Barry Zito still has something to contribute to San Francisco Giants 

Honorable Giants fans, after reading professor emeritus Glenn Dickey’s scathing indictment of Barry Zito in Tuesday’s San Francisco Examiner, I offer a rebuttal to my esteemed colleague who has mightily tipped the scales of justice against baseball’s highest-paid, under-achieving pitcher.

There is no denying Zito’s dramatic decline since coming to San Francisco. His National League record (43-61) and 4.50 ERA are a far cry from his glory days with the A’s where a 102-63 mark and 3.55 ERA made Zito one of the AL’s best.

But dare I remind the orange and black’s passionate court of public opinion of another embattled Giants veteran who turned the jeers to cheers with an unexpected resurgence just last year?

Following an injury-plagued season which saw Edgar Renteria register career lows in hits, home runs, RBIs and games played, followed by just one hit in four National League Championship Series games, the 34-year-old shortstop was buried by virtually everyone.

However, Bruce Bochy kept the faith and was rewarded beyond his wildest dreams when Renteria won World Series MVP honors after breaking a scoreless tie with a home run in Game 2 and a three-run homer in the clinching fifth game. Renteria joined Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra as the only players in history to have two game-winning hits in the same Fall Classic.

This is not to suggest Zito is poised to make an equally miraculous comeback. However, after returning from his first-ever stint on the disabled list in June, Zito pitched his best ball as a Giant, winning three straight starts while giving up just three earned runs in 21 innings.

Of course, after finally silencing the critics, Zito lost his next three outings while getting rocked for 19 runs in 15²?³ innings.
On Sunday, Zito fouled a ball off the same right foot he sprained in April that kept him out of action for more than two months. Perhaps the injury and long layoff contributed to his decline in velocity and terrible tendency to leave “hit-me” curve balls up in the strike zone.

Obviously, with Jonathan Sanchez returning from the disabled list Friday, the 33-year-old southpaw wouldn’t have remained in the rotation anyway. However, should anything happen to the Giants’ other four aces, a healthy Zito is still a better fifth starter than most.

Of course that wasn’t what the Giants had in mind when they signed him to a seven-year, $126 million contract in 2007. But rather than unceremoniously dump a respected former Cy Young winner who has handled the rough times with remarkable poise, keep him around just in case.

Baseball’s $18 million-a-year insurance policy won’t cost you, the jury, a dime.  

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at

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