Barry Zito: "I want to be a top-of-the-rotation guy again"

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Barry Zito 2.jpgMany people have chalked up Barry Zito’s post-gajillion dollar contract struggles to complacency, comfort, wealth or poor character.  If you believe what he told recently, however, his competitive fire still burn:

Barry Zito used to be the main man on the Giants’ starting staff.
Despite four years remaining on his seven-year, $126 million contract,
he now may be in the No. 3 slot. And he doesn’t like the view.

“I wouldn’t say I’m fine with it, I’m not,” Zito told
this past week in a candid and wide-ranging interview. “I’m competitive
by nature, and of course, I want to be the guy. It’s important. But the
way I pitched in 2008, it didn’t deem me worthy of being the No. 1
starter going into last season. But no, I’m not happy being a No. 3
starter . . . I want to be a top-of-the-rotation guy again. I want to be out there on Opening Day, getting the win. It’s important to me.”

Zito is not worth his contract and given that the guy will make $20M+ in 2013, he never will be. And with Tim Lincecum — and Matt Cain! — around he will never be the Giants’ number one guy.

But there’s every reason to think that he can be a useful part of the Giants rotation for the next several years. He’s durable, reliable and if last year is any indication, he’s showing that he can learn to pitch without his young man stuff.  Indeed, he even flashed some genuine brilliance in a couple of starts against the Rockies late in the season.  Plus, seeing he’s lefthanded, there’s every reason to think that Zito could chug along for many, many more years and wind up with well north of 200 wins.

That doesn’t make him an ace or anything, but the mere fact that Brian Sabean decided to grossly over pay him doesn’t render him a punchline.

Nats expected to consider Cal Ripken for the manager job

Cal Ripken Jr

FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi reports that the Nationals are expected to consider Cal Ripken Jr. for their managerial vacancy. Ripken, of course, was recently reported to have been considered by the club the last time the job was open.

This could be a courtesy. And if you’re a Nats fan, you have to hope it is, right? Because the single biggest argument in favor of Matt Williams when he was hired was that he was a top player in his day, wasn’t too far removed from his playing career and could be a good clubhouse guy who understood what made major leaguers tick. His lack of experience was brushed off. All of which would be the same thing for Ripken, except he doesn’t even have the coaching experience Williams had and is even farther removed from his playing days.

I know he’s famous and everything, but if the Nationals’ 2015 season is evidence of anything, perhaps it should be evidence that sometimes it’s useful to have a manager who has actually, you know, made a pitching change once in his professional life.

Nationals fire reigning Manager of the Year Matt Williams

Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams looks on from the dugout during a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Friday, May 2, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)

Matt Williams was voted the National League Manager of the Year on November 11, 2014, receiving 18 of 30 first-place votes from Baseball Writers Association of America members.

Today the Nationals fired Williams and his entire coaching staff following a season full of disappointment, reports of clubhouse discontent, and Jonathan Papelbon choking Bryce Harper in the dugout.

Williams went 179-145 (.552) in two seasons in Washington, which is an excellent winning percentage, but when you take over a stacked team the expectations are extremely high and there was seemingly nothing anyone could point to about his actual managing that suggested he was doing a good job.

His in-game tactics and particularly his rigid bullpen usage patterns infuriated fans. His dealings with the local media became increasingly antagonistic. And even setting aside two players literally fighting in the dugout there’s ample evidence that Williams lost the clubhouse a long time ago.

Williams was far from the only thing wrong with the Nationals this season and he’s hardly the primary person to blame for their disappointing record, but it’s also hard to make a strong case for his sticking around–meaningless, beat writer-voted award or not–and general manager Mike Rizzo predictably acted quickly to move on.

Now we’ll see who gets to take the next crack at managing the Nationals to play up to expectations.