|Antonio Banderas||Barry Zito|
Kawakami: This Barry Zito theater of the absurd must go on
Mercury News Columnist
Article Launched: 05/08/2008 01:46:01 AM PDT
Thank goodness the Barry Zito Reality Show was back on the air Wednesday. Order up 13 more crazy episodes, please!
He never fails to entertain: After a nine-day hiatus that only heightened the intrigue, Zito pitched plenty well enough to maintain his spot in the rotation and suggest potentially brighter days.
He never fails to fail: Zito was back starting for the Giants and back to losing again, this time by a 3-1 score in Pittsburgh to drop his record to 0-7.
So thank goodness, Zito will pitch again Monday, with 0-8 looming large, and we'll be watching. Zito's an event now. He's a happening above and beyond the Giants' daily skirmishing.
He's a wide-eyed, slurp-throwing, head-scratching piece of Pitching Mound Theater.
You don't tune in to a Zito start to see if he'll win, because that never happens anymore, not on this reality show.
You tune in to see how he loses, how the Giants absorb and explain the losing, how heavily his $126 million contract weighs on everybody (only about $110 million left to burn off!), and how much deeper he plunges into the chasm.
You tune in because you're addicted to the outlandish performances and squirmy results. You can't help yourself. And you have to play the parlor game: What does this game mean for the future of No. 75?
Did the time off clear his mind for Wednesday's start? Possibly. His curveball and change-up looked much better, enough for him to rack up a season-high five strikeouts in five innings. (Two strikeouts were umpire gifts, but oh well.)
Wednesday, the Giants couldn't have set this up any more carefully, which is what shaky franchises do when handling multi-millionaires who lose their first six starts after flopping the previous season.
Zito last started and lost on April 27. He never entered a game during his "bullpen time."
And then he was plopped back into the rotation on the road (to prevent home heckling), against the mediocre Pirates (to avoid unnecessary battering) and just in time to make sure he misses the powerful Philadelphia Phillies this weekend at AT&T Park.
Zito gave up a two-run home run in the fourth to Xavier Nady right after Jason Bay had singled. But otherwise, Zito wasn't horrible. Trailing 2-0 in the sixth, he was lifted for a pinch hitter, having thrown 99 pitches.
Maybe he gets confidence out of this. For a little while.
But what happens when Zito has to go back to the regular four days' rest? Good question. Wednesday's outing lowered his ERA to 6.95 and, with his 85 mph fastball, I think it might stay around there for a while.
Five innings, five hits, two runs, five strikeouts, with two innings ended on line-shot double plays . . . Is that the new top end for the Giants' opening-day starter? On TV, Mike Krukow insisted that this was a big positive sign and Zito's best start of the season. Krukow was right and yet . . . yeesh.
And here's the true jackpot question: With the Giants' current state of offense - they've scored a total of nine runs in Zito's seven starts - will Zito ever win another game?
Hard to see how that happens. Well, the Giants wanted a Face of the Franchise when they signed Zito in the final days of 2006, and now he's perfect: His expressions are the pained, flustered symbol for the entire ballclub.
He's not good enough by himself, everybody else isn't good enough to save him, and there's no fix in sight.
A scary note for Giants fans: After flailing against some Pirates pitcher named Phil Doumatrait, the Giants have been outscored 42-9 in Zito Games.
A scarier note: Right now, Giants fans, regardless of salary, would you trade Zito straight up for Doumatrait, whoever he is? Yes, I think you would.
An even scarier note: Even if the Giants wanted to kick Zito out of the rotation for a long spell, with Noah Lowry and Kevin Correia out indefinitely, they don't have anybody else qualified to take Zito's spot.
Scariest note: The Giants' next-best starting candidate might be Brad Hennessey, who was just shipped to the minors after piling up a 12.94 ERA in 11 relief appearances.
So! It's Zito. It has to be Zito. The Giants have to defend him, insulate him, coddle him, motivate him . . . and accept that Zito is their curse and their reality show.
They're not escaping him now, thank goodness.
Well, at least he entertains someone else in the same way he entertains me so I can feel less guilty. I mean, I'd like him to do well, but I like to laugh at him too. :(