Robbie Ray
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Report: Diamondbacks may listen to offers on Robbie Ray after all

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Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that “teams are calling” about Diamondbacks southpaw Robbie Ray, with the Astros and Phillies at the top of that list. Ray was previously thought to be nearly untouchable this offseason, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic previously suggested that the team had a “really high bar” on any package deal involving the lefty, while USA Today’s Bob Nightengale said several teams had been told he was unavailable. It’s not yet clear if much has changed or whether a frontrunner has emerged in any trade talks.

Ray, 27, got off to a disappointing start with the D-backs in 2018. After receiving his first All-Star nomination and pitching to some career-high marks the year before, he struggled through a difficult stretch in April and had just started to get a handle on his mechanics before he was hit with an oblique injury. He didn’t appear on another major league mound until the end of June, and went 7-11 in 18 starts with a 3.66 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 11.2 SO/9 through 96 innings in the second half of the season.

Injuries and mechanical issues aside, Ray’s best days aren’t far behind him, and his talent — coupled with two more years of team control — should fetch a hefty return in any trade offer the Diamondbacks see fit to accept. Of course, whether or not they do so hinges on the prospect of a full-scale rebuild, something they still seem reluctant to enter into after dealing All-Star slugger Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals earlier this month.

Barry Zito rooted against his own team in the 2010 World Series

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Retired big league pitcher Barry Zito has a memoir coming out. Much of it will likely track the usual course of an athlete’s memoir. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and a few fun and/or sad and/or thoughtful anecdotes along the way. One bit of it, though, is not the stuff of the usual athlete memoir.

He writes that he ctually rooted against the San Francisco Giants — his own team —  in the 2010 World Series. He did so because he was left off the postseason roster, felt miserable about it and let his ego consume him. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

“It was really hard to admit . . . I rooted against the team because my ego was in full control and if we lost then I could get out of there . . . It would a) prove they couldn’t do it without me, and b) take me out of the situation because I was so miserable coming to the field every day. I was so deep in shame. I wanted out of that situation so bad.”

Zito at that point was midway through a seven-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Giants after the 2006 season. Almost as soon as he signed it he transformed from one of the better pitchers in the game — he had a 124 ERA+ in eight seasons with the Oakland Athletics and won the 2002 Cy Young Award — to being a liability for the Giants. Indeed, he only had one season in San Francisco where, again, by ERA+, he was a league-average starter or better. In 2010 he went 9-14 with a 4.15 ERA and was way worse than that down the stretch. It made perfect sense for the Giants to leave him off the 2010 postseason roster. And, of course, it worked out for them.

Things would improve. He’d still generally struggle as a Giant, but in 2012 he was a hero of the NLCS, pitching the Giants past the Cardinals in a must-win game. He then got the Game 1 start in the World Series and beat Justin Verlander as the Giants won that game and then swept the Tigers out of the series. As time went on he’d fine more personal happiness as well. When his contract ended following the 2013 season Zito took out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle thanking Giants fans for their support. He’d leave the game in 2014 and pitch three more games for the Athletics in 2015 before retiring for good.

Not many baseball memoirs deliver hard truths like Zito’s appears willing to do. That’s pretty damn brave of him. And pretty damn admirable.