Don't ask Barry

BOB ELLIOTT

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

Barry Bonds was laughing uncontrollably.

We saw him emerge from the clubhouse in the spring of 2007 at Scottsdale Stadium wearing a T-shirt that read: "Don't Ask Me ... Ask Barry!"

Then, free-agent lefty Barry Zito came out wearing the exact same black shirt.

It was grade-school humour, but in Bonds' chase to be the home run king, it was good for a spring laugh.

Nowadays, the pair are laughing about as much as Roger Clemens.

Bonds wants to play, but nobody wants to sign the free agent. Zito wants to start and the Giants don't want him to ... and can you blame them?

He's was in the San Francisco bullpen when the Giants played the Colorado Rockies last night at AT&T Park.

GAME GOES SOUTH

But it wasn't supposed to be like this. Someone with the Giants organization said last March how different 2008 would be.

It would be stress free without Bonds, his entourage, the steroid charges and grand jury investigation. There wouldn't be a media horde bugging the other 24 players.

Getting rid of Bonds would change the face of the franchise, but there'd still be a Barry around. Zito would pitch every fifth day and run up wins for the rebuilding Giants.

Well, the guy was right about Bonds no longer being with the Giants, but he couldn't have been more wrong about Zito, a Cy Young award winner in 2002.

The Giants were hoping to get the same kind of performance out of Zito that Oakland had. With the A's, Zito never had a losing season in seven seasons, going 102-69 with a 3.49 earned run average.

The Giants signed Zito to a seven-year, $126-million US deal Dec. 29, 2006. He went 11-13 in 33 starts with a 4.53 ERA in 2007, his first year on the other side of the bay and the Giants lost 91 games. Zito allowed 269 base runners (182 hits) in 1962/3 innings.

Zito has been without his normal velocity in six starts this season and is 0-6 with a 7.53 ERA. He has had one quality start so far, and lost his spot in the rotation Monday, a day after he allowed eight runs to the Cincinnati Reds in three innings.

On opening night, he allowed four runs in five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers; five runs -- three earned -- in five innings against Milwaukee; four runs -- one earned -- in six innings against St. Louis; four runs -- three earned -- in six innings against Arizona and five runs in 32/3 innings facing Arizona, including a two-run double by Brandon Webb.

In 282/3 innings this season, Zito has allowed 30 runs -- 24 earned -- and 56 base runners.

Now, the Giants have a mopup man earning $14.5 million a season, who now only pitches when they are down by five.

Hmmm. And you wanted to quibble about A.J. Burnett's five-year, $55-million contract in this his opt-out year?

'LIVE ON THE CORNERS'

Not only is Zito short on velocity, but his pitches have lost movement as well. Pitching coach Dave Righetti has been trying to reconstruct his lefty into another Greg Maddux.

Good luck. It would be better to try to emulate Jamie Moyer.

"When you're a lefty and your pitches are straight, you have to be fine," Righetti told reporters. "You have to live on the corners."

The highest-paid starters are the New York Mets' Johan Santana, who earns $16.98 million, followed closely by the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano and Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees each at $16 million per season.

In the old days when GMs used to walk six miles to their dome through snowdrifts, the philosophy in signing free-agents was to sign a three-year contract and pray for two healthy seasons.

General manager Brian Sabean and owner Peter McGowan are one year and a month into Zito's seven-year deal and are unhappy with the results.

If you're a Giants fan from Jack London Square or Palo Alto, which of the previous two seasons and which Barry are you enjoying more?


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