San Francisco Giants history is littered with great beginnings from homegrown pitchers like William VanLandingham, Jamie Brewington, Jerome Williams and Kurt Ainsworth, only to lead to careers that fizzled out for one reason or another. Ryan Vogelsong started his career with the Giants 11 years ago, but something about his second Giants journey seems like a beginning.
Vogelsong was perfect for the entirety of the time I ate brunch on Sunday with the moms, which is the way you have to measure these things from time to time. By the time we got back to the apartment, Vogelsong was on his way to becoming a fan favorite, the kind of guy who leaves people to fantasize about a world where Vogelsong suddenly finds himself on the career path the Pittsburgh Pirates hoped he’d follow ten years ago.
Vogelsong gives up too many walks and homers to consider a start like today’s as anything more than a fluke unless we see from Vogelsong what those in the prison system call a pattern of good behavior, which means different things in baseball than it does in prison (as far as I know). However, one has to admit it’s kind of fun to think about what would happen if he became a born again phenom. Because the only thing between Vogelsong picking up 20 starts between now and the end of the season is Barry Zito.
Ah, Zeets. He looked so good in his gray New Balance 993’s yesterday, playing a game of catch in the outfield. Too bad he couldn’t even put pressure on his sprained right foot a little over a week ago. He won’t be back anytime soon. And since 100% of Zito is a league average performer at best, it makes no sense to rush the regular dude back into service.
If Vogelsong really is good, what about Zito (to steal from the headline)? Well, what about Zito? Who cares? The Giants were more than happy to emasculate their highest-paid pitcher during the playoffs, and it was a fantastic decision. It’s still in vogue to complain about teams obsessing so thoroughly over 5th starters, but the Giants should always be trying to perfect their rotation since it’s already such a strength. Vogelsong probably has at least three weeks to make a case — if that time’s filled with starts closer to what we saw on Sunday than his start against the Mets last Tuesday, the Giants’ bullpen can now add a real, traditional long man!
Chances are Vogelsong just saw the peak of his career occur on Sunday, when he strolled back to the dugout after allowing only 2 baserunners over 6 1/3. If so, when Zito’s healthy he’ll get his job back. But if Vogelsong ended up figuring it out, even if only for one year — check that, especially if only for one year — it wouldn’t exactly be a unique story in the annals of baseball. It would be unique if Vogelsong came back to his former team to finally find Major League success, but plenty of journeyman pitchers have had a fluky-good season.
So the moral of the story is: don’t just root for Vogelsong because he’s a former Giant, has bounced around the minors and Japan, or because he’s a good interview; root for him because he throws over 90 mph and he’s put had two starts that were better than anybody had any right to expect. And if he succeeds he’ll make us all feel a little less ridiculous about contemplating buying that VanLandingham jersey all those years ago.
Plus, if Zito had to compete to even stay in the rotation, perhaps that would be the motivation that he always needed to become the crafty, mellow magician he’s been hiding from us all these years! First, he’ll conquer the Giants’ rotation. Then, he’ll join forces with Alex Smith to build a new stadium for the 49ers in San Francisco — mall included — with their own bare hands!