in 2006.

He finally broke free from his above average records, going 16-10. Even though it wasn't amazing, it was a big improvement from his previous three seasons.

Obviously his price tag wasn't too high, in the winter of 2006 Zito signed a seven year deal with the Giants, for $126 million. At the time it was the most expensive signing of a pitcher in MLB history. It made many A's fans happy to see Zito go, some Giants fans excited, and others very upset.

Many Giants fans wondered why they would go get a guy like Zito, an unproven winner since 2002, and sign him for that much. Especially when they could have gotten two very solid pitchers, and a solid bat for the same price as Zito.

His first season in San Fran is something Zito would probably like to forget about, and never wish had happened. He posted an 11-13 record, and only struck out 131 batters. With the kind of money the Giants dished out for Zito, his ideal numbers in 2007 should have been at least an 19-9 record, over 175 strikeouts, and an era below 3.50.

Zito followed '07 up with an even worse 08'. His numbers took a slide, posting a 10-17 record with just 120 strikeouts. Giants fans grew more and more impatient at the struggling All Star, and Cy Young winner.

Now it's 2009, and Zito isn't completely struggling, even if it's early in the season. Right now he sits at 1-3, with 3.89 era, and 29 strikeouts. The Giants are hoping Zito can turn things back around from his first couple of years in San Francisco.

Zito is a favorite baseball player of mine, and he always will be. I love his throwing motion, his amazing curve ball, and his flashy and somewhat weird style. He is a guy that you could say, is pretty weird.

He collects stuffed animals, he dyes his hair wild colors, and he says some off the wall stuff. I believe Zito will get things turned around in '09, hopefully his record can be around 16-10, or 18-8, and he can help the Giants try and get back to the old ways of San Fran baseball.

Giants fans, just don't give up on him. He can win, he has shown that before. Just let him do his own thing, which we all know he will, and things will work out.