When Barry Zito hit the free agent market in 2006, Scott Boras sold him as an extremely durable pitcher that you could always depend on every fifth day. Never mind the decreased velocity in his fastball or the signs that his command of his pitches was starting to deteriorate, teams needed a guy that could eat up innings and help anchor their rotation. During a time when exorbitant contracts were only spent on every day players, selling Barry Zito would only work if the right situation was presented. Boras needed any angle he could get for teams to bite on a huge price tag. He pointed out Zito's good guy image and laid-back personality. He even made teams believe that there were numerous suitors for Zito's services. And it all worked. The San Francisco Giants needed a new player to represent their team. They needed a nice guy to help nullify the many years of damage Barry Bonds did to the image and give a break to the organization's beaten up public relations department. It was a perfect fit. Plus it didn't hurt that Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano spurned the Giant's advances towards the coveted outfielders.
So in surfs Barry Zito riding a big wave of green dollar bills(126 million to be exact) to save the day and help turn this mediocre franchise around. But, as we all know, the marriage has been rocky from the start. Yes, Zito did what Boras promised. Number 75 played every fifth day and he flashed that big money smile at every charity and media event. But, it was those starts every fifth day that were the root of the problem. His fastball's velocity was the least of his worries. No longer did we see a 90 MPH heater from the lefty, instead we were introduced to a fastball that hit 84-87 on the radar gun. Was it mechanics? At least, the Giants could depend on the beautiful 12-6 curveball that the league clamored about..right? Nope, that wasn't enough. Without a respectable fastball, Zito's offspeed arsenal became predictable and erratic. Giant's fans were growing impatient and whispers were heard throughout the organization's top brass. What were they supposed to do with their supposed "new face" of the franchise? The coaching staff couldn't possibly keep shuffling Zito out there to battle each other team's aces. Luckily a skinny long-haired kid out of the University of Washington stepped in to solve that problem, but that's another discussion. That allowed the Giants to save face by keeping Zito as a starter.
Time travel to 2011 and we are introduced to an different kind of Barry Zito. Not the durable one you can count on, but the "my foot has an oww-ee" Barry Zito. On April 16th, the lefty injured his foot in the second inning against the Diamondbacks and it was the best thing that could have happened to his career...or was it? A phone call to Fresno that night might have changed his career forever. The Giants needed a filler, someone to eat up innings until Zito was healthy enough to come back. Enter Ryan Vogelsong, a 33 year old pitcher that performed well enough to be asked to play for the Triple A squad. The Giants hoped Vogelsong could hang around a bit and contribute a quality start of two, but they were in for a pleasant surprise. Ryan didn't just eat up innings and give them quality starts, he dominated whomever he faced. He showed poise and command. He mixed up speeds with his pitches and carved up strike zones. And, guess what, he could swing a bat also. So far this season he has a record of 4-1 with a 1.68 ERA. And all of a sudden, the Giants have tried to slip Zito under the carpet. They tell him to take his time with recovery and work on every aspect of his game. But, you can't hide 126 million dollars under a carpet. With every stellar Vogelsong start, the questions from the media become more frequent and demanding causing Bruce Bochy to dodge and duck every Zito question with the skill of a championship dodgeball player. The game is over now. Zito is healthy and rehabbing in San Jose. And the question has been answered. In a recent interview Bochy stated that "Vogelsong isn't going anywhere". Can you imagine the outcry from the fan base if Vogelsong was demoted to the bullpen or sent back to Fresno? Vogelsong has exceeded the organization's expectations and grabbed the attention of the rest of the league. In a couple of starts, his stats will qualify to be included with the league leaders and his 1.68 ERA will sit near the top of the rest of the league.
Where does this leave ol' reliable number 75? The only option is the bullpen. And a new question will be asked. Which Barry Zito will we see? The "it's ok I understand and I will do whatever is asked of me to help the team" Barry Zito or the "I don't deserve this, I wasn't even on the playoff roster" Barry Zito. That story will end in a few weeks, but the Ryan Vogelsong story has just started. If Ryan continues to perform at this caliber, it would be a travesty to exclude him from the NL All-Star pitching staff. I guess that's another question for Bruce Bochy..