A Pitcher’s Redemption

By Lloyd Graff

Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants is 6-1 this season, his fourth since signing a $126 million free-agent contract.

Zito won the American League Cy Young award in 2002 when he pitched for the Oakland A’s. I’ve always been intrigued by guys who have it, lose it, and then find it again, years later. When confidence evaporates it is so hard to recover the belief.

For professional athletes who get the monster money like Zito we often see a dropoff in the performance the year after the contract is signed. I remember an interesting piece in Esquire magazine discussing Zito and his agent, the master negotiator, Scott Borris, and the pitcher’s misgivings about the money.

Zito is the son of a musician in Las Vegas. He never had a huge arm, but he had a dynamic curve and superb command. Billy Bean, the A’s general manager, could have traded him as his time with Oakland was ending, but he kept Zito until his contract expired. His velocity had already begun to slip and batters were starting to hit the overhand curve, but the Giants still offered him the enormous deal.

In the Esquire article, Scott Boras talked about how he often had to convince his clients they were worth the big money. My guess is that Zito, a bright and inquiring guy, knew in his heart he was going to disappoint the Giants in 2007.

Now, after three lousy seasons, almost half way through the contract, Zito is pitching superbly. He doesn’t have to be the ace because San Francisco has the amazing Tim Lincecum, who has won two consecutive Cy Youngs. He has changed his arm angle from straight over the top to three quarters, his velocity has jumped and his curve is sharper breaking. He’s pitching as well as the Barry Zito of 2002. He is showing all of us the power of pitching redemption.
Quesiton: Do you attribute success in business to cyclicality or skill?

Barry Zito (Photo from InsideSoCal)

Barry Zito (Photo from InsideSoCal)

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5 thoughts on “A Pitcher’s Redemption

  1. Bill Hopcraft

    Picking the factors that make a business successful is not an ‘either or’ proposition. Skill, dedication, and good old hard work are certainly key but, as much as we hate to admit it, Lady Luck certainly has her hand in play. As to cycles, some will argue that forecasting and planning for them is where skill comes in. I’m not convinced of the forecasting part, but certainly success follows those who can change course quickly and adapt to new circumstances.

  2. Pat Rutledge

    Of course there is some cyclicality to it all – the monthly, quarterly and yearly taxes, budgets, etc. do factor into things. Saying that there is are cycles beyond that – periods of growth and recession that go beyond the normal – rings true as well but the forecasting of those cycles can be much more complex and preparing based upon inaccurate forecasting can be as bad or worse as not preparing at all. I wholeheartedly agree with Bill, if you can’t find a way to adapt to now or soon you may find yourself lost when push comes to shove.

  3. Noah Graff

    I think it not only comes down to predicting the cycles as Bill said, I think it’s also a skill of recognizing when you are in a period of opportunity. Some people are better than others at taking advantage of the favorable period in the cycle.

  4. Lloyd

    For a used machinery dealer cyclicality is pivotal to the business model. There are two basic strategies. You can buy on the dips and wait for the upswing or wait for the swings and buy and sell on the momentum. The sit and wait approach can be very successful. Guys who bought oii drilling equipment in the 1980s and held it made fortunes, Some people think buying multi spindle automatic for scrap price today is a bet on the cyclicality of American automotive. A lot of syndicates are buying up fpreclosed homes and condos in Florida Nevada and Arizona for cash expecting to cash out in 3 to 5 years after refinancing them for more than they paid. It could be a real good gig.




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