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?