In a career that ultimately spanned a decade and a half, former American League Cy Young award winner Barry Zito announced his retirement after 15 years in the game, on Monday, October 19th.
"My baseball career has been a mirror to my life off the field, full of euphoric highs and devastating lows. I’ve been at the top of a rotation and the 25th man on a roster. I’ve started Game 1 of a World Series in one year and I’ve been left off of a postseason roster in another. I’ve been labeled as both drastically underpaid and severely overpaid. I’ve been praised as a savior and deemed a curse. "
Zito was selected in the 59th round by the Seattle Mariners in 1996 MLB draft before choosing not to sign with them, and doing the same thing when he was drafted in the third round by the Texas Rangers. He would finally sign in 1999 after being drafted in the first round (ninth overall) by the Oakland Athletics.
In his first season in the minor leagues, Zito passed through three different levels and combined to go 6-1 with a 3.16 ERA. He pitched 68.1 innings and struck out 97 batters.
Zito began the 2000 season in Triple-A Sacramento going 8-5 with a 3.19 ERA before getting promoted to the Athletics in July.
The left-hander earned his first victory in his first start against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and would capture his first career complete game shutout against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on September 10th.
Even though he was not called up to the main rotation until late into the season, Zito went 7-4 with a 2.72 ERA and finished sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year, which was ultimately won by Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki.
In 2001, Zito switched to the #75, which he would forever wear, and closed the season with 17 wins and 205 strikeouts (the most he ever accumulated in a single season).
However, his 2002 season is what got people talking, as he would put up his best season to the date. With 16 straight home wins, Zito was placed on the American League All-Star team and became the first American League pitcher to 15 wins that season. Barry Zito defeated the Detroit Tigers to pick up his 23rd win, which led the league and would a career-high for him. Although he had publicly stated that he wasn't in it to win the Cy Young, he beat out pitchers such as Pedro Martinez in the Cy Young voting, and won the AL Cy Young Award. Zito finished the season 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA.
After an average 2003 season and a struggling 2004 season, Zito would start Opening Day (a first in his career) in 2005 against the Baltimore Orioles with the absence of Tim Hudson, in a game the A's would be shutout. In a season that would start off as a struggle for Zito, in the end it would all even out as he'd close the season 14-13 with a 3.86 ERA.
The next season, he'd lead the Athletics to the postseason and start game one of ALDS, gaining a win before the A's would sweep the Minnesota Twins. Unfortunately, they would lose to the Tigers in the ALCS.
In 2007, he'd sign with the San Francisco Giants for a seven-year, $126 million deal, and at the time would be the highest paid pitcher in Major League history. After months of struggling in the starting rotation, he'd make his first relief appearance in a scoreless seventh inning against the San Diego Padres. Just a few games after that, the same game which Barry Bonds hit home run 756 against the Washington Nationals, Zito would gain his first career RBI.
Fast forward to 2011, after being left off the playoff team, things started to look up more and more when he got engaged and married to his wife Amber. Not only that, but Zito committed his life to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
With his newfound faith and a new season upon him, Zito and the Giants would go on to the World Series, with Barry Zito as a focal point when he pitched game five of the NLCS and earned a win. He would pitch the first World Series game of his career, in game one, outpitching Justin Verlander, and would end up getting a World Series ring with the Giants.
Zito would sign a minor league deal in February of 2015 with the Athletics and return in September to pitch in relief. Although, it was announced in an interview on the Player Tribune this would be his final season in Major League Baseball, before heading to Nashville as a songwriter, and it was fitting he ended his career as an Athletic where it all began.