Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Riddle of Z

Not sure what was more memorable about my trip to AT&T Park yesterday: being part of the smallest paid crowd in the ballpark's history (26,593), enjoying my first Cha-Cha Bowl of the young season, or watching Barry Zito deal like we haven't seen him deal in a Giants uniform.

Zito went 7 shutout innings, throwing 92 pitches (66 for strikes), walked no one, and simply had the Padres off-balance all the way. His breaking ball had bite and he had command of it. His fastball was in the upper-80's range and he kept it away from the center of the plate.

So the Zito-Meter jumped sharply upward. My esteemed colleague Steve Bitker is baffled by how quickly everyone seems to want to proclaim a Zito turnaround at the first sign of success. A scoreless first? "Zito's back!"

I think it's because people genuinely want to like this guy. He's not like most ballplayers; his heart always appears to be right out there where you can see it. This year, his Twitter posts are garnering attention (and furthering the perception that he's, well, wired a bit differently).


(after that Padres outing): "F__k yeah baby! Let's take this show on the road."
(after a rocky performance in LA): "Not happy about Dodger game. take a day, reset and kill em Wed..."
(from somewhere on the road): "Happiness is a worthiness issue, sometimes we'll ask ourselves whether it's okay to be "this happy", then comes the sabotage.."

What? A jock talking like that?

I'll argue it's part of the Zito charm. He's a little like the Grateful Dead: talented and maybe a bit flawed. Not unlike a Dead show, a Zito start is a bit of an unknown quantity: you never know exactly what you're going to see. Sometimes it's magical; sometimes it's a bit of a disaster.

And it's all there on Twitter to see.

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