Liotta: Giants’ Zito is trying, but that’s not enough

It was the year of the first transatlantic phone call, the year when radio frequencies were regulated for the first time. Charles Lindbergh completed the first flight across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris that year.

It was the year former major leaguer Nellie Fox, former Vikings coach Bud Grant and omnipresent Dodger play-by-play announcer Vin Scully were born.

It was 1927, which also happened to be the last time a Giants starter opened theseason 0-7.

That’s where Barry Zito is right now. And no matter what Zito and the Giants are saying, it’s time for the criticism to stop, time for the complaining to halt. This is fast becoming something far more serious than a guy pitching crummy.

Did you see the look on Zito’s face when he reached the end of his latest outing? That was a beaten man on that bench, a man with no answers for his current predicament. I don’t care what he said afterward in the locker room, what is happening to Zito this season is quickly becoming one of the saddest stories of the 2008 baseball season.

Here’s a former Cy Young Award winner, a guy who has taken the ball every five days his entire career and battled like a true professional, who has carried himself in a way that would make any professional ballplayer (or any fan) proud.

And now he simply doesn’t have what it takes to beat major-league hitters — at least not so far this season. Sure, the Giants said they put him in the bullpen for a couple of days, but that amounted to nothing more than a stall tactic.

His fastball is in the mid-80s. His curveball is brilliant only on rare occasions. And now he’s got his employers and everybody around him celebrating him reaching the end of the fifth inning — against the Pirates. That is a bit insulting, if you ask me.

He’s trying. Nobody should think any less of him as a competitor. He simply doesn’t have it right now. Who knows if he’ll ever have it again? Trotting him out to the mound every five days to be soundly beaten for the next 5½ years is not the way to go.

It’s not worth $110 million, or whatever is left on that stupid contract. Not to the team. Not to Zito.

It’s time for the Giants to find a way to put Zito out of his misery. Temporarily or otherwise, it doesn’t matter. Make up an injury. Declare him flu-ridden. Anything. The corners of many gallant men fighting for championships have thrown in the towel for a chance to fight another day. Skipping one start is not enough.

Somehow, some way, the Giants have to give Barry Zito a chance to regain his professional dignity. That’s more important than all that money. That’s all I’m saying.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and a regular contributor to The Examiner.

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