Let's be honest about the whole Barry Zito situation: it is about the money.
It is, of course, shocking and puzzling to watch a healthy young athlete struggle so mightily. But what dominates this story is that number. You know the one. 126,000,000.
Don't believe me? I just Googled the phrase "$126 million" and 352 news items popped up.
Few doubt that at least some of Zito's problems can be traced to The Contract. How can he not think about it when it's all anyone else can see?
The Giants think the answer is to send Zito to the bullpen, hoping he'll regain his magic. Here's my suggestion: Barry, offer to give the money back.
Not all of it. Let's say half. That'll make you the $63 Million Man, and half of the juicy storyline will evaporate. You'll just be another struggling pitcher. The fans will find something else to boo. The writers will move on. And you'll still be wealthy beyond belief.
There's historical precedent. Angels outfielder Lyman Bostock, in an April slump just after signing a then-startling free agent deal, went to owner Gene Autry and offered to forfeit his entire month's paycheck. Autry declined the offer, and Bostock wound up donating the money to charity.
Let me be clear: I'm not saying Barry Zito doesn't deserve the money. He deserves every penny of it. The Giants agreed to pay him and he agreed to show up every day and give his best effort. That's the deal, and Barry Zito has kept his end of it. Has his pitching been awful? Sure, but the deal didn't say "we'll pay you $126 million if you go 23-5 each year".
No, I'm making this suggestion on Zito's behalf. Take away the storyline, and the pressure drops. Not only that, Zito would look like a hero. Right now, that would be nice.