Oakland Athletics’ Barry Zito Not Hall of Famer, But Deserves Something


Oakland Athletics’ pitcher Barry Zito is not a Hall of Famer. That statement shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Zito doesn’t have the numbers to make it to Cooperstown – not by a long shot. If any of the Big Three were headed that way, it would be Tim Hudson, but even he has no realistic shot at being inducted. A long career has a way of doing that – taking a “great” pitcher and making them into a “very good” pitcher over time, as arm strength lessens, velocities drop, and hitters take advantage.

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That said, it seems odd not to honor the A’s pitching trio is some special way – especially Zito – given the immense amount of excitement that they instilled into the A’s organization during their prime years. Zito’s return in 2015 was one of the rare bright spots in an all-but-unwatchable season, and that should only go to show how much of an impact he had as a young pitcher. It’s a rare player who can create a positive buzz by returning nearly a decade later, long past the time they could be a useful contributor.

But how can they honor Zito – as well as Hudson and Mark Mulder – when none have posted the kind of numbers that reflect Hall of Fame careers? It would be easy to say they should retire Zito’s number – who picks 75 anyway? But that would be unfair to the other pitchers and sluggers that contributed to the A’s early 2000s success, and jersey retirement should be a very unique ceremony. Teams like the Yankees, who honor all of their great players in this way, seem as though eventually they’ll run out of numbers for rookies to select from. The A’s have never been a team to throw that honor around, and even with his Cy Young season, Zito probably isn’t worthy of that particular achievement.

Of course, Zito will likely be inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, which has honored over 150 other athletes since 1980. But there, his name will be mixed in with athletes from other sports – not just football and basketball, but things like skiing or golf or swimming. It seems a bit watered down as the sole reward for a World Series champion and three-time All-Star, who also took home baseball’s greatest pitching honor in 2002.

It’s certainly not a knock on the BASHOF – they have strict criteria, which limits who can get in to only the best athletes. But Zito deserves to be remembered within the baseball world, not just the broader universe of sports. The A’s need to find a long-lasting way to remember the great teams of the early 2000s and the pitching trio that got them there.

On Wednesday, Zito will make what could be his final start in an A’s uniform – or any uniform at all. While he hasn’t announced his retirement, it seems like a likely next move for the 37-year-old starter. Hopefully, the organization will find a way to honor him after he’s no longer part of the game, because Zito is one of the most impactful players to ever take the mound for the Oakland Athletics.

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