Barry Zito is living proof that if you plan on leaving your first big league team to ink a huge contract, avoid signing with the original team’s cross-town rival. Because if things don’t work, you don’t even get to keep some idealized version of your old town in your head.

“Oh, Oakland. Those were the days. Remember when we used to hang out in the Marina and just soak up the nightlife? Wait, that’s what I’m doing now and it isn’t fun anymore. Rats.”

Back when Zito was a younger, taller Dave Matthews…

Back in the days before Brandons and Busters, the A’s were the team all the ladies loved. When you went to games at the Coliseum back in the early 2000s the stands were full (relatively speaking) of young ladies who sided with either Mark Mulder (captain of the football team) or Barry Zito (the dreamy guitar-playing surfer bro), except for the occasional outlier who preferred Tim Hudson (the steady one).

As a guy in his 20s back then which Bay Area resident he’d trade places with in a minute, and Zito would’ve been at the top of the list. He was probably just as neurotic back then as he is now, but to outsiders in the era when sports on the internet meant ESPN.com and social media meant heading to your friend’s house to watch the game, Zito’s life looked chill.

Barry Buzzkill

Fast forward to now, and Zito’s life couldn’t be more different. His bank account has gone from “rich kid” to “oil tycoon.” Despite better surface numbers in 2012, he’s a couple starts away from people questioning his grip on the fifth spot in the rotation. Again.

Zito’s been a tricky guy to figure out this year. His first start was also his first shutout since 2003, and on June 3 against the Cubs he pitched more than 8 shutout innings (8.1) in a game for the third time since coming to San Francisco. Almost makes one think of his Oakland days. But his two starts since (19 baserunners, 9 earned runs and 2 HR over 11 innings with only 5 strikeouts) have been decidedly on the side of San Francisco Zito. In his last start against Texas, Zito allowed 5 earned runs for the first time all season. Last year, he allowed 5 or more earned runs three times in a row … and lost his starting job.

So what’s going to happen tonight? Are we going to get Oakland Zito or San Francisco Zito? The last time Zito faced the Angels, he gave up 7 earned in 3.2 innings. That was also in 2009 and at AT&T, which means that game is less relevant to Zito’s upcoming task than his pants size.

Turn Zito’s stats into a new t-shirt for your wardrobe rotation

While there’s no guarantee Zito will win tonight, he can be as frustratingly mediocre as ever and you can still win a new shirt from DIE HARD CO., a local apparel company that gives Bay Area fans a way to sport their colors with eye-catching shirts you won’t find anywhere else. Here’s how to win (it’s really easy):

– In the comments, predict how many earned runs Zito will allow tonight against the Angels, along with his strikeout total for tonight’s game and how many innings he lasts.

– The two commenters who come closest to predicting Zito’s earned runs allowed total will win the shirt of their choice from DIE HARD.

– In case of a tie, the two commenters who come closest to Zito’s strikeout total will win.

– In case of a tie in both earned runs and strikeouts, the tiebreaker then becomes innings pitched.

EXAMPLE: “I predict Zito will give up 1 earned run and strike out 15 over 9 innings tonight.”

If more than two people tie in all three categories, we’ll figure something out.

Can’t wait to see if you’ve won? Enter the code “BASG” to get 20% off all apparel this week. Good luck in today’s contest, and stay tuned for more “Rivals Week” fun as we get closer to the next Bay Bridge clash!