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1.03.2007

Dude! Suite! 

The contract details are out (thanks to Martin for passing along the link in yesterday's comments). Zito gets $10 M this year, $14.5 M in '08, $18.5 M from '09 to '11, then $19 M and $20 M in the final two years. In addition to the innings-pitched trigger, there are a passel of award bonuses and, other than green M&Ms, my favorite contract rider: "Zito also will stay in a suite for road trips."

Which begs the question: is there a limit to how many suites a team can contractually guarantee? What if they have five superstars and their hotel in Cincinnati only has four suites? Does the highest-paid star get to stay at a different hotel? Do the superstars compare suites and get jealous? Do you still have to obey curfew if you stay in a suite? Do sports teams really have curfews anymore, or are they reserved for football teams the night before the Super Bowl? Why does the new album by Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) only say "Yusuf" on the cover? Is there a wee marketing problem with his last name?

Enough of my non-sensical ramblings. Let's bring in someone else's. Hello? Bruce? You there, pal?

Like all of the coolest cats in the universe, Barry Zito isn't real big on hassles. He likes a warm breeze, smart conversation, a sensible guitar riff, the simple beauty of a 3-and-1 pitch to Vladimir Guerrero.

Señoras y señores, it's Bruce Jenkins of the Chronicle! Bruce likes Barry Zito because Barry Zito is cool. And he's a cat. Bruce also thinks a 3-and-1 pitch to Vlad has "simple beauty," which is the last phrase I would use to describe a pitch that has a 93% chance of a) being knocked over the outfield fence or b) being lined off the pitcher's skull.

One more thing: "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm Joe Strummer, and I'm going to endeavor not to disappoint you with several sensible guitar riffs!"

You have to understand where Bruce is coming from. He also liked Neifi Perez because he wore his socks high.

The way it looks from here, Zito is under no pressure at all.

[Ed. note: "From here" = inside the velvet coffin of Jenkins's Chronicle cubicle, where he has so much seniority he'll never be fired.] Cool people don't feel pressure. Especially not when they're being force-fit into Bruce Jenkins's oversimplified hacked-up hairball of a universe in which reside Good Barry/Bad Barry. The Bad Barry is not cool, and the people who decided to bring him back (the same people who are overpaying for the coolness of Good Barry) have performed a colossal, monumental breach of coolness.

There will be a considerable amount of tension around the Giants this season,

Perhaps because they will suck. Please continue...

but it will fully surround Barry Bonds and the prideless executives, Peter Magowan and Larry Baer, who can't seem to live without the sordid swirl

One of my favorite flavors. You should try it.

of steroid associations, a broken-down ballplayer, a disgusted commissioner and the threat of a federal indictment...

If Barry Bonds is "broken-down," Scott Rolen is positively glue-factory and Nomar Garciaparra is a partially-decomposed zombie who roams the earth and feasts on succulent human flesh. Which means he's either a Dodger or a member of the New York media. Back to you, Bruce:

New York is the worldliest setting in America, but patience runs a bit thin in sporting circles. Struggling athletes come to dread taking the field, or even turning on the radio. Not to suggest that Zito could ever be Ed Whitson, but he'd call B.S. on the type of scrutiny that takes place in that town, day after day.

So what are you suggesting, Bruce?

Whatever; he would have won his 18 games there and survived just fine. But Shea Stadium isn't Mays Field (the only name that seems to fit), where ownership has made certain that Bonds is the story, every hour of every day.

Sorry, Bruce, I don't quite follow, though I dig the "Mays Field" shout-out. Zito would have done quite well in New York, but he chose San Francisco because it's cooler, except that it won't be because of Barry Bonds, except that's OK because Bonds will suck up everyone's attention and just let Zito do his dudular pitching thing? Does not compute. Maybe your final paragraph will clear things up:

Come spring training, Zito won't believe the coolness of his situation. Just pitch, man, that's it. It eventually might bother him that the team he left behind, Oakland, does everything better than the Giants except play in a suitable ballpark. He might find that the Mets are the team really bent on winning, and the Giants' barren farm system is a product of their lack of foresight and increasingly pitiful devotion to Bonds. He might discover that when a late-inning situation calls for a pinch-hitter, Bonds might not feel like leaving the clubhouse. Let's hope the reality doesn't strike too hard, because the Giants acquired one hell of a pitcher, and San Francisco is lucky to have him.

In all of this analysis -- and I'll give him props for the "barren farm system" comment -- Jenkins leaves out three factors: Barry Bonds will only be with the Giants one more year. Barry Zito will be with the Giants through 2013, at least. And Barry Zito has a much better chance of declining than improving over the life of the contract. (Jenkins could have looked at statistics beyond the win column, but no, he knows the high-sock, cool-cat mark of a winner when he sees it.)

Jenkins has it backwards. With the barren farm system and the "lack of foresight" and the Giants' general incompentence viz a viz Oakland, it's not the one year of surly steroidal swirling slugger but the half-decade to follow that Zito will come to regret. This year, a healthy and unindicted Bonds will help this team immensely, no matter how uncool he is.

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