Barry Zito officially announces retirement from baseball ‘at 37’

Updated: October 20, 2015
Barry Zito officially announces retirement from baseball at 37

Barry Zito, a soulful presence on both sides of the bay for more than a decade, formally announced his expected retirement Monday with a heartfelt first-person article in the Players Tribune that detailed the many highs and lows of his career.

Barry Zito began his career with the Oakland A’s after being drafted with the ninth overall pick in the 1999 amateur draft. He made his debut on July 22, 2000 against the Anaheim Angels, earning the win after tossing five innings of two-hit ball. He walked six batters.

The point is that Barry Zito wasn’t the perfect pitcher. In fact, his career statistics are average. Over a 162-game season, he averaged a 13-11 mark with a 4.04 ERA. But every team needs a guy who can trot out to the mound every five days and give you a good shot to come away with a victory. That’s what Barry Zito did. That’s what allowed him to stay in the big leagues for 15 years. He was the guy in the rotation who you could guarantee double-digit wins by his name at the end the season.

As he mentions in his retirement column, the highs and lows of Zito’s career were exactly that. In his third year with the A’s, he went an astounding 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA, made the All-Star team for the first time and went on to win the Cy Young Award. In 2010, with the San Francisco Giants, he finished 9-14 after starting the year 8-4 and was left off the postseason roster. Two years earlier, he went 10-17 with an ERA that ballooned over 5.00 and constantly received verbal abuse from Giants fans.

“The year 2008 was the toughest of my life so far,” Zito said in his column. I was being told by strangers in public places just how terrible I was… But that year taught me something: If there was still a reason to smile at certain points throughout those painful days, and if everything I thought had defined me as a person was crumbling down and yet I was still standing, then maybe what I thought defined me truly did not.”

That’s what made Zito special. It wasn’t his talent or 165 career wins or World Series ring. It was his ability to tune out the critics, go about his business and worry about who he was beyond the surface of a baseball player.

Zito said his return to Oakland last month put the “cherry on top” of his career and that he plans to be in the Bay Area stands on both sides for years to come. Including his last hurrah this year, he spent eight seasons in Oakland and another seven in San Francisco, but Oakland is where he made a name for himself.