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You Think They'd Know Better

My first encounter with Barry Zito pitching in New York took place, albeit in indirect fashion, on August 8, 2000.

I don't recall the occasion, but I was in the city, visiting my family that day. I took a New Jersey Transit train back towards my then-home in Yardley, Pa. (right on the NJ border, near Trenton) sometime around 10:30pm. At some point, either on the train, or just before bording, I saw a group of folks who were obviously Yankees fans, based on their attire. I asked them who won the game that they had clearly attended, between the Yankees and Oakland Athletics.

"I don't know," one said. "We left in the 9th inning and they were losing. But when we were leaving, we heard the crowd get real loud, twice, so I'm thinking the Yankees might have won, and we missed it."

If you've read this blog before, you know that one of my biggest pet peeves is people who leave baseball games early. Would you depart a Broadway show before viewing the ending? Of course not. Unless your circumstances for departing are extremely significant, you have an obligation to your team and your fellow fans to remain in the ballpark.

In fact, the Yankees had won, and here's how. Leading 3-2 in the last of the ninth, Oakland manager Art Howe gave the ball to Jason Isringhausen. On Izzy's first pitch, Bernie Williams homered. On Izzy's second pitch, Dave Justice homered (Izzy, where were you in the 2006 NLCS when we needed you???????). The Yankees had a 4-3 victory, which would explain the screaming that those fans had heard after departing (and likely the screaming that followed when they found out what they missed).

The occasion of this game happened to be Barry Zito's first career road start and fourth big-league appearance overall. Zito pitched well, allowing 2 runs (1 earned) in 6 1/3 innings but was rendered with a no-decision due to some misfortune beyond his control. That's the way this game works more often than not. Rarely is one person solely responsible for a victory these days.

In fact, Zito hasn't had the best of success pitching in New York (one good postseason start notwithstanding). In nine trips to the Bronx in the regular season, Zito has just two wins and a
4.24 ERA. In 13 innings there in 2006, he walked 11 batters. Admittedly, Zito has shown plenty of evidence that he can be a great pitcher, and I'm just citing one clearly-biased piece of evidence, but his stock right now is in an overvalued state.

There are rumors that Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks has decided to approach Zito's free agency with an open checkbook. If that's the case, Omar Minaya should halt his pursuit and find another avenue to explore. In this case, unlike the tale of baseball lament previously cited, leaving early is an acceptable option.

True Metos know...In Barry Zito's final regular-season home start for the Athletics, Oakland got a walk-off win. The Athletics beat the Angels 5-4 and ex-Met Marco Scutaro got the game-winning hit.

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