Leading Off: Zito enjoyed brief success with Giants

11/04/2013 12:00 AM

11/05/2013 8:47 AM

As much as he tried and as hard as he worked, Barry Zito never lived up to expectations in his seven-year stay in San Francisco, which ended Saturday when the Giants declined to pick up the option year of a contract they must regret ever giving him.

Signing a staggering seven-year, $126 million contract in 2007 after his third All-Star season with the A's, Zito faced expectations that were just as big.

But it was obvious from the start that the Giants overpaid for the former Cy Young Award winner who left his nasty curveball in Oakland and had no other pitches – certainly no fastball – to fall back on.

Zito's 11-13 record in 2007 was his first losing season in the big leagues and his 4.53 ERA the fattest of his career. He lost his first nine games of 2008 and never regained the faith of Giants fans.

Until 2012.

That's when Zito had his best season in San Francisco – a 15-8 record followed by two huge postseason victories as the Giants won their second World Series title in three seasons.

The Giants, in fact, won an astonishing 14 consecutive games in which Zito pitched through the end the 2012 season. He won Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against St. Louis and Game 1 of the World Series.

It carried over into 2013 with Zito winning his first two games.

And just as it seemed Zito finally had arrived, he disappeared. The Giants lost 12 of his next 19 starts, and by August, Zito was in the bullpen.

Many fans will remember Zito as a pitcher who never lived up to expectations in San Francisco. Others will remember him for his turnabout in the 2012 postseason.

Either way, Giants fans won't have Zito to blame anymore.

Today's poll

What will you most remember about Barry Zito as a Giants pitcher?

Failing to live up to his contract

His 2012 season success

Vote above, or go to www.sacbee.com/sports

Weekend poll results

Should 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith play against Carolina on Sunday?

Yes: 70%

No: 30%

Total votes: 278


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