Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Barry Zito Minus The A's by the 'Ol Professor

For the old Professor, the winter represents heartache and inconvenience. Not only does the early darkness shave my fluffy cat, Rollie, and husky puppy, Campy’s, curfew, but another A’s player packs up his bags, and indulges himself with a major league powerhouse. Indeed, except for Chavvy, the A’s have earned the reputation as a stepping stone for players, a spot to revive your career, increase your value, and run for the riches. The Professor recalls Jason Isringhausen, and Keith Foulke moping into the A’s clubhouse with concerns hovering over their arms, only to transform their statistics and desert Tina from Guest Services’ Oakland Athletics.

Click for more from the ol’ professor! And now winter has rolled around again, and I’m bracing myself for another departure: Barry Zito.

But we’ve been through this emotional departure before, A’s fans. After the 2001 season, Jason Giambi assured the professor he wanted to stay in Oakland, but alas, he strolled into a New York Yankee’s press conference and claimed he "always wanted to be a Yankee."

That heartache had the professor running to Detroit skipper Jim Leyland for a stuffed pack of Malboro reds. So after I revived myself in rehabilitation, I can survive another winter and another A’s player sprinting for another team.

Since 1997, the emotional stability for A’s fans is Mr. Moneyball, Billy Beane. Give him credit. He had a lucrative opportunity to run the iconic Boston Red Sox a few years ago, but he took the professor’s advice, and DID NOT DO what many of his former players DID: Chase the Steinbrenners.

Now back to Barry Zito, who hasn’t been his usual Cy-Young-self since 2002, but represented the A’s resurgence into the playoffs. The A’s hadn’t reached the playoffs in eight years, but Zito strolled on the mound in 2000, facing the Angels with the bases juiced, and fanned the side. Rally dead.

Professor’s fluffy cat, Rollie, remembers Zito’s curveball was an oddity. Watching left-handed sluggers like Rafael Palmeiro, Jim Thome, and David Justice buckle from Zito’s electric curveball was impressive. Headed for the helmet, the ball changed its mind, and sailed over the plate, as if Zito had a remote control device tucked inside his glove.

Over the years, though, batters caught up with the curve, and he couldn’t consistently locate the pitch, but Zito dominated some important games. Because of his struggles with the curve ball, his change-up became one of his most effective pitches, but he lacked control.

Even visiting sportswriters began noticing Zito’s decline.

During the season, Professor read an article by Phil Rogers, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, exposing Zito’s struggles.

Rogers writes:

"The Sox failed to win Saturday when Barry Zito matched a career high with seven walks. None who reached on walks scored, and Zito somehow won his 16th game by allowing four runs in seven innings. Buyers beware when this guy hits the free-agent market. Scouts say he looks more like a middle-of-the-rotation starter than an ace, but he’s durable, which will allow agent Scott Boras to do his happy dance. If he faces the Yankees in the playoffs, it will be ugly."

Still, Zito gave A’s fans some great memories over the years. When the A’s clinched the American League West in 2000, I remember Zito, Hudson, and Mulder taking part in an awful dance during the clubhouse celebration. It was fun, though.

This year, when the experts didn’t give Zito a chance to compete with Johan Santana in the division series, he stepped up and kept the A’s in the game, perhaps the turning point in the series.

Zito did a tremendous amount of charity work in the community, especially with his appreciation for the troops in Iraq. When former A’s pitcher Cory Lidle was killed in a plane crash during the ALCS, Zito spoke out, and raved about Lidle’s family achievements. Zito attended Lidle’s memorial service.

Perhaps more than us, Zito has even greater memories of his stay in Oakland. In a perfect world, Zito would remain an Oakland Athletic, however, he’s headed for a new team, and new city, and new chapter in his life. And with more money, there will be greater expectations from ownership and fans. Ask Jason Giambi.

For A’s pupils, it’s not going to be the same without Barry, but for him, it’s not going to be the same without Oakland.

Feel free to share some Zito memories, pupils, at professoroakland at yahoo dot com, and I’ll post them on my blog,

Until next time, I remain.

Professor Oakland


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